Today I started reading “Poke the Box.” It’s a manifesto by Seth Godin about doing something new and scary, instead of taking a nap.
Godin is warning us about getting too comfortable with routine, and also how quick we are to use the “escape hatch” when we do try something new and it ends up being uncomfortable.
He says we’ll never reach our potential if we avoid failure.
I realized that for the last several months, I’ve been “poking the box” with regard to exercise. It has not been comfortable. It hasn’t really been intentional, either.
I don’t know what inspired me to take up tennis and running, two activities I’ve never been interested in.
In fact, running? I hate it.
In elementary school, when everyone bounced off to the track, I would pretend to be asleep at my desk. In junior high, we lived across the street from the playground, so I’d just go home. By high school, I’d wheezed my way into an open-ended doctor’s note.
Having successfully avoided all running-related activities in K-12, I’ve since been free to do activities I enjoy: yoga, tai chi, cycling, kickboxing, hiking, aerobics, Zumba and pretty much everything that is not running. I think its important to love your workout.
So it seems odd that all of a sudden I’m hitting the track.
It’s hard, too. The asthma kicks in before I’ve even tied my shoelaces. Then, my gait is funny. I’m slower than everyone else. They seem to glide past me with perfect cadence, while I bob and weave, stop and start, and get caught in my headphone cords.
Well, that’s how it was at first, anyway. I’m getting better. I go running four times a week, and every time I don’t trip, I enjoy it a little more.
Then there’s tennis. Whereas I have nightmares about running, tennis was just a random pick — random because I have twiggy arms and a blind spot for balls. Plus, I’m not very competitive. The word “versus” gives me anxiety.
Anyway, I’ve been going to tennis lessons since November, and I almost quit last week. After four months, nothing had clicked for me.
All of my classmates (even the ones with a language barrier) had gotten the “swing” of it. Beyond technique, they had grasped the ropes of the tennis match, even scoring.
I was literally getting worse every lesson.
I went to class last week anyway — namely because I had already paid for it. It turned out to be my best class ever. Imagine: people were high-fiving me instead of groaning that I was assigned to their team.
I have no idea what changed in me. In fact, maybe everyone else was just playing really poorly that day.
Either way, it gave me a rush, and I signed up for the next class. Now I’m terrified!
Am I a glutton for pain? I don’t think so. I like to challenge myself and explore my capabilities, however humble they may be. Don’t you?
But does it make sense to stick with activities we don’t enjoy and that we’re not very good at? Conventional wisdom says no. To stick with exercise, we have to do activities we enjoy.
On the other hand, boredom is also a regimen-killer, and psychologists say “rushes” can save a fading exercise regimen.
So, what do you think? Could there be value in “poking the box” with regard to fitness?
Or does it make more sense to focus on excelling at one thing we’re passionate about and already semi-good at?
(As an aside, David used hypnotherapy to improve his tennis game. I’m going to give it a try.)