It’s no secret that America's “battle of the bulge” continues to grow and it’s often attributed to our lack of movement and our over sized portions. And yes, those are the obvious reasons, but I have come to discover that it isn’t only lack of motivation that holds people back, but it’s FEAR! Fear is an emotion that often stops us dead in our tracks. So in our current uncontrollable economy, one thing we can control is our commitment to our health. If fear has held you back, the best way to conquer a fear is to face it head on.

So what are you afraid of? Let’s discuss the most common fears of exercise and dismiss their scary side.

Fear of sweating: Being afraid to sweat may seem funny to those of us who drip in sweat on a daily basis, but this is a very common fear I hear from readers. The bottom line is that everyone sweats and it is a perfectly natural process! Sweating is your body’s natural way of cooling down its core temperature. I do understand that even knowing that, you may still be uncomfortable with sweating in which case I encourage you to invest in some workout clothes made of performance fabrics (think Under Armor, Nike, and Lululemon). These fabrics will wick away the moisture and help you feel comfortable…cotton should not be your first choice as it will stay sweat soaked, cause chafing and leave you feeling cold and clammy.

Fear of pain: No one I know likes pain. The key to overcoming this fear is to start out slowly. If you are a beginner to any activity, raising your heart rate and pushing your muscles too hard too fast can indeed be painful and scary, so start slowly and work your way up depending on your comfort level. Differentiate between muscle pain and muscle fatigue. Fatigue feels like, “wow I’m working hard; I can barely do another repetition.” Pain feels like, “ouch, that doesn’t feel right.”

Fear of Injury: This is also a common fear, and one that I have experienced from time to time. If you are afraid of injury, the key is again to not overdo it and get some good instruction. Either the right trainer or an instructional DVD…making sure you have good form and technique will help prevent injuries and raise your comfort level.

Fear of working out in public: I receive lots of emails about this one. Many people are cautious about letting go of their inhibitions and working out in front of others. However, I can tell you the atmosphere in most group fitness classes today is one of encouragement and kindness. Many group fitness classes are organized by skill level, so if you are afraid to workout in public, find a class that is geared towards your skill level …everyone else will be in the same boat. Also, try to keep a sense of humor about yourself. No one achieves “perfection” in fitness. And lastly, remember that people on the workout floor are fairly self-absorbed while at the gym, they are more than likely not paying any attention to you. They are listening to their iPods or watching TV…so rid yourself of that imaginary audience in your head and get out there!

Fear of failure: I always tell my kids that if you don’t try, you don’t know if you’ll succeed. I’ve always tried to live my life based on the idea there is no such thing as failure, but everything is a learning experience. I urge you to do the same. Whether you get a positive result from something or a negative result, it is a result and you need to look at it as a chance to move forward. You may determine that you don’t like step classes and that will propel you forward into trying something else. What you may call a failure, you could instead choose to call an opportunity to try something new! I love this quote from Woody Allen: “If you’re not failing every now and again, it’s a sign you’re not doing anything very innovative.” Be innovative, be curious and be active!

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