Comfort zones and Absolute beginners

Friday, January 20, 2012 Permalink

I have a terrible habit of going off-track when I am writing a blog post. Usually I’ll have thought of some (obviously amazing!) topic and as I start writing I’m struck by all of these other (obviously equally amazing) ideas and find myself going off on a tangent. If I’m really strict, I hive off the tangent for a separate post. But sometimes I’m overcome by my need for instant gratification and I want to publish whatever it is I want to say then and there…. so the post loses its focus and becomes either convoluted or long. Or (usually) both.I apologise in advance, because I can already tell today is one of those days.

comfort zone signRegular readers will know that in August or September last year I joined a little gym near work and have been diligently visiting for the past few months. Some of the classes have been on hold over the holiday period however, including my beloved Zumba (which may well not be traditional Zumba, as it happens – which is actually a complete aside and is actually NOT the tangent!). As a result, AND because I’ve shelved my running program I’ve had to alter my gym program a little since the Christmas/New Year period.

But mostly I’ve been doing the same classes for a couple of months now… slowly adding in those which were originally scary, as I’ve felt braver and fitter. And this week – in order to mix things up a bit – I started to think about trying something new. And as I pondered on this I was reminded of a post I’d read on my commute into work that very morning.

Blogger and writer, Karen Anderson was talking about her comfort zone. Well, actually it was about her discomfort zone and the fact that she’d have to push some boundaries if she really wanted to make some changes.

I commented that – for someone who can be so risk averse, set in their ways and big on the need for comfort and control – I’m often ‘up’ for new things. WITHIN REASON: I clarified. I won’t do anything which might embarrass me (too much). I won’t do anything which will make me feel like a huge failure. But… if it’s something that I might not be good at, but shouldn’t necessarily HAVE to be… then that’s a whole other thing. (Although I will generally offer some self-deprecating disclaimers before I start.)

As it seemed the planets were aligning and giving me a message of sorts…. I trudged off to something called Cardio-blast. I knew nothing about the class other than that it MAY involve some equipment and MAY include aerobic moves to get your heart rate up (I’d emailed the gym to ask about it!). I must say, despite not knowing what to expect, the class wasn’t at all like I expected. The instructor threw in some strength work, some step aerobics, high impact aerobics and the like. By the end of the class I was opting for the low impact moves and could barely gasp for breath. I changed my shirt (and applied more deodorant and perfume) after the class to avoid apshixiating an entire trainload of commuters and noticed that my face was as red as the clean, dry shirt I donned for the trip home.

I don't need it to be easy,  I need it to be worth it.The next day dawned along with some soreness. I was scheduled for my usual ‘Pump’ (weights) class, but got a message that a daytime class had been changed to a ‘resistance circuit class’ aimed at “toning and strengthening our lower and upper bodies and our cores”. Why the hell not? I decided and switched my plans for the day. Different movements to my usual weights classes, meant that I worked muscles usually left to their own devices. And a day later my calves, shoulders, quadriceps and almost every other body bit was aching. Which would be fine, if I didn’t need to walk, move my arms or you know… breathe at all!!!!

But despite the soreness I’m pleased with my decision to try something new this week. I’m not sure I’ll be a regular cardio-blaster, but I’m thinking about going occasionally. Although I hate gasping for breath when attempting to run on the treadmill, I don’t mind it in a class and this week I really had to push myself. I was out of my comfort zone but happily so. And it was certainly worth it.

And I realised that it was something I wouldn’t have attempted over six months ago. I mean, my fitness still isn’t great, but I’m confident enough in classes that I can adapt the exercises to suit my needs, or I can push myself knowing that the pain will be brief.

Earlier this week I bought into a Facebook exchange between some participants on my old weight loss program. Someone was scouting around to see if there were others in her category (140+kg / 308+lbs) who may be interested in gathering for group exercicse.

A few of the old timers suggested the girls attend existing sessions, saying that others there would be fully supportive etc. But… I could see where the newbies were coming from. It’s easy for some of us to forget where we were just months or years ago. There is NO WAY IN HELL I would have dreamt of attending one of the outside bootcamps when I first joined the program. I couldn’t walk without getting shin splints, so eased my way into it by just using an exercise bike at home before eventually signing up for regular boxing classes.

I did, however, (quite early on) attend another group class but despite my ‘I’m not very fit’ explanations, the first thing we had to do was run… just for a warm-up. As you do. I could have walked, but no one else walked and I felt I needed to try to run. So I did. I survived, but I didn’t enjoy myself. I felt kinda cheated.  Deceived.

All of this was quite timely as blogger Skinny Emmie also had some pointers for new exercisers in her blog earlier this week, which again served to remind me (as I said), that it’s easy to forget where we started. Hell, I’m almost still there… struggling along, but I’m getting there. Slowly.

Source: cookiefamilykarate.blogspot.com

And it occurs to me that fitness is only part of the thing stopping us from ‘joining in’. My (slightly) increased fitness is only one reason I’m now trying other things. I’m also able to do it because I feel more confident. I think this diagram demonstrates it perfectly: I’m able to step out of my comfort zone because I know my limitations and have the confidence to push the boundaries just a little… so I am challenged (in the learning zone) but not deterred from returning (in the panic zone).

