Sorry about using a motivational quote as a title, but bear with me.
There’s so many of these quotes getting thrown around online now, that they can easily get written off as overused clichés (rightly so in a lot of cases), but when it comes to improving your physical performance, the above mentioned one is absolutely true.
To understand why challenging yourself during training is important, you need to have a rough idea of why your body changes (or doesn’t) when you start training to reach a goal, whatever that may be (increase strength, improve fitness, etc.).
Your body doesn’t know what it is you’re trying to achieve when you’re doing a training session, all it knows is that it’s being put under physical stress (challenges you), and then it adapts (changes you) so it can better handle that stress in the future. This is the reason it’s important to challenge yourself, because if you don’t, your body has no reason to change (this is a very simplified version of what occurs, but you get the idea).
If you start training with the aim of improving your strength, for example, but spend every session working well within your current strength capacity and never progress your program (load, volume etc.), then your body has no reason to adapt.
What you need to be doing to start seeing improvements in your performance, is to push outside your comfort zone, even if only a little bit, every session. For example, this could mean that you’ve moved more total weight than in your previous session, or you’ve done the same workload but in less time.
When you’re just starting your training journey, whether for the first time ever, or the first time in a while, I understand that there’s often a period where the thought of pushing yourself may be intimidating or even scary. This is when it becomes important to make sure that you find a coach who is understanding of where you’re currently at, and can progress you at a rate that’s suitable for you.
A bonus of always progressing that bit further each session, is that it means your sessions will always feel slightly different, which is great if you tend to get bored easily with your training.
That progression, of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone, even if only a little, is necessary to force your body to change, and get better.
The progress doesn’t need to be enormous, and definitely doesn’t mean that you need to be running yourself into the ground every session. You should simply be aiming to do something more every time you train.
Thanks again for reading, and happy training!