On embracing struggle, avoiding the happiness trap, and calisthenics

Happy Monday,

I often talk about getting out of your comfort zone and pushing your limits, both inside and outside of the gym. But does making progress toward your goals ever really get easier?

Yes and no.

When we think of people who are great at what they do, from top athletes to successful entrepreneurs, we understand that their paths weren’t always easy.

Top performers are so good at their craft because they consistently struggle to reach the next level. Not only do they learn to expect discomfort, they learn to make peace with it and even lean into the struggle.

On the other hand, most of us think that something’s amiss when we encounter struggle.

But this is one of the many reasons I love fitness so much: it’s such a fantastic training ground for the rest of life.

When you’re working toward a fitness-related goal, whether it’s doing your first pull-up, gaining a faster sprint time, or learning a challenging new sport or skill, you don’t expect it to come easily to you. You expect to struggle.

Each time you force yourself through one more rep or to run just a little bit faster and further, you’re building mental strength.

Training your body to become stronger and more resilient also trains your mind to do the same thing.

As Russ Harris writes in The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living (great book, not such a great subtitle):

“The more you try to avoid discomfort, the harder it will be to make important changes. Change involves risk. It requires facing your fears and stepping out of your comfort zone—both of which point to one thing: change will usually give rise to uncomfortable feelings.”

The more you can learn to expect, accept, and, ultimately, lean into struggle, the more you’ll start making real progress toward your goals.

What I’m reading —

The Centuries-Old Sport of Karate Finally Gets its Due at the Olympics / Smithsonian Magazine

This article goes into the history of karate and why some people have mixed reactions about it becoming an Olympic sport, namely, that by focusing on competition, karate “runs the risk of losing its soul.”

Still, I’m excited to watch it. I’m hoping to get some inspiration for my own martial arts journey along the way. I love the underlying message:

“True karate is about competing with yourself, not with other people.”

What I’m listening to —

The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT by Russ Harris

How do you deal with overwhelming feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression all while creating greater purpose and meaning in life? This book seeks to answer those questions and help the reader avoid what Harris calls the “happiness trap” by using techniques from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). ACT is by far my favorite psychotherapeutic approach and is based on cultivating mindfulness, acting in accordance with core values, and creating psychological flexibility in life.

I’m also a big fan of Harris’s other book (and honestly think it’s a little better than this one); The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt.

A quote that inspires me —

“The less we attempt, the less chances of failure. If we can make it look like we are not really responsible for our fate, for what happens to us in life, then our apparent powerlessness is more palatable.” — Robert Greene, Mastery

What I’m training —


No matter what my training focus I always make sure to train calisthenics to keep up a basic level of strength. Calisthenics, or bodyweight exercises, include exercises like push-ups, bodyweight squats, pull-ups, triceps dips, lunges, hanging leg raises, etc. I do calisthenics usually as a circuit two or three times a week and consider it my “vitamins” of working out.

Three new workouts —

Stress Reducer Boxing HIIT Workout (12 minute, bodyweight-only or heavy bag)

303 Rep Strength-Building Challenge Workout (Time challenge, kettlebell, medicine ball)

237 Rep Bodyweight Bar Workout (Time challenge, dip bar or parallel bars)

And here’s a bodyweight pool workout I posted on Instagram.

Remember, you can get these and all future workouts right in the 12 Minute Athlete app when you subscribe as a Super Athlete (this is WAY cheaper than joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer! In addition, you’ll be helping to support the site and making future features to the app possible.).

As always, I value your feedback, so please feel free to reply directly to this email if you have any questions or comments (yes, I am a real human). I get a lot of emails and messages, so I can’t reply to all of them, but I do read everything you guys send me!

Here’s to embracing struggle,

– Krista Stryker

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