Are you a Toe-Dipper?

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Do you often have an all-or-nothing approach to fitness?  Does this keep you moving forward and backward – never really making any real and lasting progress.  It could be that you’re not following your own instincts about how best to try new challenges.

We are all familiar with many of the popular motivational slogans such “Just Do It.” And a frequently aired commercial during the Olympic games spread a terrible message under the guise of an inspirational one.  It talked of athletes who “never take an off day,” and who “haven’t watched a TV show in five years.” And every other fitness pro seems to be finger-wagging at you from social media.

Does any of this make working hard to achieve something great or getting in shape seem like a big bag of fun to anyone?

Know Thyself to Become Someone Else

All the rah-rah nonsense just leaves regular people feeling discouraged, like you don’t have what it takes, and like it’s all too much work.  Over-the-top motivation usually has the opposite effect.

Some people like to test the waters of the pool by dipping their toe in first.  Others – like the personalities often portrayed in popular media and social media messages – climb to the top of the cliff and dive right into the water without a second thought.

Comfortably Uncomfortable

If you’re a toe-dipper type of person (and the majority of us are), this may leave you feeling a bit left out, uncool, and perhaps a little dorky.  It shouldn’t be that way.  You have to go at your own pace to change in life.  Yes, you have to get outside your comfort zone.  As psychologist Susan David says “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” (I’m currently reading her excellent book.) But you shouldn’t get so far outside of that you get completely freaked out.  While getting uncomfortable, it’s so important to know that comfort isn’t too far away.  It lets you take risks safely.

And if that’s your personality type, that is fine.  You do not have to change.  You probably like to take things slowly.  The trick, when it comes to fitness, is to adopt change at a pace that is fast enough to make progress but slow enough to not freak you out.

We all would be a lot better off if we stopped expecting professional athlete level of performance out of our regular person selves.  Be a little kinder to yourself.  Anything you do in life is full of ups and downs and fitness is no different.

Be cautious, but not complacent.  Make tomorrow a little better than today.  Repeat.  Repeat again.  Fitness is just that basic.  Do things a little bit better than you did before.  Challenge yourself enough to engage both body and mind, but not so much you get overwhelmed.  Underwhelmed is no good either as you get bored. Your goal is to stay “whelmed.” (With another shout out to Susan David for this idea.)

Instead of going all-out the next time you get re-started on fitness, dip your toe in that pool instead of jumping in.  See what the water is like.  Prepare yourself and get in the pool at your own pace.

One Response to "Are you a Toe-Dipper?"
  1. Jon says:

    Excellent post. I’ve grown weary of the banners and ads that depict the perfect fitness body type as a ripped 26-year-old doing tuck jumps. Not everyone really wants to be “ripped,” do tuck jumps, or for that matter, be 26-years old! Setting goals that matter to you, and adopting a plan that works for those goals, and you, is the way to go.

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