Health and Fitness: Six reasons doing difficult things is good for your health and well-being

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: CLAUDIA BERGMAN

You are not alone. Everyone on the planet has or will encounter something difficult in their lives that they don't want to do, have a fear of or the mere thought of it makes them anxious. It could be because they are not sure of the outcome, or the process scares them or they just believe that they do not have the ability.

We see it everyday in the fitness & wellness industry. People are afraid to talk to a trainer because they think they will get roped into expensive training sessions, or that the trainer will think they are ignorant, or they assume that the trainer will not be able to help them with their specific issue because of an assumed prejudice they have about the trainer.

We see everyday how people are afraid to come to a group fitness class. Some make it in and they have a terrified look on their face when they tell the trainer quietly it is their first time. Don't worry. It was everyone's first time at some point. Some linger around the door and don't step over the threshold for weeks. Some do their independent workout, stealing glances over at the group program wishing they had the guts to go because that looks like way more fun. Others make it into the class and try and hide in the back (even though this is the worst spot for a newbie because it's really difficult to see the instructor so you have to rely on their vocals and the unco-ordinated person in front of you).

We also see that people are afraid to try an introductory program because they don't want their friends or the leader to think less of them or that they might not know all there is to know about fitness, nutrition or anything related.

I repeat, you are not alone. This world can be very scary, test your ego and confidence and push you in mental and physical ways you didn't know were possible. You should know that for those of us that are working in it are here because we all overcame something in our lives in some way and we want to share that with you and help you get there faster than we did.

We all have fears too. I've been doing this a long time and I still get nervous before a class or training session, worried that I haven't put together the best program possible. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't, but I learn from every opportunity.

Then, there are those who have reached the stage of coming every day and doing their workout and following a plan of sorts, but they are afraid to push past to really reach their goals. Think of a time in your life when you couldn't do something and not you just do it without even thinking. This is where you can get when it comes to fitness, eating healthy and overall well-being.

It's difficult at first. It's difficult during and it will continue to be difficult if you make it that way. You have to choose to move from difficult to easy or you have to embrace that it's still difficult because you are getting better and you keep adding more skills or goals to achieve.

Doing difficult things is what makes us grow and keep going. Here is why it is so good for us:

1. You learn a new skill. No matter how big or small, take pride in one new thing you learned to do, a discovery that you made or learning how what you have to do to master the skill.

2. You overcome a fear or anxiety or learn how you can cope with it. The more you do the skill, the less you will be anxious over it or you will learn to allow your anxiety to come at the beginning and then taper as you progress through the skill.

3. You meet new people or build on relationships. When you do new things, you often meet veterans of the skill who want to help and encourage you or you find others trying it out for the first time too. You may also build a great working relationship with your leader or coach and find more things in common with your existing friends, family and co workers.

4. You improve your cognitive skills and memory. As we continue to learn new things, our brain is constantly stimulated and we have to store more in our memory bank, which experts agree is best for prevention of many brain related diseases like Alzheimer's.

5. You learn to practice and the difficult task or situation becomes so easy you can't remember why it was difficult. As you build on the skill, you look back over a period of time and reflect on how difficult it was to start. Now you can't imagine your life without it.

6. You become more confident and driven to try more difficult things and each one seems to come more easily to you. Think of anything you learned to do in the past and how it may have triggered moving on to something related or something entirely different. Either way, you realized that you had the ability to do it or not to do it, but you still went on to learn something new, because you learned something from the situation.

So next time your inner voice says I can't, I won't, or I'd like to butthink of this list and all the amazing things that will happen for your mind, body and soul when you take that small step to doing something you perceive as difficult at the time.

Karen Nixon-Carroll is the Program Manager at Fanshawe's Fitness Centre.