By Leota Harriman

Throughout my journey toward better health and physical fitness, I have had to face my comfort zone, over and over.

In my comfort zone, things are soft and creamy and probably involve some sort of yummy snacks. In my comfort zone, I don’t try new things or push myself beyond what I am sure I can’t do. In that zone, I’m hazy and lazy, like Sunday morning brunch followed by lounging in a sunbeam wearing pajamas, reading the newspaper. In my comfort zone, I don’t push myself.

losing it 20150822_110702To hell with my comfort zone.

My comfort zone got me to a place where I was a hundred pounds overweight, and convinced I couldn’t do much physically. My comfort zone seems cozy and nice, but is actually a place of fear, a place I allow my fear of failure or looking foolish to stop me in my tracks.

Last week I may have finished demolishing this lie, this silken womb, this self-inflicted prison I call my comfort zone.

That was when I went to a rock-climbing gym in Albuquerque with a couple of friends to give it a try.

I’m still carrying a lot of extra weight, and I have a big butt. I didn’t think I would be able to climb anything because of this, but I thought, “What the heck? I’ll give it a try anyway.” No one was more surprised than I was after I climbed to the top of a wall 25 or 30 feet high, using tiny little nubby lumps on the wall, and the strength of my arms and legs, to do it.

I was lucky to have a great teacher in our visit to Stone Age Climbing Gym, who gave the two of us who joined her there (by the way, she age 50 and me age 49) some tips on how best to creep up the wall. For example, I would have relied on the strength in my arms, principally, but it’s really my legs that did the heavy lifting. It stands to reason, but I didn’t know that going in.

During my first climb, I was terrified! I wasn’t very far off the ground, but I was just so scared I could hardly convince my arms and legs to cooperate. Thankfully that feeling subsided.

I think it was on my second attempt at a wall that I made it all the way to the top, and I can’t even adequately describe the incredible feeling of accomplishment I experienced in that moment. I thought my arms and legs were weak—they are strong. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it—I was able. I thought I would probably hate it—I loved it!

The whole thing was so far outside my comfort zone, that its rosy glow of pillows and hot cocoa seems like another planet.

I am in love with the feeling of doing things I once thought I couldn’t do. Never in a million years would I have thought I would ever dance in a parade, but I’ve now done that twice.

I never thought I would be the person my kids look to for inspiration for healthy and active living, but they do.

Never did I imagine that I would enjoy running, but I’ve found some joy and satisfaction in that, too. I certainly never thought that people in the community would come up to me everywhere I go and tell them that this column and the things I do inspire them—but that happens to me all the time now.

Repeatedly I come back to the fact that exercise feels good. Yes, there are those moments when I just want to quit, like the last few lifts during strength training, or when I’ve gone past where I want to in running, or when I’m sweaty and hot and uncomfortable in whatever workout I’m doing. Those “quit” moments are fleeting, and I’ve learned that if I push past them, the rewards are beyond anything I ever imagined. It felt so good at the top of that wall, knowing that my own strength and determination got me there. I want more of that feeling.

So to hell with my comfort zone.

Having said that, my next “outta-the-zone” activity is going to be Zumba. Ironically, that scares me a lot more than climbing nubby walls!

For whatever reason, in the context of a dance class, yoga class, or any other coordinated movement class, I am the person who zigs when everyone else zags. I feel like I have two left feet, and am so self-conscious that I have a difficult time convincing myself to do it. However, the comfort zone will no longer rule my life, so Zumba here I come. After that it will be a frightening thing called Insanity. Hasta la vista, comfort zone.

Do you know someone who has conquered their fears and taken action to get healthy and fit? I’d love to feature their story. Get in touch with me at 505-286-1212 or by joining the conversation in my Facebook group, “I’m Losing It!”