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The Challenge Zone

All of us have experienced that moment during physical exertion when you start to fail. The work begins to feel too hard. You start shaking. Your muscles are fully fatigued. Your body is screaming at you to stop. You know you can’t go on.

But guess what? You’re wrong.

Your body can do more than you think it can.

So why is your body telling you to stop?

The fact is, your body sends these messages to the brain long before it actually cannot go on. The human body is very good at sending the mind signals to get out of work. It’s a built-in mechanism to conserve energy. We were designed this way.

Keep in mind also, that the burning sensation you feel in your muscles while working out is not dangerous or an indication that you should stop, it’s what should be happening. It is a normal, physiological reaction.

A quick lesson in why muscles burn:

Your body has different ways of producing energy for muscles, depending on the demands of your effort. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the ultimate supplier of energy for your cells. You have a limited amount of it stored in your muscles, and this can get you through up to 10 seconds of hard work. After you’ve used up this stored ATP, your body starts transforming carbohydrates into ATP during a process called glycolysis. When the conversion happens, the ATP is created, but so are extra hydrogen ions. An excessive buildup of these ions inhibits muscle contraction and leads to the burning sensation in your muscles. (

Most people (especially beginners) get off track by thinking that the burning they feel in their muscles is bad or dangerous and that they need to limit it or avoid it all together. But the fact is, even the most basic exercise should give you a decent amount of muscle burn while performing it.

So given this, what if you tried to keep going just a little further, a little longer beyond where you feel and think your limit is? Ah….. that is the Challenge Zone. It is the sweet spot where the magic happens. Trust me!

The Challenge Zone is where transformation takes place. Where your body moves into a new place and has to work just a little harder than before – while keeping correct form and function.

Think about it … if you continue to work out day after day and stop immediately at the same point every time, how will you grow stronger? It’s akin to reading one chapter in a book over and over. You might learn that chapter inside and out but what about all the other information in the book? Move beyond that chapter and it opens new doors for more knowledge. Move beyond that tough exertion point and it opens new doors for higher physical results.

Now, the key is to always be mindful in the movement. Form focused movement – precise form and technique – is paramount. If you are failing to the point where it is impacting your form, you are likely going too far. Remember, the Challenge Zone is NOT pushing yourself to injury. Form and precision come first, and if you lose that, you could get injured. This is a place of challenge with correct form. When you combine the two, big changes come.

So, during your next workout, see what it feels like to go just a little further into the Challenge Zone. You’ll be surprised and delighted that you DID it. That knowledge is powerful. Knowing that you can go further – that you can push yourself just a little harder – will stick with you.

So keep applying it. Keep challenging yourself – and your mind – to go a little further. Because you can.

x Andrea

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