The year is 2016. Or make that 2130. Or is it 4714? Whatever calendar you’re working from, be it Gregorian or Google, today is a brand new day.
February 8th also marks the start of the year of the Fire Monkey on the Chinese Calendar. Fire monkey’s are known for being ambitious and adventurous. A fitting time to talk about facing fears, creating lasting change, and getting that proverbial monkey of limiting beliefs off your back.
For inspiration, I turned to my fitness friend Amanda Kwan. In the five years I’ve known her, I have never seen her without a smile in her face. That tells me she has something important figured out! A YWCA danceFIT regular, and a sweaty superstar at the Scotiabank Dance Centre’s Friday Night Booty Call, she has been attending my classes since 2011.
Last year, for the first time, Amanda tried spinning, running and – the scariest for her- swimming! Here’s what she has to say about moving in new ways… and moving forward from old fears.
Q. Why did you decide to try something new? Why swimming?
I took up swimming because I wanted to conquer my fear of water. I remember having a near-drowning incident when I was little. Since then I was afraid of water – more accurately, afraid of putting my head under the water. Ever since I started working out 5 years ago, I’ve build up confidence in myself, I understand my body more, and wanted a challenge. I knew it was time to face and overcome my fear. This was one of the best and rewarding decisions I made in 2015. I was even able to put my head under the water on my first lesson, with the encouragement and help of the coach, of course. I’m really proud of myself.
Q. What’s your philosophy when it comes to fitness?
My philosophy about fitness is – you don’t have to be the best in class, BUT you have to enjoy every minute of it. You can’t jump as high as your classmate? That’s OK! Fitness is not a competition. Every body is different. Don’t feel pressure by others. It’s all about feeling good about yourself. Also, explore – even out of your comfort zone. Trying all the different fitness programs last year made me realize how different workouts have different effects on my body. Some may be painful and difficult at the beginning but over time your body will adjust. This sense of accomplishment, knowing you’re improving every time, is simply irreplaceable.
Q. What is your advice on the how and why of facing ones fears?
Having fears is ok – it’s only human nature. But don’t let fear be your obstacle. Face it and conquer it. And don’t be discouraged if you failed the first (few) times. Have faith in yourself. If it’s still too much for you, then ask for help. Just like my swimming lesson, I wanted to overcome my fear of water, and I know it’s too tough to do it on my own (I did try!), so I signed up for the swimming class. My coach spent a lot of time explaining how the breathing works, even had to hold my hand when I put my head under the water the first time. When I realized I just did something I haven’t been able to do in the past, that sense of achievement is overwhelming.
I get goosebumps every time I read what Amanda has to say.
The take-away for me is that she wasn’t focused so much on achieving a one-time thing, as in a winning a medal or beating a timer, she wanted to achieve growth within herself, and continue that growth. She also approaches obstacles, previous limits she’s set on herself, with a beautiful sense of self-compassion. Research shows those who practice self-compassion versus tough-love are more likely to achieve their goals and maintain their new lifestyle habits and ways.
You don’t need a new year to make a change. Every day is an opportunity to to start something new. A new attitude, a new activity, a new approach. When you feel stuck or scared… think of Amanda standing at the edge of the swimming pool, taking a deep breath, and jumping in for her swim!
A huge thank you to Amanda for being awesome, and for sharing her fitness philosophy. What are your goals for this brand new year? Do you have a motto that helps you face your fears?