Whitewater raftingby Su Reid-St.John, for Sharecare
Most of us, at one time or another, have been afraid to try something new, especially when it comes to fitness. My most recent fear facing came when I had the chance to do a zipline tour--the kind where you hike through the forest, climb up onto a tiny platform 20 feet above the ground, then cross from tree to tree via zipline and rope bridge and rope swing. The issue? I'm afraid of heights.
But it sounded like such fun that I knew it was time to pull out my five steps to overcoming fitness fear. These are the same ones I used the first time I faced a steep downhill on my mountain bike, took a kayak through the rapids, ventured onto the blue trails on my downhill skis--well, you get the picture.
Here they are:
1. Allow yourself to be a beginner
It always looks so effortless when you watch an expert in motion, right? It's worth remembering that nobody starts out amazing. "When we compare ourselves to those who've already perfected a skill, and then are not able to perform at an advanced level right out the gate, we give up," says Serena Rain, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Elite Trainer. "Recognize you are a beginner and start slow." After all, even that guy jumping moguls on his mountain bike was a first-timer once.
2. Ask for help
Before I set a foot onto the ladder to the first zipline platform, I confided to one of the guides that I was nervous about heights and said I might need an occasional encouraging word. He was more than happy to oblige. "It is always good practice to have a strong support staff to help you through the difficult times," notes NASM Elite Trainer Aaron Lawson. "Be sure to express to them your goals and fears. They can really help to keep you motivated and on track." My husband, also on the tour, was quick to tell me how great I was doing, and it made all the difference.
3. Acknowledge the fear
Yes, it's there--but that's not a deal-breaker. "Fear is a force everyone has to deal with from time to time," Lawson says. The key is how you deal with it. Admit that yeah, it might be frightening the first time you hop on that bike or walk into that new class or head down that mountain. Allow yourself to feel afraid for a few moments. Then move on.
4. Talk to yourself
I'm not usually a big talker--until I'm facing a big challenge. Then the words come tumbling out: "You can do it. You've got this. Stay strong." Tell yourself how great you are (even if you don't quite believe it) and you'll feel better equipped to handle the tough stuff. Here's how Sharecare mental health counselor Brooke Randolph puts it: "Create your own script, rather than repeating those things that others tell you that you should believe." Amen, sister.
5. Allow yourself to fail
It's going to happen sometimes--and that's okay. You can always try again. "People who do allow themselves to fail usually learn about themselves and learn a lot about what they need to do differently to move forward," explains Sharecare fitness expert Michelle Cleere, PhD. "If you allow it to, failing can give you some good information about how to not fail the next time," says Cleere.
So why bother going through all this? Because the moment you step off that bike, or finish that class, or climb down that ladder, you'll feel so powerful and exhilarated that you'll wonder why you were ever afraid in the first place.
Su Reid-St. John is Sharecare's Senior Fitness Editor. She lives in Birmingham, AL with her husband, daughter, and cat, and can be found inline skating, Nordic walking, cycling, doing yoga, and strength- training (TRX is her new obsession) whenever time allows.
Get more health tips from RealAge: