Good‘s wellness columnist Rachel Grunwell gives some practical advice on stepping outside your comfort zone.
Words Rachel Grunwell. Illustration Janelle Barone, Makers MGMT.
If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that being brave and stepping outside your comfort zone can bring rewards that you might not have ever imagined.
As well as getting to experience new things, being brave is a way to grow, evolve and flourish.
I’ve been brave over the past year. I went back to studying and also tried a new fitness challenge. Both of these pursuits pushed me out of my comfort zone.
I already have skills in the wellness industry. I’m a journalist who specialises in wellness, a yoga teacher and director of the InspiredHealth lifestyle website where I work with lots of brands to inspire New Zealanders to live healthy and happy. But I wanted to broaden my health knowledge further. So, signing up to take on more study was the answer.
It took lots of courage, time, and financial commitment to study to become a qualified fitness consultant. I worried about juggling my family and business around this commitment. In fact, I was so overwhelmed that in the first week that I almost quit. But I didn’t, and I’m so proud that I chose to be brave, to believe I was capable of learning again, and chose to have faith in myself that I could manage the challenge.
Taking this on meant reprioritising work commitments and turning down some opportunities to manage.
The journey of studying was tough. Every week I had to pass several tests with at least an 80 per cent pass rate. The assignments never seemed to end.
But I loved learning about muscles, bones, hormones and how to train people safely to achieve different goals such as gaining muscle, getting stronger or running an event. I can now also make recommendations around lifestyle factors too, including food, sleep and stress. I’ve especially loved learning how to skilfully help people with breaking down the barriers that are holding them back from achieving their goals.
I’m so grateful that the study paid off. I can now help people even more with their health – it’s a wonderful feeling to be able to do this.
Another way I’ve been brave is changing my own focus with fitness. I’ve been a runner now for five years and conquered 19 marathons along the way.
I still love to run. But I now run twice, instead of six times a week. A new goal I have is to get stronger. So, I began CrossFit a few months ago. I had to be brave to turn up to a new environment where I didn’t know anyone and I had to get comfortable with being a ‘newbie’ who wasn’t very strong.
By the way, this change in direction fitness-wise was also prompted by a bit of a scare: I found out that my bone density was at an average level.
A key to increasing bone density is to lift weights. If you are a woman aged over 30, then your bone density goes on a downhill slide. I had to accept that just running was no longer serving my body well, and I needed to think about working on my strength too for my overall health and wellbeing.
Strength-styles of training are amazing for building stronger muscles and bones. But not only that: muscle helps to boost your metabolism too, which can help with weight loss.
It has also been fun taking on a new fitness challenge. I’m doing things like box jumps and some gymnastics-style moves.
So if you’re up for it and keen for a challenge, think about a way in which you can be brave. Try something new, something out of your comfort zone that might help you grow. Remember that being scared is normal, but don’t let doubt hold you back.
Rachel is a mum, marathoner, writer and yoga teacher. For more, visit inspiredhealth.co.nz