Food For Thought

Salt, school lunches and the intersection of food, wellness and public policy.

Escaping the Exercise Comfort Zone

How novel exercise helped an ungraceful gal conquer fitness phobia

Exercise, I hate it, especially exercise classes. Never one to keep a rhythm, I'd lose my synch with the cardio kick boxing class and find myself with an increased heart rate due to frustration alone! Then I tried yoga. It was ok for awhile. I liked the concepts of focus, balance, stretching and strength, but yoga class was too slow and I would find thoughts wandering. Pilates. Hmm. Core exercises are great but I'm a little weak in that area. And going to the gym? Not my thing.

So, when 2011 started I made a pact with myself to get out of my exercise comfort zone and try something all together new, but what? Scouring the local fitness magazines, I came across an ad touting the benefits of Pure Barre, an "exercise regimen designed for woman to strengthen, lengthen, and tone their bodies. The workout launches a full blown attack on the areas of the body all women struggle with: abs, hips, seat and arms." Sounds impressive, but I'm an exercise skeptic. Anyway, after some research, I found that Pure Barre is based on the Dailey Method, a technique that combines a bit of ballet barre, core conditioning, pilates, stretching and yoga movements. A nice combo, but this gal is no dancer! I have the coordination of a giraffe on skates, so any kind of "dance" puts fear in my soul.

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Reminding myself that the goal was to get of my comfort zone, I decided to sign up for the "unlimited classes for the first month" special. Paying for something is always a good motivator. Arriving a few minutes in advance of the class, I was greeted by a svelte young woman who introduced herself as the instructor...and the mother of the adorable 4-month-old tot sitting in a nearby bouncy seat. "Great," I thought, as the class assembled in the barre studio room, "These women all look like dancers, how am I going to keep up?" After a somewhat awkward start, I was able to find my groove. Small moves, choreographed to fast paced music kept me humming along without bouncing or jumping. The first few minutes were tough, but as the class progressed, I became exhilarated. The ever-changing positions challenged all muscle groups, even ones I didn't know I had. I was able to follow my own pace as the patient instructor repositioned me or suggested modified poses so I never felt out of synch with the rest of the class.

How was my first experience? Intense and followed by two days of sore bootial muscles. But I went back again and again. I just completed my third class in a week and already I see results. This 43 year old hasn't had gluts this tight in awhile!
The moral of this tale-of-a-firmer-tail is that vacating one's exercise comfort zone can shape more than muscle; it can build confidence and create a healthier mind, body and spirit. For me, the Pure Barre/Dailey Method challenged my fear of dance and public humiliation; my confidence grew with each squeeze and tuck. I stepped out of my zone, albeit clumsily at first, to discover that Pure Barre was the rhythm and spice my psyche craved.

At the beginning of each year, many of us make a vow toward self-improvement, but how often do we resolve to exit our comfort zones? Escaping the familiar can be daunting, whether it's trying a new fitness regimen, changing eating habits or overcoming a particular fear. Success stems from small steps, education and support. I think TV host Brian Tracy said it best "You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." So the next time you make that New Year's promise, think about what threatens your comfort zone and resolve to try something new...you might gain more than you expect!
PHOTO CREDIT: Filomena Scalise. http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=851">Image: Filomena Scalise / FreeDigitalPhotos.net</a></p>

 

 

Martina M. Cartwright, Ph.D., R.D., is an adjunct professor of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona and an independent biomedical consultant.

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