Discomfort: Priceless

There's really nothing comfortable about our basement. This man cave is not equipped with a high-def TV or EZ chair, X-box or pool table. Walk upstairs and help yourself, because there's no bar or mini fridge.

The Green Room out back.
But there is a barbell. And a bench, a few adjustable dumbbells, several hundred pounds of weight plates, a 90's-era CD player, and gravity. The workouts often can't be contained, blowing out through the back door. The Green Room offers graded surfaces, rocks, obstacles (including kids) to accommodate plenty of running, jumping, hitting, and throwing. The "natural" climate control is just perfect, especially when the days are not sunny with a high of 75.

Attempting to make physical exercise soft and cushy misses the point. The body adapts to both comfort and discomfort. While discomfort deepens us, smoothie bars and cardio theaters and fancy chrome exercise gadgets are blood letting for the anemia of modern times. Discomfort grants us the opportunity to develop will and grit that's readily transferable to everyday life.

Time is a gift. So if you sit indoors for the majority of your work day, please don't drive (sitting) to a climate controlled gym to sit or recline back on some resistance exercise gadget, crunching your pelvis even further toward your rib cage. I don't care how well it isolates the lower obliques. Unless you're older than 70 or with a serious disability, swear that you'll never be seen reading a magazine while riding a recumbent bike, especially People Magazine.

[Sure, it was a cool down.]

If you're going to work out, for heavens sake, WORK out. Learning the joy of misery suddenly gives you time for a fitness program. Fitness doesn't even mandate an electrical outlet, much less your own TV and PlayStation (like the ridiculously equipped for a roster of 14 Dallas Mavericks training facility). If you have gravity and some ledges, rocks, or steps, you have plenty of gear for a solid level of fitness.

In general, the less fancy gear you need to exercise, the better. Therefore, yoga mats are probably a good return on investment. As is lifting barbells and other heavy things. And while I'm no fan of distance running, I have to hand it those who willingly engage prolonged periods of the most fundamental push against gravity. That's why they call the natural, exercise-induced rush of endorphins a "runner's high," and not a "Thighmaster's high" or even a "Cable Cross Overer's high."

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Mike has embraced this particular odd form of discovery and made the journey his own. I think it shows.

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How dare any fitness or infommercial person try to sale us on "quick and easy," stealing away what's priceless? Comfortable exercise never delivers the full dose. While we can't derive a mathematical relationship between discomfort and "benefit," such a formula is certainly worth considering in the context of an individuals abilities and goals.

Of course this can be taken too far. I don't recommend Fight Clubs because the side effects are pretty awful. And not everyone should prepare for a solo climb of K2, or even deadlift 400 pounds, intentionally bloodying their shins with the knurling of a barbell (as I once witnessed at the now defunct Slippery Rock University Barbell Club).

But I am asking for a some middle ground here.

Speaking of bloody shins...

This is not the counterfeit discomfort of masochist ascetics. A recent accidental drop of a heavy dumbbell on my toes caused me to doubt that the purposeful infliction of pain holds much positive psychological value. Though the extreme saints, mystics, and barbell nut cases may disagree, I would argue that "gift" discomfort always comes riding on a productive act where pain is not the primary intent.

                THIS video: 300 framers per second, Kyle Wagner probes the limits of discomfort.

Embrace and deliberately manipulate discomfort as a controlled variable. Most of us should progress slowly and focus on the journey. As an alternative, you can ramp discomfort from practically 0 to 60 in mere seconds, like this:

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I'm all for the basement. It's ridiculous how much happens down there. I, personally, have never felt a place as comfortable as my basement floor.

Ahhhh...the floor!

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Thanks to those who got down(stairs) with discomfort:

Mike M, Mike S, Mike H, Dave T, Andrew C, Eric B, GG M, Amy G, Marie V, Ben C, Cort, Rose, Ryan H, Tim B.

The blogger, finding discomfort.

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