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Pushing Your Fitness Goals Further:
What Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone

No matter where you are in your fitness journey, I guarantee you can think of a pinpoint moment where you took a step back and were proud of a healthier decision you’ve made. Don’t believe me? Think of the first time you walked into (or maybe were dragged to) FITT-RX. That right there is a major milestone on your own personal fitness adventure. According to the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, 28% of Americans age 6 and older, that’s approximately 80.2 MILLION people are physically inactive. Still think your trips to the gym don’t count? It is estimated only 1 in 3 adults get the recommended amount of physical activity each week. So you see, it doesn’t matter where you start, you just have to start.

That’s exactly what I did. By some grace of God, January 2006 my friends convinced me to go from an overall sedentary lifestyle to joining the track and field team in high school. I was an obese teenager that knew more exercise would do me good, so I took the step outside my comfort zone and signed up. I think that whole first month of practice I was nauseous the whole second half of the school day anticipating what was in store for me once I got to the field house. But you know what? I kept going. I kept going not only because I felt the effects of a really great workout (crash landing into chairs and struggling to raise my hand in class), but I saw the benefits of getting my butt moving. The hard work paid off and as time went on, I got better at the field events I specialized in, and by the time I graduated high school- I was almost 100 lbs lighter and a 2-time state section athlete in shot put. None of this would have happened had I stayed in my comfort zone and let my fears and doubts take hold- I would probably still be sitting on the couch.

Each chapter along my fitness journey has a new challenge I braved up to and decided to try. Most of the time, I went in terrified- thinking of all the things that could go wrong. I constantly questioned if I was “good enough” or “fit enough”. The first group fitness class I took, the first 5k I ran, the first time I walked into Crossfit, the first time I got my ass kicked by Jill and Jen in TRX at FITT-RX (which by the way- that class started with a tabata of TRX mountain climbers), the first time I realized the heavy weight I was intimidated by was now my “warm up”, and even my first tough mudder. Each came with their own anxiety mixed nicely with butterflies in my stomach- the common symptoms of stepping out of your comfort zone!

I may have not finished a race the fastest, I may not have whipped around the heaviest weight in the gym, and I sure as heck didn’t finish tough mudder as gracefully as others,  but the bottom line is: I did it.

But HOW did I get past the demons in the back of my mind that told me I couldn’t do it, or I wouldn’t do it? Here are my top 5 tips as to how I got around it and what you can do to avoid the fear of leaving your comfort zone.

  1. Weigh out your pros and cons. This is the biggest thing I do with any decision I have to make in life. I physically write out a +/- chart or mentally sort out what is holding me back from taking the plunge out of my comfort zone. But that is not all! Then I go back through my “cons” and think about how I can turn it into a “pro”. Have a con of “not knowing anyone” when you start a new gym? That is part of what terrified me about crossfit. But that’s how I met one of my best friends. If I let the fear of being the “outcast” in a new setting hold me back, I would have never met her! That thought alone makes me so glad I tried something new.
  2. Find Your Support. When I ran my first tough mudder, I was dragging my feet to sign up, but my good friend got me excited to sign up and join his team. The confidence he had in me only encouraged me further. Also, if you look around, it is easy to find support from fellow group fitness participants or friends that can relate to the fitness journey. We all know how to get excited about nerdy things like using a heavier weight or running just a little bit faster than the last time.
  3. CUT. THE. EXCUSES. There is always going to be a “next Monday” or “tomorrow” or “January 1st” to start working toward a goal. What better time to start self-improvement than right now? Does that thought scare you? Good! Get used to being comfortably uncomfortable because that is when you start to see changes. Hey, that reminds me- Get up and get your butt to my 5:30am class. And no, it’s not “too early” 😉
  4. Sign up for one event every year that intimidates you. I use the term “event” loosely because it doesn’t necessarily have to be a competition. However, we are lucky enough to live in a town with enough resources and areas of exercise that basically anything you’d ever want to try is within driving distance. Running intimidate you? We have a trainer at FITT-RX that runs a number of running groups designed to accommodate all fitness levels and running speeds. FITT-RX also has a diverse community that is involved in charity events like the fight for air tower climb and bike rides (wait… how many miles on a bike?). That’s not all, we have a group that does tough mudder annually and other races like Ragnar. The beautiful thing I’ve learned from working at FITT-RX and observing the camaraderie here, is that there is no room for judgement. We are all trying to work toward being a healthier version of ourselves and a lot of us bond together to reach those goals as a team.. How cool is that?
  5. Keep a journal. Many times, myself included, we don’t track progress well enough and feel discouraged when we don’t see immediate results we are hoping for. However, we neglect to get excited for the small wins that are adding up in major ways. Don’t think you’ve improved in classes? Write down the weights you use after a particular workout and come back in a month or two and check if you’ve improved in any lift. Take monthly progress pictures to keep yourself in check (I know it’s hard to see progress on your own body since you look at it literally all day, every day). It can even be as simple as creating benchmarks you do once every few months of “how many sit ups can I do in a minute” “how many jumping jacks can I do without stopping” “what is my mile time”. All of these tiny details play a part in all the hard work you’re putting in. Somewhere through those aforementioned benchmarks you’re selling yourself short and not giving yourself enough credit. Small wins add to BIG change!!

In conclusion, life begins at the end of your comfort zone and in order to see it, get excited about any and all wins, find those who will be happy for you and encourage you to reach a little further, and don’t hesitate to try something new. You don’t have to be great to get started, but you have to started in order to be great.

Written By:  Megan Sandilands, Certified Personal Trainer

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