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Leftfield 101: Mindset - Comfortably Dumb - Part 2
By: Leftfield Training



“Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm”
— Publilius Syrus
[This is the second part of a 2-piece post. You can read PART 1 here.]

So if discomfort will no longer come to us, we have to go looking for it. This makes it even more uncomfortable. Accepting discomfort is far easier when you have no choice, volunteering for it, something else entirely.

In determining any self-imposed challenge, instinctively this might have us thinking of the big gesture - climbing a mountain or abseiling down cliff-faces. While this is, no doubt, a fantastic idea once in a while, at a day-to-day level discomfort is most readily found just outside your door: the elements.

At Leftfield, we train outside. Rain, hail or shine; sessions are cancelled only in the event of lightning or extreme heat - weather that presents a danger. Otherwise, it's situation normal. To many this seems extreme, but this is not about being macho, or hard-arsed, and I reject (and ridicule) these training philosophies. They could not be more at odds with Leftfield.

The problem is not that it’s raining, or cold or dark. The problem is that we think this is a problem.

“I hate all those weathermen, too, who tell you that rain is bad weather. There’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing, so get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little.”
— Billy Connolly

Josh Waitzkin, author (amongst other things) of The Art of Learning, on a recent Tim Ferriss podcast, discussed how powerfully we are influenced by how we frame things. I have written about this before and, in particular, the tendency to view something in a manner that is unhelpful at best.

Waitzkin, speaks specifically about raising his son with the concept of 'weather' only - no additional value attached. To help offset societal conditioning of 'good' and 'bad' weather he takes every opportunity to play outside with his son on every rainy or stormy day. Kids, of course, don't need much encouragement. The smell of ozone on the breeze would have had us getting kitted out to splash in puddles and soaked to the skin, if we were lucky. By adulthood, we might sit back and watch a storm roll in or enjoy a rainy day in front of the fire, but to be out in it by choice, not likely.

Of course, some weather is more conducive to particular events or occasions. I will concede that if you wake to a downpour on your wedding day, when you are getting hitched on the back lawn that afternoon, you might reasonably describe that weather as ‘bad.' But a training session is not a garden wedding nor a day at the beach and, above all, we have to remember the context here - what we are trying to achieve. As Dan John says: 'the goal is to keep the goal, the goal.'

Weather is just another training stimulus. You can expose yourself to it, thereby strengthening your resolve, your resilience, your self-esteem and your confidence - all very useful in daily life. Or shy from it, enhancing your propensity to that also.

Rain, dark, heat, cold, wind, on these occasions the real training is done before you even leave the house. The decision to get out of bed and go outside on a morning when you can hear rain on your window will do more for you in your wider life than any set, of any exercise, you will ever do. And the cost to benefit ratio is laughable. It’s raining. That is, tiny drops of water are falling from the sky - not pianos. We have ruled out any threat to life and limb and what remains is, at best, a minor and temporary inconvenience.

If this degree of discomfort presents an insurmountable barrier, how do you think that type of self-limiting thinking will play out in your everyday life? Your brain is a learning machine, and this becomes a practised and ingrained behaviour - catastrophising anything that doesn’t fall inside your neatly drawn parameters. If you will only train in a carefully controlled environment, then all training specifics aside - the methodology, the exercise, tools, sets and reps - when placed alongside those who will accept the vagaries of weather, it's like comparing a WWE wrestler, in all their scripted glory, to Jason Bourne.

Every discomfort, every variable, you iron out, makes you weaker. More vulnerable to everything that doesn't go according to plan. Like life. For the general population, (athletes are frequently required to make concessions), whatever the fitness goal, it must also improve your wider life. Any physical abilities we might enjoy are mere applications that will launch or languish care of a mental operating system. It's a metaphor for the entire fitness industry. Under the guise of improvement all focus is placed on largely irrelevant details: supplements, tools and activewear, while leaving the readily available, game-changing factors, untouched.

Worth noting also that, on most days, this inclement weather is not even out there. But the fact that you're still going out there if it is - that's something you know about yourself all day, every day, and it informs everything you do. The heaviest iron is no match for heavy mettle.

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Added: 20-10-2017