Confessions of a Scaredy-Cat
I love all things familiar and wear my comfort zones like a warm sweater. I order the identical food at the same three restaurants we go to, will stay on the elliptical machine (on the pre-programmed workout I never vary) and am naturally content to keep things constant. I don’t care if that’s boring because I don’t like surprises. Surprises freak me out.
Realizing that my fear of change, risk, falling flat on my face (literally and figuratively) and related fear of public humiliation for trying and failing is a weakness, my constant goal is to turn it into a strength by overcoming it. The confidence gained from doing hard things more than makes up for the temporary discomfort of trying something new.
One of the quirky things about me is that while I have a scaredy-cat gene, I also have the trait of verbally committing to things on a whim, way faster than my cautious brain would like. This latter quality tends to drive my husband nuts.
Some examples of spontaneous things I’ve done with no Plan B in place and limited research:
- Entered a bodybuilding bikini competition at age 38 and size 14 (’cause when you’re middle aged and borderline obese, is there really a better time to enter a bikini competition?)
- Started a blog about said bikini competition
- Wrote two books, “She’s Losing It!” and “Mind Your Manners Minnie Monster,” which won a Mom’s Choice Award
- Quit my job and moved to Texas (where I knew no one) to start a business with my husband
- Did I mention the skydiving?
- Entered a pole dance competition at age 40 (not having taken a dance lesson since I was like 12.)
- Currently, I volunteered to host a Run from the Zombies obstacle course/fundraiser for my kids school, tapping into both my fears of getting corporate sponsorships and going to PTO meetings. (In my defense, I was drinking beer at a bowling birthday party when I committed to this one.)
So, how did I conquer my fears and push forward? As promised in 7 Secrets I Learned from Bodybuilding, today’s secret is overcoming fear. Fear comes in a variety of forms, so I cover tips from the basic to the specific.
3 Steps to Overcoming Fear in General
- Know the Result You Want.
When I was overweight I desperately wanted to get in shape before my class reunion. I discovered that the very fittest people in the gym were all training for a local bodybuilding competition called The Shredder. I had no idea that women even did that. With a vague idea that I would be eating boiled chicken a lot, I didn’t care what I had to do, I wanted what those women had: ripped bodies and tons of confidence. In hindsight if I knew how hard the process was, the strict diet, the rotating muscle group workouts, the time involved with competition prep, I probably would have chickened out. But by focusing on the end-game and not getting caught up with the process, it all worked out.
- Make a List of Pros and Cons. For big decisions, like quitting my job and starting a business, that actually did require some planning. The pros were that my part of the business would be doing the paperwork from home so I could be a stay-at-home mom with my daughter, Rylee. The cons were that I would lose medical insurance, steady income, and the sense of security a corporate job provided. But motherhood called much more forcefully than a safety net so we took a gamble on ourselves and won. (After losing quite a few hands first at the poker table of life.)
- Look to the Future. When I’m faced with a scary decision I always ask myself, “What are you going to regret more 10 years from now: doing it or not doing it?” That pushes me towards the right decision.
Overcoming 5 Common Fitness Fears
- Gymtimidation. Planet Fitness has made a killing playing off people’s fears that fit people will shame out-of-shape people at the gym. I know I had that fear when I first went back to the gym. I wore oversized frumpy clothes to hide my back fat and stuck to the elliptical machines, avoiding the weight lifting section like the plague. Plus I just knew (just knew!) that none of them were moms like me and had probably been thin their whole lives. They wouldn’t understand my struggles.
Know how to get over it? Talk to people. A few conversations revealed that this fit woman was a mother of four and that fit man had lost over 100 pounds and the gal over there was a cancer survivor given ten months to live but came back stronger and was now lifting weights. This isn’t high school. Most people are at the gym to improve themselves, not to judge you, so don’t be a hater when you don’t know their story, and don’t compare the start of your fitness journey to the middle of theirs. It’s not a competition with anyone but yourself.
