I don't know about anyone else, but for me, I try to focus only on myself when I'm at the gym. I'm always very conscious of the fact that, let's say, "I don't look my best" in gym clothes. I'm sweaty (if I'm doing it right). I'm wearing clothes that are functional, not flattering. My hair isn't done. I may have makeup on if I stop in after work, but once I'm all red in the face and sweating with effort, I'm not sure that's doing me any favors in the looks department. That's all fine, and as it should be, but it doesn't make that bit of self-consciousness go away. In my everyday life, I wear things that are flattering to my body, no matter what size I am, and I pretty much go through my days feeling good about how I look, so no scolding me for being down on myself, please... I'm just saying in this situation at the gym, it's a little hurdle I have to get over. I cope by focusing inward. I don't spend much, if any, time socializing, and I don't really know many people that use the same gym I do, so this all works out pretty well for my state of mind when working out.
When I went & picked up the Bosu Ball to do my first set of Glute Squeezes, a woman was stretching and doing some core work nearby. She looked at the ball, asked me about it a little. I explained I'm just learning to use it, but was really excited to find it was available. And kept myself from jokingly asking her not to laugh at me while I figured it out. We talked for a couple of minutes about the different exercises we've seen people doing with the ball, and laughed a bit about the awkward balance between trying to watch someone do something we've never tried, without staring at them like a creepy gym stalker.
Later when I started trying to figure out how to do the Alternating Side Lunges, feeling awkward and uncoordinated on that Bosu Ball, one thing I didn't fully explore in my previous post is the INTENSE feeling of self-consciousness I was battling. It was almost as if I thought, if I stop what I'm doing right now and look around, I'll see everyone in the gym gaping at me, maybe even pointing and laughing! I mean, clearly this is irrational and I didn't REALLY think that, but... well maybe a little part of my brain thought it could happen.
So if you're reading this and you've ever had that same feeling when trying something new and feeling uncomfortable, here's what ACTUALLY happened when I looked up:
There was a big muscle-y guy lifting weights on a bench a few feet from me, and when I stopped to catch my breath and glanced around, he caught my eye and said "Man, I couldn't do what you're doing!"
My first thought was Dude, right now, neither can I! But no, Chris, negative self-talk is one thing, it's even worse when you say it out loud. I stopped myself from saying that, and the first thing that popped out of my mouth in response was, "Yeah, I am WAY outside of my comfort zone right now!" (I gotta give myself a little pat on the back for turning that negative into a positive. That was a good one.)
And he said, "That's what it's all about - you gotta get out of that comfort zone to make progress. Keep it up!"
How about that? NOT pointing and laughing. Encouraging. Yeah, this is where I'm SUPPOSED to be: OUTSIDE of the comfort zone. Getting it done. Maybe I should talk to people more often at the gym. Maybe there's a little something to the idea of interacting with people in that context. I gotta say, I like my gym more and more.
One more word on this: I came across a great quote on the subject in my random Internet browsing tonight:
“You only ever grow as a human being if you’re outside your comfort zone.” -Percy Cerutty
I found it here: http://runnersfeed.com/top-20-running-quotes/