Being Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Learning to properly lift heavy weight and practicing the Olympic lifts has been almost like starting all over with CrossFit. There’s a huge difference between a front squat with 15-lb. dumbbells at Bootcamp and an 80-lb. front squat with a barbell.

Dave and I were scheduled to do 5X5 front squats on Friday morning. In case you’re not familiar with the lingo, that means we would do 5 sets with 5 front squats in each set. The idea is to keep adding weight until we’ve either completed 5 sets or failed at the weight.

We’ve performed similar workouts recently with deadlift, back squat, shoulder press, and push press. The results have been mixed. I love the overhead lifts. I feel strong and playful. On those, I can think to myself, “Betcha can’t push press 90 pounds!” and I feel inspired to try.

The squats are another story. The back squat, in particular, always makes me nervous. My snake brain doesn’t like that “sticky” feeling at the bottom, even though my intellectual brain knows that’s the good spot.

I was apprehensive about the front squats; I’d never done them “for real” before, and I didn’t know what to expect.

Then I watched this video at Again Faster.

I encourage you to watch it, too. I know you won’t want to. It’s 9 minutes long, and you were just about to get coffee before you go into your next work meeting. You’re not doing front squats for your workout today. You’d rather take a break and read GoFugYourself.

But really, trust me. Watch the video. Now. Not only for Jon Gilson’s excellent details on the front squat, but for the philosophical message inherent in his instruction.

“The primary reason it’s difficult… is that it’s uncomfortable.”

Those words are repeated throughout the tutorial, to great effect. I totally bought that message – so much so, that by the time I got to the gym, I was 100% ready for the front squat to maybe not feel so good, and for that to be 100% OK with me.

I’d built it up to be pretty gnarly in my noggin, so when I actually did a few practice sets with the empty 45-lb. bar, I could acknowledge that it was, indeed, uncomfortable, that I didn’t much care for it, and that if I was going to be successful, I was going to have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’ve learned this lesson before: on the California AIDS Ride, when a run feels long, on round 3 of a 5-round met-con workout, during a seemingly unending conference call at work, anytime life seems particularly unfair. Fighting against that discomfort gives it power. It’s distracting; my energy is focused on all the wrong things.

But give myself over to the discomfort… accept it as current state of being… and poof! it’s almost gone. Note that I didn’t say “it’s gone.” I said it’s almost gone. It’s no longer a distraction or an impediment to what I really want – which is to finish the ride, the run, the meeting, the lift.

There are times when nothing feels better than to be a fist of rage, and during those times, I embrace my 5-foot-4-inches of fury. I rant. I rave. I fight back. But when it’s just me and a challenge, it’s often better to give that discomfort a hug and welcome it to the party.

My front squats on Friday:
45# 2X 5
55# 1X 5
65# 1X 5
75# 1X 5
80# 2X 5

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