Over the years, I’ve reaped the benefits of interval training. An incredibly simple concept, but infinitely complex at the same time, interval training is simply going hard then taking it easy. It’s simple in that all it takes is the ability to push yourself. Yet it’s complex in that intervals can take on all shapes, sizes, and flavors. There may be as many combinations of intervals as there are people on the planet. As sports science has evolved, tools have been developed to make interval training more precise. Along with these tools came the introduction of training zones. Zones tell an athlete how hard to push. The higher the zone, the more effort required. Hidden inside every zone training program is this little gem called threshold. Once an athlete exceeds their threshold, the amount of time they can hold the interval becomes limited, but the resulting fitness is quite the opposite.
Think of threshold like a fulcrum balancing a seesaw. On one side you have comfort and on the other side is discomfort. Intervals are designed to push the body into discomfort. As your body expends energy in order to produce the required response to the stimulus, you move from being comfortable to being uncomfortable. Once you remove the stimulus, your body starts to recover and the seesaw shifts back to the comfort side. And every time you do, you’re passing through threshold. As you train more and get to know your body better, you’ll become aware this is happening, and you can start to use a portion of your workouts to stay at, or slightly above threshold. Comfort becomes the indicator because comfort is the first sign of decline.
A little caveat – comfort isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You’ve probably seen those motivational quotes that say something like, “comfort is the enemy.” Well, not necessarily. Webster has like eight different definitions of comfort, so you kind of need to know what comfort you’re dealing with. I think the motivational guys are trying to say something more like, “complacency is the enemy,” or, “not ever challenging yourself is the enemy.” When I talk about comfort in the fitness sense, I’m using it as an awareness tool. Is the athlete aware they are comfortable and is that where they want to be? If the answer is yes, then by all means be comfortable. Comfort is where we rest, recover, regenerate, and regroup for tomorrow’s WOD. But if comfort is where you think you go to get fit, think again. The journey of physical fitness is marked by the well-worn path from comfort to discomfort.
The journey of spiritual fitness is the same. If you want to grow spiritually, you’ve got to do a little interval training and get uncomfortable. In 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24, the Apostle Paul offers 17 different spiritual intervals. That’s right, 17 different ways to push you out of your comfort zone. Here’s an example. In verse 14, he writes, “be patient with everyone.” What would it look like for you to ask God to give you the power to be patient with everyone for a full 24 hours? And no, vacations don’t count. Ok, maybe 24 hours is too long of an interval, what about 12 hours or the next Zoom call or when the in-laws come over? Start applying some interval training to your spiritual life and get ready for God to do new things. It won’t happen overnight, but it will never happen if you stay comfortable.
Questions for Reflection:
Design a spiritual interval workout for someone struggling with pride. What does comfort look like for a prideful person and what would push them out of their comfort zone?
Think about your own comfort zone. How do you think it developed?