Resisting self-consciousness in group fitness activities

Resisting self-consciousness in group fitness activities

When it comes to achieving goals, a lot of people respond well to external accountability. After all, how can we rely on our own self-discipline 100% of the time, when we are feeling, responding creatures with all sorts of moods and fluctuating motivations? Because it can be all too easy to justify one’s way out of a workout on any given day, some choose joining a structured group setting to keep them on track: boot camps, running clinics, 30 day challenges, and group personal-training packages. Yet there are others, who although dream of accessing that group accountability magic, are afraid. Afraid of looking awkward, fat or being so out of shape you cannot keep up with the rest. Afraid of not being perfect and excellent from the get go. Afraid of drawing attention to their current level of fitness, or body image.

Unfortunately, self-consciousness is what keeps too many people from getting back into shape. In my professional and personal development, I’ve had the good fortune to learn to overcome this hurdle. Although a fiercely private person, who would rather trade her teeth than show my underbelly to the world, I’ve recently had to suck it up and ‘go public’ with my attempts to restore my optimal fitness level after a long bout of emotional eating and an injury that threw me right off my happy cardio train. Amidst a joyful reunion with trail-running, I’ve decided to step it up a few notches, and that includes evolving my yoga practice from non-vigorous Yin and Restorative styles, to raising my heart-rate and breaking a sweat. With my sister’s encouragement, I took up both hot and power yoga, where there are lithe, lean, agile, flexible and scantily clad yogis practicing at a pace that exceeds my comfort zone.

Here are the facts: I’m the chubbiest, least skilled person in power yoga class. It’s full of slim, toned, flexible strong people. Surrounded by mirrors that confirm that I’m at least double the size of the women all around me, and panting as I try to keep up with the fast pace of the class, I can’t complete at least 30% of the poses. But each time I walk out of there I feel great, partially because the workout is awesome, but mostly because I made it there. For ME. And if I keep making it there, someday I will be faster, more flexible and less awkward. Maybe even leaner.

I could choose to be intimidated and avoid these classes. I could choose to wallow in my current, less-than-ideal level of personal fitness. I could choose to compare myself to others. But I don’t bother. With the ability to control my thoughts, I reject the concern that someone might be judging me because this logic doesn’t work for my goals. How would thinking those thoughts give me power to make it through that class? Or the next?

If I spend my thought budget on self-consciousness, I have no energy left for determination. Right now, I’ve got goals that require determination. It doesn’t serve my greater good to worry about people judging or disapproving of my low skill level. I have a right to learn. To fumble forward and to start as a beginner, until I integrate the skills.

Sadly, there is a rampant fear of being judged in our culture. This affliction seeps into self-consciousness and amps it up. Yet, if we are willing to reject the fear, we can move into taking action. Behind fear is nothing. Fear is a perceptual filter that you get to choose to control, if you so desire. The truth is that we are all subject to peaks and valleys in our fitness levels. And some of us have yet to begin. Don’t let the ego prevent you from beginning. What would be the worst thing about having others see you in a state of vulnerability, yet willing to move forward and excel?

“All things are difficult before they are easy” Thomas Fuller

Vancouver Health Coach