Stepping Way Out Of The Comfort Zone

Most people have nightmares about standing onstage in front of an audience with no idea what they're doing.

Perhaps an even worse fear is finding yourself naked (or nearly so) in public.

Mash those two phobias together and you pretty much get how last weekend went for me.

All For A Good Cause

Many readers know I do CrossFit pretty regularly to maintain a functional level of fitness. I wrote at length on the positive impact it has had on my health in this post: The New Me.

Well, at the start of 2017, the coach of our CrossFit box ('box' means 'gym' in CF-speak) mentioned offhandedly to a few of us that he had signed us up for a bodybuilding contest in April.

As he tends to joke around a lot, we didn't take him seriously. And it's not like any of us have the big muscles one associates with bodybuilding. So we quickly forgot about the comment.

But 2 months ago, we learned the contest was indeed for real. And our names were already committed to it.

Of course, we all tried to immediately back out.

But then we learned that a friend of ours was the one organizing the competition. Which was specifically designed for first-time amateurs like us. That raised funds for charity. Specifically, for children with muscular dystrophy.

The more we found out about the event, the more we realized there was no good excuse for chickening out. How could we let those kids down?


Waaay Out Of The Comfort Zone

So, 60 days ago, I committed to a pretty rigorous workout and nutrition schedule to get ready for the event. It wasn't easy, that's for sure.

Those of you who recently spent time with me at the Summit At Sea or at the Rowe seminar likely heard me gripe about how little I could eat of what was served at mealtime. Sorry about that.

But I must say, it turns out that the pressure of being on display for all eyes to see is an amazingly effective motivator (at least for me) for staying disciplined. Knowing that there was no place to hide that cookie or breadroll if I ate it kept me from cheating.

You see, psychologically, the specter of the contest was pretty terrifying for me. For much of my life I've carried more padding around the middle than I've liked, and have always felt self-conscious in public with my shirt off. To be up on stage, not just in front of an audience -- but of judges grading me on my physique(!) -- is material pulled straight out of my nightmares.

But it was all for a good cause. And more than that, Chris and I talk often about the importance of models as a means to inspire and motivate. So, my hope was to use this opportunity to model for you, the audience, as well as for my daughters, that fears are to be overcome, not submitted to. That pushing ourselves far out of our comfort zones is often exactly what is needed to make progress in life.

I wanted to show to you, and myself, that through focus and discipline, real life change can be achieved. And in a relatively short period of time.

My goal was to get into good enough shape that I could be credible on the stage. There were no delusions about winning; in my case I'd need a year or more of prep plus some serious illegal steroids for that. I just wanted to be seen as a legitimate contestant.


Two months ago I weighted in at 190 lbs. When I stepped onstage last Saturday, I weighed 168.

That's 22 pounds shed in sixty days.

(Note: I'm not recommending others follow my lead here, nor claiming that what I did here was "healthy". I followed a plan specifically designed for me by an experienced bodybuilder who monitored me along the way.)

Ultimately, I was pretty happy where things ended up. I'd been able to get rid of just about all my excess body fat while keeping my muscle definition, strength and energy at acceptable levels.

When the time came for all of the competitors to get together the night before, we were impressed with the progress each of us had made. The group vibe was really supportive and encouraging. After all, we were just a bunch of 'regular people' who decided to take this journey together for charity.

At this point, all that could be done was done. So we laughed together as we received our spray tans (so dark!). The guys made fun of each other after they shaved off their body hair (so hairless!). We were all getting into the spirit of the event.

And when the time came to step onstage the next day, we just did it. None of us really had any clue what we were doing -- we just followed the orders barked by the judges. Turn, pose. Smile. Turn, pose. Smile. Turn, pose. Smile.

The entire event is largely a blur in my mind due to the cocktail of terror/adrenaline/fun that coursed through me. But I'm very glad to have done it.

  • I proved to myself I could face a lifelong fear and be mentally stronger for it. That has added resilience to my Emotional Capital.
  • I'm leaner, lighter and have put nothing but healthy inputs into my body for the past several months. That has added resilience to my Living Capital.
  • And I've worked with friends to raise funds to support deserving families in my community. That has added resilience to my Social Capital.

While sharing this story and the photos below still makes me feel a little uncomfortably vulnerable, my hope is by doing so I give you the courage to allow yourself permission to step out of your own comfort zone in pursuit of something that matters to you.

What's an accomplishment or goal that has remained elusive for you? What's a step you could take out of your comfort zone in order to get closer to it?

Think about it. Write it down. If you want some support in pursuing it, share it in the Comments section below. We'll cheer you on.

After all, what's the worst that could happen? It's not like you'll end up standing nearly naked in front of a packed audience....



<img alt="" height=" src="" width=" /></p> <h4>~ Adam Taggart</h4>

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Great job Adam. Now you can chalk another one off your bucket list! Do you plan to stay at that weight?

Thanks, Coop!
At my height and build, staying under 170 lbs will be pretty tough.
Also, I definitely sacrificed some muscle in the pursuit to get my body fat percentage that low. I’d like to build that muscle back, plus add to it a bit, while hopefully keeping my fat % under control.
So if all goes according to plan, I’ll be around 180-ish, but with more muscle density. Time will tell.
I will say I’ve not enjoyed my post-competition “celebration” meals very much. Had some pizza, a little ice cream, some chocolate – all things I fantasized about while on my strict diet plan. They all tasted less wonderful than I’d imagined, and I felt pretty crummy after eating each.
So, that disappointment should make it easier to stay on the healthy eating path. The treat of the cheat meal is just not worth the cost of the aftermath…

Speaking from my own experience, terror is definitely a really good motivator! I’m not sure its a good way to actually live, but I think it is worthwhile to go through the experience.
Looks like you did a fantastic job to me.
What was your ratio of cardio training to weights? And how many minutes per day of each?
And dare I ask, how many calories overall per day did you eat?

