TRY Something New October 21 2014

TRY-Something New: Building Self-Confidence Through Exercise

Building self-confidence is like building muscle; both keep us fit and functioning fabulously in mind, body and spirit.

One way I’ve found to build self-confidence is to challenge myself by trying something outside my comfort zone.  When I began training for my first marathon in January 2006, in my mind, I was “anything but an athlete”.  That fact didn’t stop me from putting my heart and soul into my training, but it kept me from appreciating the progress I was making – progress visible to everyone around me, but me.

And, in order to succeed, that had to change.  My best friend knew that and, the morning of the marathon she said something that I will never forget.  She said, “Look in the mirror – this is the last time you will be allowed to look at yourself and say you are not a marathoner.”

She was right.  After I speed-walked the 26.2 miles to reach the finish line, and slowly-walked the hallway back to that mirror, I was both an athlete and a marathoner.  Since then, I’ve been “anything but a swimmer”, “anything but a cyclist” and “anything but a runner”, but I’ve completed several triathlons, cycle events and the Boston Marathon.

I don’t see myself as a risk-taker, but in the last few years, I’ve been less wary, dare I say even eager, to tackle a new adventure.  I’m not saying it’s easy – because it certainly is not – but it IS worthwhile.

Building Your Arsenal For Adventure

Set A Realistic Starting Goal And Mini-Goals Along The Way: Start with a small step and build upon it.  If you aim to walk or run your first 5K (3.1 mile), start by walking around the block once a day.  Soon, that one block will become easier and you’ll strive for two loops… then three.  “Doing” builds confidence.

Find Like-Minded Individuals With Goals Of Their Own: Friends of a feather flock together, and they run/walk/swim/cycle/exercise together too!  Make a walk or Zumba class a social event and it makes it more fun… and makes you more likely to go even when you don’t feel like it.  Many groups like “Meet-Up”, charity endurance teams, and running and walking clubs local to your area offer weekly get-fit-together sessions.  They are low price and low commitment – meaning you don’t have to go every week – but there can be a high rate of return in fitness and potential friendships.

Have Fun: I am a fan of watching reruns of the TV sitcom “Friends” and especially love the episode where Phoebe and Rachel run in the park.  Rachel is embarrassed by Phoebe's style, or lack thereof.  Phoebe, on the other hand, is just enjoying herself immensely.  We’re not all going to be initially awesome at the new things we try, but if we go into each new adventure with the attitude that we’re going to have fun trying, we’ll be better off.

Give It Your Best Effort: Do the best you can with what you got. (I’m sure my mother is cringing at that grammar!)  Elite athlete or rookie, we all start with the same first step.  What sets you apart from the rest is that you keep going, even when times are tough.  My friends and I recently completed a 43-mile bike ride for charity, on a course known for having hills, hills and more hills…  At each hill, I gritted my teeth, said a choice word or two and started pedaling.  I was far from graceful, and I stopped several times to catch my breath, but I kept pedaling.  At the top of each hill, I took tremendous pride in that fact that I did not quit. 

Be Proud Of Yourself: I find that I don’t take enough time to celebrate what I’ve done and how far I’ve come – I just keep pushing ahead.  I’d guess I’m not alone in this. Taking the time to look back and reflect on the journey is time well spent. 

Take time to figure out what you want to do, set a plan to do it and get going.  Be the person you choose to be, not the person others decide you are.