Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Challenge Yourself

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by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner

It’s easy to get comfortable. Life is filled with routines and expectations. We know the stuff that fills our craziest days. We know our capacity to accomplish. Or do we …

As we proceed through days doing the same activities, work, and socializing, we flow through life. Until we are called to challenge, we often do not know our full ability to achieve. Can you be certain your life is operating at full capacity? You may feel maxed out with obligations, responsibilities, your fitness program, work projects, and piles of dirty dishes and clothes. The thought of anything beyond may seem ludicrous. Your brain may tell you one thing, but give your body a chance to prove it wrong.

Cutting-edge research shows our ability to reshape and grow the brain, to use it as a tool for an unlimited future. The brain does not limit our potential in ways previous thought. It is a living organ capable of generating new nerves and connections daily. Through physical exercise, and learning new things, you can increase the production of these new nerve cells, even into old age. Combine exercise with learning new tasks and, it stands to reason, you double brain-building power.

Control Your Brain

Provide your brain with an opportunity to give more. Ask more of it.

The brain has the capacity for greatness in each of us. By living more creatively, demanding it to perform new and different tasks, we are super-sizing life. The Center’s Biggest Winner Contest is a perfect outlet. It requires members to leave their comfort zone and explore the unknown. As such, it removes the boundaries to learning we’ve unintentionally set up for our brain.

The requirement to experience variety– in Group Fitness classes, aquatics workouts, weightlifting, equipment use, and fitness tools– sparks the body and mind into action. Competition is motivating. However, if  that were the main factor to success, a weightlifting or weight loss competition would be equally effective. From member testimonials alone, we know this is not the case. Adding challenge takes motivation to the next level. It gets results.

People thrive on the challenge of the unknown. As you stretch to achieve more, you embark on a mysterious journey. Perhaps you know how to drop 10 pounds. You’ve done it before and then efforts stalled. You would really prefer to lose 20 pounds. It is going to take effort you have not managed yet. You must not let past limitations dictate your future. Go farther.

You will have to experience the unfamiliar– a more intense cardio workout, a different selection of snacks, new types of meals, working with a trainer. Realize you won’t have the answers. Don’t proceed with fear, proceed with confidence in this learning experience.

The Biggest Winner contest, and other such events, instill confidence. You have support in the form of trainers, instructors, and possibly teams when involved in community fitness events. There is an outline of rules to follow. (There is the routine you crave.) Yet, the rules likely will vary from your norm. The brain craves this possibility for more, and the body responds to it.

Joan Jones-Jackson, with a smile on her face and pep in her step.
Joan Jones-Jackson, with a smile on her face and pep in her step.

Member Joan Jones-Jackson comments, “The Center’s Biggest Winner Challenge put a pep in my step and a smile on my face. I am newly motivated for fitness and I love it! The weekly challenges inspired me to use exercise equipment I never thought possible.” As Joan experienced, challenges provide an opportunity to surprise ourselves. They are an investment in our success, which allow us to build a healthier body and mind for the future.

A common element is repeatedly mentioned by such contest participants: overcoming the challenge of trying new workouts. As part of a group, the individual finds courage to do more, go further, and enjoy (sometimes unexpectedly).

Barbara Vargas found happiness outside her comfort zone.
Barbara Vargas found happiness outside her comfort zone.

Afraid to leave her comfort zone, Member Barbara Vargas was apprehensive to join the Biggest Winner Contest. She is glad she did. “I tried Group Fitness classes I would not have otherwise.  I explored different areas of the Center, like aquatics for swimming, which I now realize I love.” Barbara claims her confidence level greatly improved during this path of discovery where she made new friends and developed new fitness interests.

Ongoing positive feedback about the Biggest Winner is filled with everything from stories on weight loss success to finding new passions. Many have used the words “life changing.” The tremendous positive impact inspired a mini version of the contest. The Center’s Biggest Winner Mini Challenge is scheduled to run from July 19 to August 16. Consider it mid-year training for next year’s Biggest Winner Contest.

Other Motivating Factors

Many existing organizations host racing/walking events to raise funds for medical research and dissemination of factual information.  The Bike MS: City to Shore fundraiser for those with multiple sclerosis is a great example. Events with such a mission provide a new dimension for those participating. Suddenly, running/walking/cycling is not just about your health, your miles covered, and your best race time. It goes beyond by helping improve the health of our community at large.

Find a cause you can get excited about. It’s excellent to run a half marathon or participate in an Ironman event for the simple sake of doing it. However, having a deeper cause for participation is the dimension that takes your efforts to the next level. The requirement of varied workouts is one of the elements that makes the Biggest Winner such a success.

Perhaps use the summer’s Biggest Winner Mini Challenge as motivation for a larger event in the community. Numerous competitive runs, walkathons, bikeathons, and other fitness events are held in autumn. As Regional Fitness Manager RJ Pietrucha notes, “The Biggest Winner contests encompass multiple aspects of fitness, many of which help train the participant for other events.” It’s a chance to get prepared and excited. And with excitement comes compliance, even during the distractions of summer.

Challenge yourself to be the winner you are.
Challenge yourself to be the winner you are.

Going beyond the simple act of a workout boosts brain power with fresh incentive. It is a definite way to pump up training sessions and obtain fast results. The Biggest Winner Challenge is only six weeks long, but countless members achieved impressive fitness goals. And, each of them managed to expand skills, abilities, and knowledge. You emerge with a better sense of identity, one with less self-imposed limitations.

Regional Group Fitness Manager Christina Baker shares, ” Members are surprised and delighted to learn all they can accomplish during the challenge, including the ability to fit exercise into their daily lives.” Christina cites the example of the Swim/Bike/Run challenge. Many members are amazed to discover they can do all three.

“Challenges like these encourage dedication, discipline, healthy competition, and the satisfaction of crossing a finish line, every day!” That is something a diet or exercise program alone cannot deliver.

Commit resources. Time, energy, or money may be needed. Take a chance on yourself. Enter a contest or competitive event, take advantage of personal training, join a team. Do the necessary to move your life forward faster. As adults, our daily level of challenge usually depends on us (aside from tragedies and the similar). Stop accepting what you have always done, and do more. Do differently. Put goals just out of your grasp and watch in awe as you manage what was considered unobtainable.

Be your brain’s teacher. Coach it along life’s journey to be a star player. Train it for ultimate performance. It thrives on managing the new, unusual, and sometimes difficult. Empower yourself to do more, at any age. The saying just is not true. You can teach an old dog new tricks. You can create new pathways and connections in your mind to improve functioning.

Live each day like a contestant. Push a little more in your fitness routine. Go a few extra steps in a project. Strive to show more kindness. Be amazed by all you are. Become aware of all you truly can do.


Super Brain: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being, by Deepak Chopra and Rudolph E. Tanzi; Three Rivers Press.



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