I long ago recognized that I take a certain amount of pleasure from routines — the ‘known quantity’ that makes me feel safe and secure. Ironically, however, living in my comfort zone can lead to complacency, boredom and as a result, overeating.
Unfortunately, the same routines which give me a sense of predictability and stability are also the ones that can lead me to a false sense of satisfaction. Particularly in eating and exercise, I have the tendency to get so used to the ‘same old, same old’ that I can begin to lose momentum and interest. When I lived in Washington, DC for years I used to walk along the exact same route to work every single day. When a friend suggested I vary that pattern, I found it almost shockingly difficult. Nonetheless, once I tried it I began to relish my walks — what new things would I see? what streets had I not yet tried? which walks were faster? which more pleasing?
I know for some people like my partner, spontaneity is natural, pleasurable and enticing. For me, however, its always a little anxiety producing. Change routes? Try new foods? Yikes!
This week I not only started a new job, but I changed health clubs. I’m all about convenience, and there’s a very nice gym right up the street from my new office, which means I can go before, during or after work.
Yesterday at the new gym, I decided to try out an abs class. It was ‘spontaneous’ (I had been planning to lift weights) and I felt a little nervous and shy as I took my place in the room and watched people set up their spaces and socialize. The instructor turned out to be from the ‘drill sargeant’ school of coaching, and it was a music-less, cheer-less half hour of barked orders. We were told to work with a partner and early on I said to mine, ‘this reminds me too much of high school gym class.’ She just smiled and kept pumping out the reps.
I was proud of myself for finishing, but I won’t be doing that one again. When I work out it has to put a smile on my face. Either while I’m doing it or as soon as I’m done.
Fortunately, I previously discovered that my new gym has a kickboxing class taught by an instructor whose classes I took for years at an earlier club. So when I took that class over the weekend, it was a nice combination — new surroundings and people, but a teacher and a set of exercises that I felt confident about.
Finding a mix between patterns that make me feel comfortable and opportunities to try new things will always be one of life’s challenges for me. I like knowing what works and what doesn’t. Its just that the answers keep changing, especially when I’m not paying attention.
So, this week a new gym. Maybe next week I’ll try planning some new menus. Ultimately, the comfort I’m seeking is going to come from fitting into my clothes, eating foods I love, and being happily active. One step at a time.