When you make a new commitment to exercise, you get exposed to a lot of motivational sayings and aphorisms that come out of the competitive sports environment. “Obsessed is how the lazy describe the dedicated.” “You can feel sore tomorrow, or you can feel sorry tomorrow.” “Quitting is unacceptable.” It’s common to hear that you must “get out of your comfort zone.”

Sometimes your comfort zone is actually a safety zone. Aggressive motivational sayings can make it sound like there’s only way to exercise: to exhaustion. Worse, they can come along with pressure to do things that you have good reason to feel hesitant about, whether because you need more practice with the skills or they just seem straight-up risky.

Jen Sinkler offers good advice for ways to protect your safety while you learn new skills and reach new milestones in “Risky Fitness.” If you feel pressure from friends, another gym-goer, or even a trainer, these suggestions can help you think about what’s making you hesitate, so you can ask questions and look for alternatives to activities that worry you. The basics are:

1. Be mindful of others around you (for example, on the gym floor)

2. Don’t take ill-advised chances (like doing something just because people are watching)

3. Evaluate exercise selection carefully (prior injury or inexperience may mean that some movements should be replaced with others, or that you should work on “progressions” — foundational, partial movements — before beginning to doing something that requires more skills or careful timing)

Go check out her examples in detail.

Note that Sinkler’s audience for this piece is experienced in the gym and familiar with the industry — people who recognize the fitness model she discusses at the beginning of the article. These are not newbie issues — they are human issues. We are naturally more hesitant when we begin to learn something totally new, and that’s OK. Use that tendency to keep safety in mind while you get ready to take the next steps.

Image by Liz Climo — it really is OK to skip swimming with the alligators.


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