Circus School Showed Me The Power Of Venturing Into The Unknown

For years, my fitness activities were solely based on iron: primarily lifting it and putting it back down over and over and over again. I loved the way it made me feel both mentally and physically, but last year something changed.

I became bored doing the same thing day in and day out. I'd officially lost my gym mojo. So when a girlfriend of mine asked if I would come to Circus School with her, my answer was a resounding "YES!"

I spent the next couple of months maneuvering my way around the aerial silks and it was incredible. My desire to move my body was rejuvenated. It made me want to get stronger so I could do fun tricks, and it tested me mentally in ways regular fitness hadn't done lately. I was almost (dare I say it), graceful!

After a few months, I had to say goodbye to circus, but I took a ton away from stepping outside my routine and into an unfamiliar world.

Here are my top three reasons why you should step out of your "box" and venture into the unknown!

1. Finding new activities that emphasize your weaknesses (and as a result, make them better) are the best things of all.

I can lift a lot of weight but for the life of me, lifting my own body weight has always been a struggle. The aerial silks seemed like the worst possible thing for me to try because if I had trouble lifting myself, I wouldn't get to do any of the fun stuff. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I was reminded every time I went to class just how hard I found it. But then, it got better. My inner monkey came out and I could climb!

Had I not been put in a position that constantly put me face-to-face with my weakness, it would never have improved, leaving me forever on the ground.

2. Learn (and respect) your limitations.

I have arthritis in my feet, which means I can't run or lunge. I thought it ended there. Climbing the silks also pointed out that it's creeping into my hands — after an hour gripping the silks, the joints in my fingers would hurt for days. I persisted in going, but eventually realized it wasn't going to get better, just worse. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to circus.

While sometimes odd physical pain can lead to growth, it can also mean your body is deteriorating and you need to step back and be kind to it. This is true in all forms of fitness. Whether it be weightlifting, yoga or running, chronic pain is your body's way of telling you it doesn't like something you're doing no matter how much your mind likes it.

So stop.

As a Type A person, this was a hard lesson to learn. It was hard to admit where my limits were but I did, and am better off long term. I would never have learned that had I not stepped out of my comfort zone.

3. Trying new things can open new doors.

I've had performance anxiety my entire life. Playing team sports, I'd never let my friends and family watch. Recitals were a nightmare. Even at the gym, I do much better when I perform a big lift on my own. This past summer, I traveled to LA to speak at a conference and found myself wandering the Santa Monica Pier where I found a circus.

Previously, I would never have walked over to sign up for a class but I couldn't pass up this opportunity — I couldn't resist climbing them with the sun on my face. So despite my fear (and the fact that there were hundreds of people walking by), I climbed high on the silks on one of the most famous piers on the continent. Had I not tried something new, I would have only seen it from the ground and been an observer. Instead, I got to see it from up in the air (upside down) and actually participate!

Stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things is always a good idea. It doesn't have to be a life-long activity to have major impact on your life. You can try hiking or canoeing, Crossfit or yoga, circus or trampoline ... even dodgeball.

Whatever it is, learning something new that might be a bit uncomfortable will change the way you look at your body and maybe even help you change in ways you didn't think you could.

Photo courtesy of the author

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