- I Will Look Like A Scary Gorilla Woman If I Lift Weights. No you won’t. Just doing basic strength training will improve your strength, physique and burn more calories. It will recondition your body so you look more balanced.
It takes a lot of calories and pretty heavy weights to gain lean muscle mass and maintaining those gains takes a concerted effort, so you will only get a super strong physique if you are actively working to achieve that look, not by accident. There are women who are very muscular and let’s be honest, some of them take steroids to get that big. Personally, I like the bikini division because it’s softer and more of a toned look. I have friends who are in the physique division and look hot as hell. Ultimately it’s up to you to decide how muscular you want to get. Don’t let anyone (boyfriend, co-workers, random guys at a bar you’ve never met before) define for you what it means to look good as a woman. #GirlsWhoLift
This is a valid concern because if you do an exercise at the wrong angle, you can really mess up your body. If you are new to the gym, hire a trainer, even if only for a few sessions to learn the equipment. He or she will teach you proper form, motivate you and help you stay on track to reach your fitness goals. If you don’t have a trainer here are some general tips: 1 – Go with lighter weights. Lifting the heaviest weight possible may make you feel like a rock star but if you pull something you’ll be sidelined for weeks. Go light and keep your form right. 2 – Put the camera down. I’m so guilty of this! Now that I’ve discovered Instagram I’ve been taking gym selfies, which is a great way to injure myself. Sometimes I’ll post a selfie flexing with a dumbbell or something goofy and my trainer will text me, “More lifting, less primping.” #Busted!
- Fear of Failure.
Everybody knows that I just signed up for this yoga class/baseball team/weight loss program/boot camp/mud run. What if I can’t do it? People will laugh and I’ll feel worse about myself. First, who cares what people think? At least you are pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. A trainer, nutritionist or a coach can give you the tools to improve your health but you are responsible for your own success. You’re the one who has to follow the plan consistently and not give up. You didn’t gain the weight or lose the flexibility overnight so it’s unfair to demand that your body looks the way you dreamed it would after only two weeks. Henry Ford said it best, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” So believe in yourself.
- Fear of Success. No one really talks about this one when they first get back into fitness. This fear appears in the form of self-sabotage. Things are going great, you’ve lost ten pounds, your muscles are getting stronger, and then, as if for no reason, you eat an entire cheesecake or say you’re too busy to go to the gym, even though you’re not. Deep down you might be fearing that your relationship with your spouse might change, or maybe your friend who isn’t losing weight as fast as you will start talking about you behind your back, or maybe now that you’re fitter more people are looking at you and it’s uncomfortable, making you feel…vulnerable. Take a deep breath and shine on. Making yourself invisible so others feel more important is helping no one, neither them nor you. If you fall into this category, please read this post about people dealing with the emotions of losing significant amounts of weight: I Lost The Weight – Now What?
Breaking Down Fear of a Specific Exercise.
- Acknowledge that Fear is Present. ‘Why are you afraid of push-ups to failure?’ he asked. ‘Isn’t failure bad?’ I replied.
- Explain why you shouldn’t be afraid. ‘You have to go to failure so you can test your limits.’ (I still didn’t do the push-ups…)
- Dig deeper. ‘What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen?’ ‘I’ll fall on my face, and my nose will bleed and you’ll laugh at me.’
- Repeat Step 2. ‘I’m not going to laugh at you. I’d be more concerned that you would get hurt. But you’re not going to get hurt because if your arms collapse you’ll just turn your head to the side, right? And you’re only two inches from the ground, right?’ ‘Yeah…’
- Encourage. ‘I won’t let you fall. Come on, you can do this.’ And I did.
It’s funny how facing fears at the gym sometimes transfers into other parts of your life. Later that week my daughter, Rylee, was petrified to climb a steep hill. I used the same steps with her and she got over that ravine. Here is that story from my book, “She’s Losing It!” – I Won’t Let You Fall
Whether you’re facing big fears or little ones, you have the ability to face it and overcome. Be brave!
P.S. – Please check out (and follow!) my Instagram account, Lisa Traugott.
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