Dave -
Thanks for the kind words. From an experienced martial artist such as yourself, they mean a lot.
My strength training to cardio ratio was about 50/50, but that’s largely a function of CrossFit’s standard programming. I did 5-6 CF WODs (aka workouts) a week on average, which were an hour in duration each.
Plus, I went through the 5-week CrossFit Open during this period, which was hella hard while on a calorie-restricted diet.
As for daily calories, the food program I was on targeted 1,500 per day. Mostly lean protein (egg whites, ground turkey) and green vegetables. My big treat was a 1/4 cup of walnuts & almonds in the afternoon.
And if you missed a meal (which I did often), you missed it. You weren’t allowed to make up for it by eating more later in the day.
So I’d say my average daily intake bounced between 1,200-1,500 calories per day. Not much, especially for a guy my size (6’, 2").

60 days is not a lot of advanced warning for a challenge like that.

Just to state the obvious–while you guys went to extremes most of us will never endure (at least not willingly), becoming leaner has lots of benefits. Less weight on the joints, less food to process, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of lifestyle illnesses. Losing 22 pounds over 600 days would be an excellent goal, as that would leave enough time for one’s metabolism to re-set to a lower set-point weight. My own experience is evidence (at least to me) that weight set-points are real. Where I fluctuated around the low 170s for almost 20 years, last year I went down to the low 160s and have stayed there with modest adjustments in the usual vices (ice cream, beer, etc.). I’m 6’ 2" also, but lighter built than Adam (it must be those Viking genes, Adam!) That’s an inside joke because I’m about 15% Scandinavian, no doubt as a result of the Viking occupation of Eastern England and Northern France.
My first question to Adam was: what did you weigh in high school and college? That can be a useful guide to our weight parameters.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us. We can all experience a collective shudder at the thought of being on stage…talk about “naked and afraid”…

My inspiration for exercise is simple:
Zombie Land Rule #1

The other rules are also worthy to heed...

Calorie-wise, it sounds roughly similar to my survival class. Except all we did was walk; we didn’t have intensive cardio or weight training. But the calorie deficit was intense. And four days with no food at all. And we walked for 5-6 hours a day. And sometimes there were no trails. And sometimes we got lost. When the teachers had the maps we were fine. Its when the students (like me!) got hold of the map that we had problems. Go up the wrong terrain feature, and your day’s easy hike turns into a death march. Teachers would shrug and say, “do whatever you think is right.”
14 days = 15 pounds.
My takeaway from that was, my body is really quite capable of doing just about anything even if I haven’t eaten for a while. Missing a meal is not the end of the world. I don’t really need to eat before training. Or after. I don’t need breakfast. We typically only had one meal per day. And most of the time it was around 600-800 calories. The course was designed to give us that “tribal” experience. Boy, it sure worked. I have a big appreciation for what life must have been like trying to eek out calories from the landscape way back when. It turns out, most of the really tasty calories don’t want to be eaten…they’re hard to find, they tend to run away, etc.
There’s kind of a mental switch I can flip now when I get hungry. I can remember back to my class, and say to myself, “well I know I can survive for four days without eating…I guess it won’t kill me to wait for a few more hours.”
I remember fantasizing about food all through that trip though, so I can totally identify with where you are. And mine was only 14 days - and in the high desert, there are absolutely no “temptations” - while yours lasted two months and you were simply surrounded by food options.
Sausages. I think that’s what I wanted most. :slight_smile:

I’m impressed. My wife of 48 years has been walking daily 4-6 miles a day for 30+ years and hasn’t varied her weight by more than a couple pounds (with the exception of two pregnancies) over that entire period. However, she doesn’t look like either of those two ladies with you in the picture. Unfortunately, when I suggested that she consider joining me in cutting grass and chopping wood to obtain similar results, I found I had stepped over the line of my comfort zone?

This and a Spartan or Tough Mudder are on my fairly near-term bucket list. Assuming civ don’t fall. Although in that case, we’ll do it for reals… Congrats again, and VIVA – Sager

I had hallucinations of smelling barbeque during one of the more challenging phases of my survival skills training. I lost 20lbs in two weeks.

Definitely hardcore. Way to go.

Great job, Adam! Glad you lived up to the challenge! But the body shave and spray tan were, at least to me, unexpected.
Question: how much did the charity make? Do you know?

Thanks so much for sharing this Adam!
Well done for this commitment. When are you going for the next one?
Having just moved from the UK to NZ after living a very hectic 11 years (orginally zimbabwean born farmers son) i worked a solid 70-90 hour work weeks, i decided for a one month holiday in NZ, i fell in love with the place. I decided to move, so when i got back to the Uk i then moved to NZ with in 4 months. Its a lovely place to live in NZ, a lifestyle to dream off. Yet the young generation are or have their hands tied to buying houses here and rents through the roof, which is what i want to do… Buy a house and rentals later on. Myself having a property in the UK which im keeping as an investment. I decided that rather to save my money while living off grid for a bit. I had a fear of getting out and doing it. What would my friends say… those thoughts, plus many more.
1 month later after finally putting most of the things in order, i live in a Ford Econovan (not a large one, its a short wheel base), no rent, just use the local toilets when i need, living a stone throw away from the seaside.
So this post of yours, although its different it does help to share as i did have some out of comfort zone feelings!!!. I can say thank you as i now do not have a fear of what will happen or what people think.
What matters is how do i feel and what can i learn and do more to make life a little better each day.
regards Wayne

Looking good, that takes guts. I’ll be your wife is proud… :slight_smile: