By Mike Inglis
As I'm sure you're very aware, we recently had the 2013 Mavericks Invitational big wave surfing contest right in our backyard in Half Moon Bay. The contest sported some HUGE waves and real athletes out there charging and riding them. I am always amazed at how big wave surfers are able to get past their fear and thrive in an environment like Mavericks. A big wave surfer named Buzzy Trent once made the statement: "Surfers measure waves not in feet and inches, but in increments of fear." If you want to experience a little of what they do, just walk up to a 3 or 4 story building and look up. Picture that instead of a roof at the top, there is a massive wave of water about to crash down on your head. Imagine what it would feel like to actually be right below such a huge wall rushing at you at 30mph. You will get a hint of the real fear those surfers face if you imagine hard enough.
Fear of Fitness?
Measured in increments of fear....I thought it was a really insightful comment that can easily be applied to fitness and health. When people say they "hate" exercising, oftentimes the real issue is that they are afraid of something. Most of us have some level of fear around physical exercise, even if we don't recognize it! Let's look at two of the most common fears we face in fitness, and how we can overcome them:
1) Fear of the unknown
Progress happens when we take action, and often action requires us to venture into the unknown. And we ALL encounter those moments when moving forward seems scary and fills us with fear. The unknown can represent different things to different people. To some, it's not being sure of what it means to them to start a new exercise program. To others, it is the uncertainty of whether they can adapt their lifestyle to accommodate regular exercise.
How do we neutralize or reduce this fear of the unknown? Here are a couple of ideas:
a) Think small - Rather than looking at the giant task ahead of you (losing large amounts of weight, running a marathon, etc.), break it down into small pieces that can be accomplished in smaller chunks (focus on initiating one lifestyle change per month that will lead to weight loss, follow a daily running plan with periodic milestones, etc.), and focus your attention on that. Small steps help us to prioritize, and they help us feel we've accomplished something along the way. Feelings of accomplishment help us build confidence in our abilities.
b) Prepare Yourself - Seek information about how best to reach the goals you want to achieve, equip yourself with the right clothes/shoes, anticipate how you will feel and visualize how you will persevere when it gets hard. If you are able to prepare yourself before embarking on an uncertain journey, you'll be much more confident along the way.
2) Fear of failure
Fear of failure manifests in many different ways. Some people never start a serious exercise routine because they are afraid that they will fail to stick to it. Or that they physically cannot succeed. But this fear of failure can also affect those of us who are already active. Some people are apprehensive about measuring their performance. In a perfect example of this, we do physical assessments monthly with our clients (push ups, plank, mile run). We often hear that some people dread coming to the workouts during assessment week because they are afraid that they won't do as well as they have previously.
Fear of failure is quite common but not insurmountable. It's important to realize that in everything we do, there's always a chance that we'll fail. Facing that chance, and embracing it, is not only courageous - it also gives us a fuller, more rewarding life. However, here are a couple of ways to reduce the fear of failing:
a) Analyze all potential outcomes - Remove the fear of failing by considering all of the potential outcomes of your decision. What is the worst outcome? You will often find that the worst that can happen is actually a very trivial consequence and that the fear is overblown.
b) Practice thinking more positively - Positive thinking is an incredibly powerful way to build self-confidence and neutralize self-sabotage. Visualize yourself being successful in whatever you are going to try. Actually FEEL yourself succeed! You will find fear recede when you are able to visualize and think positively leading up to your actions.
Fear can be a paralyzing emotion. But it can also be overcome and actually transformed into energy and drive to action. Just look at what the Maverick's surfers have achieved by working past their fear. They are performing feats that many would deem impossible. We can also harness that same energy and use it to help us drive ever forward to better health and a longer, richer life.