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My View: It’s good to jump out of your comfort zone

By Joyce Hodgson

We are our own worst critics. I know I judge myself harshly; picking on my faults and failures. Thinking I am never good enough, thin enough, smart enough, tough enough. Some days I really believe those words.

I’m in training to hike the Appalachian Trail and no matter how much I train for it, I feel like it won’t really happen. Something will stop me.

One obstacle that could prevent me from hiking the trail is my physical condition. I’ve read stories about how some hikers never hiked a day in their life before completing the trail. I’ve also read about middle-aged women hiking the trail and breaking a leg! So, to err on the side of caution, I decided to jump out of my comfort zone and join some exercise classes.

I don’t exercise. I’ll happily hike and walk outside all day. Joining an exercise class with a teacher in the front and strangers all around me while my fat bounces up and down is not what I would sign up for, but I did.

Our town has a community education program that offers a 20/20/20 class – 20 minutes of aerobics, 20 minutes of weight training and 20 minutes of stretching – and a yoga class.

Well, I missed the first 20/20/20 class because I had to go to the dentist. I was glad to go to the dentist because then I didn’t have to exercise!

However, there was no dentist appointment or other good excuse for me to miss yoga class the next night.

So imagine my delighted surprise when I arrived and tried to open the doors at the school and found they were locked. I tried a side door. Also locked. Secretly, I was rejoicing that I could go home. But as I was walking back to my car, I heard a woman tell me that the door was now open. I guess I was going to yoga.

My self-criticism kicked into high gear. My clothes weren’t “yoga” clothes, my mat was too thin and I was too fat to bend the way I thought I should.

Then the instructor told us to breathe, so I did. I no longer thought about my T-shirt exposing my fat stomach. I doubled up my mat when my knees hurt and I just bent over as far as my body would let me.

Yoga is so peaceful. After class, I knew that practicing yoga would increase my flexibility, stamina and balance, all things I will need when hiking the Appalachian Trail.

The second week approached and yes, I admit it here, I actually called the woman running the program asking how I could get out of the 20/20/20 class.

She offered different locations and days, but advised me to go since my insurance covered the cost. So I went.

As the instructor began explaining the aerobic steps, I was swearing in my head. I was telling myself that I hate aerobics, I hate dancing, I hate the music she’s playing and I hate the lighting in the gym. I was tired, hungry and getting a headache.

Then, to my surprise, I did it. I was doing aerobics, and dancing to the music I hated under bright lights with energy I didn’t know I had while suffering from hunger and a headache.

Was I comfortable at the classes? Heck, no. My comfort zone was two time zones away!

As the class progressed, I laughed at myself when I was facing front instead of facing back and raising my left leg instead of my right leg. I made up my own steps instead of doing a “step ball change.” I was learning.

But learning to not be so hard on myself is tough. I doubt I’ll ever succeed at that.

Joyce Hodgson lives in Alden with her husband and two golden retrievers. She intends to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2020.
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