How to Train to be Antifragile

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I first heard the word antifragile when I was reading a book by Mark Manson called “Everything is f*cked. A Book About Hope”.

How he described antifragility is seeking out the discomfort that will force us to grow. His point being is that we have gotten soft as a society. We have become entitled. We don’t know how to use our pain that we go through in life to get stronger and become better people.

We are actually in a perfect training environment to learn how to become antifragile while being in the midst of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. How are you using this challenging time to become antifragile?

One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from my dear friend and the lead pastor of C3 Church in Orlando, Pastor Byron Bledsoe. It was while I was going through a painful divorce. It was actually the very first sermon I heard from him and ironically it was on marriage. Go figure.

I can remember that moment like it was yesterday. I felt like he was looking right at me and he said this. 

“I don’t know what you are walking through right now, but I want you to take that pain you are currently experiencing and feel every ounce of it. To sit with it and feel it with every fiber of your being. And then what I want you to do, is to take that pain and use it to do good.”

That has stuck with me over the last decade. That one piece of advice has led me to this point in my life where I am leading a men’s fitness ministry. I have used my pain to do good and continue to go to new levels as I experience discomfort in my life. Trust me, it’s now always fun, but it’s necessary.

For some reason, we are more likely to learn and change in a state of pain and suffering. When we are safe and secure and everything is going our way there seems to be a lot less personal growth that goes on in our lives. If you have figured out how to change when you are in a state of joy and inspiration, more power to you. That is definitely a work in progress for me.

How can we become antifragile? Here are three things that I do and challenge my clients to do to become antifragile.

COME UP WITH A BHAG

A BHAG is a big hairy audacious goal as first coined by the author Jim Collins. It’s a goal that both excites us and scares at the same time. It’s something that is outside of our comfort zone. We have some doubt in the back of our mind if we can actually accomplish it.

If the BHAG you set doesn’t terrify you enough, it’s not big enough.

If the BHAG you set doesn’t excite you enough, it’s not big enough.

In the work I do with men, it’s usually built around a physical goal such as running a 10k, half-marathon, or marathon, or hiking a 14'er.

Another example would be completing the Murph Challenge. This is a one mile run, followed by doing 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats and another one mile run all with a twenty pound weight vest on.

When one of my clients decided he wanted to do the Murph challenge he could only do two pull-ups on his own at the time. He trained like crazy and was able to complete the challenge.

The point of the BHAG isn’t to complete the challenge it’s about who we are becoming in the process. It’s about building our character and becoming a better person. It’s about getting out of our comfort zone and becoming antifragile. It’s about getting off the couch of complacency and into the world of challenge and discomfort.

When we do this on a regular basis we feel more alive. Our self-esteem goes up and we start to feel good about ourselves. This filters into every area of our lives. We become better people, stronger leaders, more willing to serve and make a difference.

We use the discomfort and pain during all of the training for the event to catapult us forward in our lives. We become more antifragile and resilient. It makes us feel fully alive.

MEDITATE

We have become soft because our minds have become soft. We allow weak thoughts to overtake our minds.

Meditation is something I have done off and on over the course of the last ten years or so. I can’t imagine missing a physical workout, but I have been less than consistent with my mental training until recently.

The first thing I do after I get out of bed is to meditate for a minimum of ten minutes. On most mornings its twenty minutes and sometimes more. If I have some extra time during the day I will try to add in another session or two.

What meditation does it allows us time to sit still and get to know ourselves. We learn to quiet our minds. We learn to allow thoughts to come into our mind and quite simply let them go without analyzing them. We get into our subconscious mind where we can actually make some changes to long standing habits and patterns that have been interwoven into our brain pattern.

There are so many benefits to meditation, but yet it’s a rare person that is willing to sit down in the quiet. Our minds are going 100 million miles an hour 24/7. We are a society that suffers from ADD and the unwillingness to sit still.

If you want to train yourself to be antifragile, I don’t think we can do it without practicing meditation. It doesn’t take a great deal of time, but it does take a consistent practice of quieting our mind. The more you do it, the more you will want to do it. It’s a powerful and blissful state when we are able to get past our analytical mind and into our subconscious mind. It will bring you a peace you have never felt before. I challenge you to give it a try.

I want to forewarn you when you first start to meditate you will sit down and have racing thoughts go through your mind. Your first impulse will be to say,”I am terrible at meditation,” because I have all of these thoughts I can’t control. And I say to that, exactly. We all do. It’s part of the process. But the more you do it, the quieter the mind will get. It’s like anything else. It takes time and regular practice. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

GET OUT OF OUR COMFORT ZONE ON A REGULAR BASIS

Doing things that get us out of our comfort zone on a regular basis will help us build up our antifragility muscles. The more we get out of our comfort zone, the tougher we will become mentally.

If we always stay safe and comfortable, we aren’t going to grow. As the saying goes, real change happens outside of our comfort zone. It doesn’t have to be anything real crazy, just enough to make us a little uncomfortable.

I started an online men’s fitness ministry at the beginning of this year. I have done a YouTube video every day since January 1, 2020. That means I have put myself out there every day for the last 111 days. The more I do it the more comfortable I get. In the beginning it was really awkward speaking into the camera. Now it feels more like I am having a conversation with my best friend. I am developing my antifragility muscles.

Another example of getting out of our comfort zone on a regular basis is not succumbing to hunger the first instance it hits. It can get a little uncomfortable being hungry, but when we push through that hunger our mind is telling our body that we are not slaves to every physiological cue we get. We can overcome physical hunger or pain with our mind.

I did a three day fast several months ago and that is what I kept telling myself. My mind is not a slave to my body. I can push past my hunger and be mentally stronger for it. It’s so easy to reach for food when we think we are hungry when we are actually bored or stressed. Try it some time. When you get that first hunger pang, see how you can push past it and how long you can go before you grab something to eat. It’s pretty amazing how powerful our mind is, but we definitely have to train it.

The more we do things we don’t like to do or that make us feel uncomfortable the more antifragile we will become. Our confidence and self-esteem will increase. We will break through barriers we never thought possible physically, mentally and spiritually.

Let’s use the pain and discomfort in our lives to get stronger and more resilient. Let’s challenge ourselves on a daily basis to get out of our comfort zone. Let’s start to do things that excite and terrify us at the same time. Imagine how alive you will feel when you take on a big hairy audacious goal and accomplish a dream you never thought possible.

Troy Ismir, MS

Fitness Minister

Founder and Creator of Barbells & Brothers

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