Last week I was coerced by the manager of my gym to try a new group workout; it was a bootcamp of sorts but with less people and it was run by a personal trainer.  My workout routine is pretty predictable, so trying this class was a wild departure for me.

Just to set the record straight–I love a good workout.  I love to sweat out the day’s stress and feel that physical tiredness.  So, even though I wanted to be excited for my adventurous workout choice, my internal dialogue sounded like this: “This is a bad idea, I don’t do well in these classes!  I’ll feel so uncoordinated and awkward, I’m probably going to hurt myself”. 

smooth seaThat wasn’t a proud moment for me–I was taking on a new challenge and I was immediately admitting defeat.  I think it was because deep down I knew what was coming–I’ve peered through the window at those classes and I’ve seen things they do in them.  I knew that I would try too hard and push beyond what I knew was good for me, just to prove I could.

So on the night of the class, I walked into the room and saw  hanging contraptions, weights, those dreaded  jump boxes, and overall pain inflicting items; I panicked.

True to my expectations, within the first 5 minutes of class, we were doing deep squats with a 20 pound bar.  Next, we started rotating in pull ups (oh my GOD!)  It was my own private hell but I wanted to be brave, so I dug in.

There’s a difference between challenging your comfort zone and honoring your limits–only you know what that is.

As I awkwardly trudged through my third pull up, I pulled a muscle in my neck that ran down to my upper back.   That inner voice came roaring in saying, “I knew this was going to happen!” Part of me wanted to be tough and stick it out. I wanted to show them (and myself) that I could do new things, that I too, could be tough like them.  But I I had to stop–I was in so much pain that I couldn’t turn my head.

I was so annoyed for ignoring what I knew to be true: that my body and mind don’t do well with these kind of workouts.

It was then that I realized the only person I was trying to prove something to, was myself.  No one else cared if I did the squats or the pull-ups; the other participants didn’t even flinch when I walked out the door, they were too busy focusing on themselves.

The experience was a good reminder of the difference between challenging myself (which comes in a gentle nudge or whisper, with feelings of excitement) and pushing beyond my limits (which shows up as tightness, nervous mind talk and thoughts of worst-case-scenarios.)

We listen to our inner voice to gauge danger; it protects us in times of need–and never trusting that inner navigation creates anxiety and fear because it takes away comfort and stability.   Other times, we try new things to test our limits because it’s important for growth.   If we aren’t open to new experiences, we become stagnant and stuck.   Only you can determine when it’s a good time to test your limits and when it’s time to honor them.  

The key is to strike a balance between the two.  You may discover the balance in a boot camp class, but you won’t see me there.


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