At the beginning of the year, in a moment of insanity, I decided to join a Crossfit gym. Crossfit is a workout program that combines a variety of functional movements that include lifting weights, gymnastics, and cardiovascular training performed at high intensity.
I joined because I wanted to up my fitness level. I wanted to challenge myself to go way beyond what I thought I could do at my age. And I wanted to work out with a group of committed fitness folks to avoid the isolation I often feel during the winter months.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
After an initial orientation and training period, I was ready for group classes and, by that point, I started to balk at going to the gym. I felt self-conscious. The workouts were hard. I compared myself to others. And I felt like the oldest, most out-of-shape member in the gym.
But I went anyway.
On my first visit, I started sweating before I ever lifted a weight.
There were muscles.
Lots of muscles.
And men and women lifting barbells with big-ass weights listening to rock music blasting from speakers.
What am I doing here, I thought to myself as I walked over to the stretching area. This is a mistake and I need to find a way to back out gracefully and get a refund.
But there was no turning back.
I knew there was a good chance I’d want to quit once I got there, so I made a deal with myself before going to my first class. Anytime I felt self-conscious or intimidated I would do the opposite of what I’d normally do. Instead of leaving, I would smile at a stranger and say hello.
The smiling helped, people were welcoming and friendly, and it encouraged me to stay. By my third class, I had a shift in perspective that changed everything.
On this particular morning, once the stretching sequence was finished, we walked over to what looked like a giant jungle gym for adults. Beginning the warm-up part of the hour, we were instructed to start by doing pull-ups either on metal bars above our heads (not a chance) or by using the gymnastic rings hanging down in the center of the cage.
I chose the rings.
The starting buzzer went off and we began the workout. I planted my feet out in front of me, lowered my body to a forty-five-degree angle from the floor, and then raised and lowered myself, using the rings to guide my movements. Each time I pulled up, I told myself: You can do this. You belong here. You’ll be stronger in no time.
That’s when something awesome happened.
The next song blaring from the speakers was one of my favorites: Everlong by Foo Fighters. As the music started, two men approached the cage down near my feet. They both jumped up and grabbed a metal bar on either side of me and started doing pull-ups in unison.
As I continued to lift and lower my body to the rhythm of the beat, I noticed the men’s movements were now synchronized with mine and a crazy fantasy popped into my head: I imagined myself in my own music video flanked by two backup dancers swinging to the beat.
The image made me laugh out loud.
The guys looked at me and smiled.
I suddenly felt like I belonged.
I left the gym that day standing a little taller, feeling a little stronger and convinced that I, too, could hang in there.
Just not on the pull-up bars.
Now, a year and a half later, I’m one of the gang. I’ve met great workout buddies, am stronger than I’ve been in years, lift more weight than I ever thought possible, and actually look forward to going to the gym because I know how good I’ll feel when I’m done.
All because of my decision to do the opposite of what I normally do.
I can’t stress enough how this one decision has had such a positive impact on my life – in other ways, since, too.
While I don’t expect to become a champion athlete or a Crossfit Queen anytime soon, I do intend to keep challenging myself.
A comfort zone can become a prison if we let it.
Try it for yourself. The next time you embark on something new that would be good for you and you start to balk at the idea, do the opposite of what you’d normally do and watch what happens.
Don’t be a prisoner in a comfort zone that keeps you safe but uninspired!
Video of the Week
My friend, Nick Ortner, shared this video in his blog this week and it’s an inspiring example of what it means to step out of your comfort zone. You can find it in his blog, here.