Some of my favorite exercises involve jumping.
Jumping onto things.
Jumping over things.
Big jumps, little jumps. Jumping in place. Jumping jacks. Jumping rope.
A never ending list of possibilities and combinations.
It’s an easy bet that the first time I ask a client to perform some sort of jump, I am met with a little hesitation, a sideways glance and a look that plainly speaks the words “Are you serious?”
But I’m very serious, and I turn to my client and I say, “Just jump.”
It has occurred to me that, as adults, we rarely jump. Somewhere along our life paths we move from jumping around like maniacs, like my 11 year old son, to never doing it at all. And then we get to a point where we fear it.
As a personal trainer, I spend my days working one-on-one with people in some of their most vulnerable moments. Each session spent with a client will inevitably result in asking that person to step outside of their comfort zone. Doing this has a profound effect on the results they will get in the gym, and, as I have come to realize, those actions and results can easily be translated into the bigger picture of facing the fears you have in life.
If you cease to perform a specific activity, you not only forget what to do, but you become afraid of trying it again.
The work we do in the gym is a metaphor for the work we do in life. In life, as in the gym, we must train for strength and balance before we jump.
Lift heavy things
When you work with weights in the gym, you build muscle. This increases your metabolism, strengthens your bones, and makes you stronger.
When you find yourself backing away from participating in life because you are afraid of something, remember that life is made of lifting heavy things. Emotionally heavy, spiritually heavy, physically heavy. It’s up to us to do the work so that we are prepared for the heaviness that life can show us.
Remember, too, that with heaviness must come lightness. Everything in our lives is paired with its opposite, as you can’t know one without knowing the other. I believe that if you are prepared physically AND emotionally to lift heavy things, the lightness will feel that much sweeter.
If you feel wobbly, just step down
An important part of any fitness regimen is balance. When just starting to work on one leg, clients often struggle if they get wobbly. They wave their arms around, kick one foot around in circles and generally approach the panic zone in order to regain their balance. Once they regain their balance, I gently remind them that if they start to lose their balance, they can just put their foot down.
Somehow, being asked to do something such as balance brings out the most competitive spirit within each of us. We have to fight and fight to keep our balance, losing sight of the fact that if we lose it for a moment, we can surely get it back.
As we move through life, we are guaranteed to experience moments in which we feel off balance. This can happen in relationships, when our partner says something about your behavior that makes you suddenly wonder if you are weird, or if there’s something wrong with you.
It certainly happens in parenting. Your infant child suddenly starts sleeping through the night. Weeks go by and you are starting to feel like your old self again! Eight blissful hours. You think “We’ve got it now! A nice schedule and a full night’s sleep.”
Then BANG! Something happens and everything changes. You’re back to getting up in the middle of the night for a hug or a bottle. You’ve lost your balance.
Whether it’s in life or work, relationships with friends or parents, you are bound to lose your emotional balance from time to time. And, just as in the gym, it’s ok to step down. Slow down, regroup, both feet on the floor, until you feel your equilibrium return and you are up to facing the challenge again.
The fear of falling is real, but the fall doesn’t have to be.
Move like a child (well, sort of…)
Often my workouts include asking clients to perform movements that remind them of their childhood. We skip, we jump and we crawl. Yes, we do it more deliberately in the gym because our goals are different, but my clients have to dig into their pasts to find the movements of their childhood.
We train our bodies to move in different planes or directions and using different movements, so why not train our minds to do this as well? When life hands you a complex problem, approach it from different angles. Examine your problem from a new direction, and explore the possible solutions using new thoughts. If we keep attacking problems with old solutions, it’s highly unlikely those solutions will be successful. We need to keep our minds sharp and agile, just as we do our bodies.