Of course… perhaps I am just overly fearful about being pushed too far or too hard.
Do you like being pushed outside of your comfort zone? And… is it possible to be pushed too far?

16 Comments
  • KCLAnderson (Karen)
    January 20, 2012

    Great post! I really love that last graphic because it illustrates something I wrote about today (in follow up to the post you so graciously linked to): there is more than one comfort zone…we all have several and some of them are precious and not to be stepped out of, and others are more flexible…not so sacrosanct. So yes, I definitely agree that it’s possible to be pushed to far. Awareness is our friend 🙂

    • rockafellaskank
      January 20, 2012

      Karen, I think I tweeted to let you know about the link. I really liked the ‘discomfort’ zone notion! (I didn’t go back to the bootcamp I mentioned…. also balked at some others which were similar!)

      Deb

  • Emmie
    January 20, 2012

    I typically have my comfort zone, my “uh, this couldn’t end too horribly” zone, and then my OMFG HELL NO zone. I wish the buffer between those last 2 zones was larger, but I’ve always been a cautious person. Hoping as time goes on it will get better 🙂 Thanks for linking my post!

    • rockafellaskank
      January 20, 2012

      No worries Em – I always read your posts, though don’t always leave comments! I particularly liked the fact that you shared your experiences in the ‘exercise for ultra beginners’ post, as I’d just seen the messages I mentioned on Facebook and it helped remind me how daunted I was less than a year ago: ie. a walk seemed overwhelming.

      And I totally hear you re the learning and panic zones – they can be WAY too close!

      Deb

  • skinnygirlrobbins
    January 20, 2012

    I totally agree. And just like you said, I find that as I get more fit, I push myself just a little more out of my comfort zone. But I think that I could get into my “run for the hills!” zone if I try to push too far.

    • rockafellaskank
      January 20, 2012

      Indeed… I’ve quit many a thing which has proved to be just beyond my comfort zone!!!

  • Carol Hess
    January 20, 2012

    I’m a beginner exerciser — used to be petrified of the stuff (a weight loss coach pointed out that was probably because I had been injured alot as a child while exercising). It was a huge step out of my comfort zone to step on a rebounder. I kid you not.

    Yesterday, I found myself complaining that I couldn’t stay on the stationery bike longer because my feet hurt. (Does that happen to anyone else or is it because of the arthritis in my feet?) Was that really me, the hater of all exercise? Complaining I couldn’t exercise longer? A major miracle. And I experienced that miracle by taking one small step out of my comfort zone at a time. (Love calling that place the Learning Zone. Brilliant!)

    I’ve got a long way to go to get fit, but every step I take or turn of the pedal is one step closer. I’m that much fitter than I was the day before. The small, consistent steps add up to a major journey.

    • rockafellaskank
      January 20, 2012

      Carol, when I first (re) embarked on exercise as a part of my weight loss program, I planned to do this 20min interval session on the exercise bike. On Day 1 I climbed aboard and was horrified that I was struggling to do 5 minutes! You’re right abut the small steps… I also need to try to remember the early struggles when I complain about my inability to run or do endless burpees or star jumps!

      Deb

      • Carol Hess
        January 21, 2012

        Burpees and star jumps? Oh, goodie. My learning zone includes some fun new vocabulary! Thanks, Deb, for the encouraging words. They help. They really do.

        • rockafellaskank
          January 21, 2012

          Thanks Carol!

  • Karen@WaistingTime
    January 20, 2012

    Nope, don’t like it. But, it is often a good thing for me. And I’m better at it than I used to be. Kudos to you for stepping out.

    • rockafellaskank
      January 20, 2012

      Thanks Karen. My soreness is slowly disappearing. Zumba restarts again this week so I’ll get to that AND we’ve got a public holiday and my gym’s closed an extra day so I’ll have to mix it up again!!!

      Deb

  • Marion
    January 21, 2012

    HI Deb! Well, I think a person has to be receptive to stepping out of the comfort zone. I try new potentially embarrassing things all the time, but, as I write, I must be comfortable with that because I’m always doing that. But much of the comfort is knowing that I have a bunch of gym buddies who still enjoy and support me during major bloopers. I never really feel a fool. My gym buddies know that to do certain new types of exercises, there is a huge learning curve–in more slang terms–disastrous bloopers. I want to do those types of exercises, so I risk the embarrassing mistakes.

    I once saw a guy at my law school trip and fall over onto his face. He then got up like it was nothing at all. What confidence!!! What class! I’ll never forget it. Confidence is what you have when things go wrong, not when everything is going right.

    🙂 Marion

    • rockafellaskank
      January 21, 2012

      So true Marion that it has to do with confidence as well as support. I think that’s (kind of) the point I was finally trying to make in my blog post – that fitness alone, or even support alone may not mean you’re ready… but being confident to try something new and knowing how far outside your comfort zone you can go is v.important.

      Deb

  • Lower back pain relief
    January 24, 2012

    I couldnt have said it any better to be honest! keep up the awesome work. You are very talented & I only wish I could write as good as you do 🙂 …

  • Computer Repair
    January 29, 2012

    Enjoyed reading through this, very good stuff, thanks .

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