Beginner Again

I just keep failing.” I heard this from a trial member recently, and it broke my heart. So I replied, “You’re only in your second week. There’s no failing in the second week.” I pointed out a few people around us, and said, “Everyone here seems to know what they’re doing because they’ve been coming here for a long time. It’s not a fair comparison – what you have to realize is that everyone started out just like you.” I gave some parting words of encouragement, but it got me thinking.

I’ve always found that the key to an exciting life is to keep your enthusiasm for trying new things.

Get good at being a beginner.

But even as a professional beginner, I can admit – sometimes that learning curve really sticks it to you.

To give you some background, I started as a member at SOF in the fall of 2014, and I thought I was in decent shape at the time. Then I went to my first Group Conditioning class. Whoa. Baby. That took me down a peg or two. Sure, I’d been working out a bit at home, but NOT like this. A totally new environment. I had to learn how to pace myself, what weights to choose, how to do half the exercises, you name it – I literally had to learn the ropes! I’d never worked with a kettlebell in my life.

Next time you’re in a warm up ask around to see what people remember about their first sessions – the stories are usually pretty similar! The first few weeks left me overwhelmed, but I kept at it. By the end of that month, I could feel myself getting stronger. It’s a feeling I fell in love with, and I haven’t looked back since. “I’m so overwhelmed” became “I can do this.”

For you newer members, stick with it. Heck, stick with it even if you’ve been coming here for months! Everyone in the gym was exactly where you are at one point. And I think I speak for my fellow trainers when I say we aren’t fazed a bit if we have to show you that exercise five different ways, every single set. Because man, once you get it – it’s going to be awesome. You’re building so much more than muscle; you’re building resilience against whatever else life throws at you. And the best part? You’re doing it in a community that wants you to succeed.

It is so easy to get discouraged with new endeavors.

It really is. I understand that 100%. This past fall I started the internship program at SOF. Talk about being a beginner. I’m just about to my mid-thirties, and before leaving my job last spring I worked in website content management, and before that, well, let’s just say I’ve had a lot of new beginnings. The fitness industry was new to me. And while it was exhilarating, the internship was HARD.

I remember about six weeks into the program I came home and said to my partner Ryan, “I’m tired of this. I’m tired of being a beginner at everything all the time. I want to be done learning for awhile.” But here’s the thing – I’d never improve at anything with that attitude. So the next day I got up at 4:00 am, put on my all-black ninja/intern outfit, and went at it again. I asked a ton of questions, worked on coming out of my shell, and offered help where I could. And once I got about halfway through, I started having fun again – things clicked. “I’m so overwhelmed” became “I can do this.”

You’re thinking, “But Alison, you said you were already in decent shape. And when you started the internship, you’d been coming here for years! I haven’t exercised in decades! What do you know?” I hear you. I may have had an advantage on the fitness front, but remember how I mentioned that I’m a professional beginner? It’s like discomfort is my hobby.

A few uncomfortable highlights: Fall of 2015 I started the study program for my personal trainer certification. Do you know how many bones and muscles are in the human body? Flash cards? Flashbacks of high school! In 2010 I quit my full-time human resources career to go back to school for Literature – after being out of academics for six years. In 2011 I took a scuba certification class despite my fear of enclosed spaces and sea life in general. (I may be the only person alive who goes snorkeling and hopes not to see anything!) In 2007 I completed a motorcycle endorsement class even though I’d never driven one. And just a few weeks ago, I took a pistol class even though guns scare me and I’d never so much as held one. Push yourself. You’re definitely capable of more than you know.

Check in with yourself

Sure, you might be feeling behind in the gym, but where else in your life have you overcome being a serious beginner? Take a look – starting a new job or switching departments; being a parent; discovering a hobby; moving cities; learning to use that damn iPhone or all those Facebook updates? Chances are you’ve successfully done a lot of new things. The gym is just like all those other times.

We’re well into February, and that means resolutions to get in better shape may have lost their luster. Maybe you came into January raring to go, but that go-getter attitude is starting to turn. (Like all that fresh produce you bought with the best intentions… Just me?) Once the novelty wears off, learning new things and pushing yourself can feel a bit like drudgery. Man, do I get it. But the more you show up; the more fitness will become an ingrained habit in your life. “I’m so overwhelmed” will become “I can do this.” And we’re here for you.

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