Fill in the blank: I don’t exercise [or insert your own activity here] because I am afraid that…
A) I will look stupid
B) I will hurt myself
C) I don’t know what I’m doing
D) I might fail
E) I might actually succeed
F) I will change
If you answered:
A) I will look stupid: The truth is that everyone else is so afraid of looking stupid that no one is paying any attention to anyone else. I was once doing so badly in a Step class that the woman behind me picked up her step and moved to the other side of the room so I wouldn’t throw her off as well. Now, I could have crawled into a hole and never shown my face at a step, or any, class again but I went back despite knowing I might make a fool of myself. I’m still not that great at Step but now I teach my own cardio dance classes. There was a woman who took my class who had obviously decided that "looking stupid" wasn’t going to stop her. She danced with wild abandon, eyes closed, arms and legs flailing, and was only ever doing the same thing as the rest of the class about half the time. The thing was, she was having more fun than anyone and making it fun for the rest of us. I didn’t think she “looked stupid,” I thought she was inspirational and enjoyed myself more because of her enjoyment. [Caveat - "wild abandon" only works in a class where you aren't flinging weights around or when you can do so semi-discretely in the back of the room. Temper your wild abandon accordingly.]
"Fears are educated into us, and can, if we wish, be educated out."
- Karl Augustus MenningerB or C) I will hurt myself/I don’t know what I’m doing:
Get yourself some help - hire a trainer, talk to the class instructor beforehand to tell them you are new, ask the gym staff to show you how to use the equipment. Heck, watch videos in the comfort of your own home. Youtube is a treasure trove of information to get you started. If you've always wanted to try Zumba or Crossfit or Pilates do a quick search and see what they are all about. Do keep in mind that trainers and instructors are being paid to teach you how to do things. You shouldn't already know how to do whatever it is you want to do. There's a reason it's called "Training" and not "Doing". If we could all do it already there'd be no reason to do it in the first place (and I'd be out of a job.) Even the most elite athletes in the world hire their own trainers and are constantly learning new things. Everyone was a beginner once - you just didn't get to see their start. (Here's an article about getting over your fear of the gym
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember, amateurs built the ark, professionals built the Titanic." - Unknown
D) I might fail. Yup. You might. But even if you try an activity and suck at it, at least you tried. As I've heard said, the person walking slowly on the treadmill is still lapping everyone on the couch.
E) I might actually succeed: You wouldn't think fear of success would be a thing would you? I mean, isn't success what we're all striving for? This unexpected fear is linked to fear of the unknown - who will I be if I succeed? Will I have to keep doing more? What happens next? I once had a conversation about goals and success with a man who had overcome an incredible number of obstacles. He had been blinded by an IED, done the rehab needed to reenter "regular" life, had joined the gym, hired a trainer, and was now able to work out completely on his own. I already think it's dangerous to walk through the gym area and I can see. There are bars sticking out, weights left on the floor, and equipment with sticky-outy parts, not to mention people not paying attention or in awkward positions sprawled all over the place. And yet there he was almost every day confidently moving from exercise to exercise. I'd call that pretty successful. However, during our conversation he admitted that he was afraid of achieving his goals because then he'd have nothing left to work on. He asked, "What do I do once I've reached my goal?" I was completely surprised to hear this because in my mind he'd already set so many goals and exceeded them that the obvious answer was "Make another goal." Success is not the end, it's another starting point you just aren't aware of yet. (Not sure what your goals are? Figure out your goals here.)
"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." - H. P. Lovecraft
F) I will change:
People are afraid of changing the status quo. There's probably a little voice in your head saying things like, "But you're not an athlete!" or "You're a nerd, not a jock." or "You're a mom/dad/accountant/grandma/couch potato etc...what do you know about exercising?" When I became a trainer, I had a hard time describing myself as an athlete. I was always the "plumpish, nerdy" kid in my family. My siblings were dance teachers and always svelte while we were growing up. (I was not
) I could have listened to my inner monologue of self doubt and status quo thinking and let it stop me from exercising in the first place, and certainly from becoming a trainer. Instead, I told it to shut up. So what if I had been X or Y? What was I going to be now
? I heard an interesting quote a few months ago: "Used-to-bees don't make no honey." If you're caught up in staying the same as you "used-to-bee", you're never going to see what you can become.
If you're finding it hard to start an exercise routine (or anything else that takes you out of your comfort zone), ask yourself what you're afraid of. Once you've named it you can conquer it.
More about the author, Amy Fortier: A short interview
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Have a question you'd like to "ask the trainer."? Email Amy at RVCAmy at gmail dot com