Swing dancing, two left feet, and some sweat but no tears. New experiences offer new insight

Kristina Alexanderson via Compfight

There really are lessons to be learned around every corner. How cliché is that? But it’s true. I’ve found that new experiences that get you out of your box and make you a bit uncomfortable offer up the most education. The key is to open your eyes a bit and take notice. It’s pretty tough to fully experience a new challenge when you don’t really allow yourself to.

Case in point, my recent swing dance outing. I’d like to make this clear before we dive in. I’m white. Very white. I don’t think it’s stereo typing when it’s true :D. Most white people can’t dance. I am no exception to this rule. I find it to be one of my biggest fears. It makes me completely uncomfortable, I’m always concerned about being judged, laughed at, looking like a fool. I’m sure most of you have seen Seinfeld and know the Elaine dance…. well that’s me.

The point is learning how to dance or at least attempting is on my Limitless list so it has to be done. When I started this blog… scratch that. It’s not really a blog anymore. It’s a journal. So when I started this journal a few months ago I committed to living life without limits and became dedicated to getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Doing more of what I love and less of what I don’t

I hope to get some videos up as my foot loose progress is underway. That way you all can see the transformation from Elaine to Fred Astaire. Ok, maybe a bit overboard but at least a competent dancer that does not look like he is having convulsions.

Long story short the coolest part about trying things that your uncomfortable with is the education you get. No school in the world can offer up the lessons you learn from doing shit that scares you. So with that said… let’s do this shall we.

Now I’ll be honest. I was in no mood to go dancing. Pretty damn tired, not feeling so hot, and to add-on top of that I already knew what a terrible mover and shaker I was.

I know, I know, (the worlds smallest violin playing for my sad sad story). But my girlfriend loves it so regardless of my fears and apprehensions I knew I had to step up my game here.

What I learned from the act of trying something new and completely scary.

Lesson #1: Just commit to going
You don’t even have to actually participate, just commit to going. It sounds weird I know but if something really gives you the heebie-jeebies the most important step is just committing to go. Don’t make any promises to yourself or others. Just show up and check it out, observe a little. If you are thinking about taking up crossfit, yoga, or learning a new instrument just commit to showing up and observing.

You’ll never face any fear if you don’t take that initial step forward. This is that first step. No pressure to perform, to expectations to participate, just showing up, introducing yourself, your desire to one day get involved is good enough for now. This really helps to elevate some butterflies. The shear act of introducing yourself and connecting with others helps a ton in its self.

Lesson #2: Accept the fact that you will suck
Just be honest with yourself. Accept the fact that you will probable suck at first. The good news is since you already committed to showing up you can look around and probably notice that there are other people who really suck as well. I asked my girlfriend if I could just observe a little. Low and behold there were quit a few people spazzing around like they had ants in their pants. It may seem silly but it was comforting knowing I wasn’t the only one that was going to suck here.

Secondly, I told people I would suck. I made it a point to introduce myself to good dancers, bad dancers, and this somewhere in between. I asked them how long they had been dancing, what they were doing here tonight, I was really interested in connecting and making friends. I also made it a point to tell them it was my first time and to expect something pretty terrible from me this evening.

Guess what?

Totally got a free lesson to learn some basic steps. I of course was awful but we had a good laugh and it got me super comfortable. This also set me up for next week…. and yes, there is a next week. I now have a few friends that I can connect with the next time I go.

So if you are looking to start working out but have always been apprehensive about showing up to the gym because you don’t know what the heck you are doing, not to worry.

Lesson #3: Find your Samuel Chen
I can see the puzzled looks on some of your faces right now. Who is Samuel Chen?

Samuel is the man! Before I unleashed my inner John Travolta Grease on everyone I found out that you could pay 5 bucks for a quick 20 minute intro lesson. Needless to say I was “In there like swimwear.” Samuel was a swing dancing master and made me feel comfortable with some of the basic steps needed to participate and not look like a fool. He was extremely patient, motivating, and even poked a little fun at me. Totally helped lighten the mood.

So if nutrition and exercise is something you are trying to get a grip on and lack a little confidence check out some people with a little more experience than yourself to grab some knowledge from. Here are some of the peeps I look up to. Check them out for sure.


Chris Kresser
Mark Sisson
Caitlin Weeks (Grass fed girl)
Stephen Guyenet

WarriorZ (for the ladies/guys home fitness examples)

Outside the box:
In Over Your Head
The Minimalists

Most people are more than happy to help and connect with you. If there is something you are a little uncomfortable with but are really eager to learn more about simply ASK! If you never ask you never get. Let them know how interested you are in learning and improving. Usually you can take advantage of free resources or cough up a couple bucks for a little 101 session with them. It really goes a long way.

Lesson #4: Get down the fundamentals
Every skill seems to have a few core concepts that once learned make the process of continuing your learning that much easier. For example, swing dancing basically has cadence you adhere to while dancing.

1-2-1,2,3 and repeat

This is no different when you are trying to learn how to exercise or improve your nutrition. If you are looking to get fit there is really no need to mess around with the advanced exercises. Focus on the basics and the ones that give you the most bang for your buck.

Exercises: (click for exercise vids)

Overhead presses

From those fundamentals right there you can create so many workouts that help you drop body fat, get stronger, and become more athletic.

Try creating a circuit from those. Perform 2-4 circuits per workout and get it in three times a week (monday-wednesday-friday) and you have yourself a pretty awesome workout plan.

Example workout:
Dead-lift, 5 reps; rest 60 seconds
Push-ups, as many as possible; rest 60 seconds
Pull-ups/inverted rows, as many as possible or 10 rows; rest 60 seconds
Lunges, 20 reps; rest 60 seconds
Overhead press, 10 reps; rest 60 seconds
Squats, 20 reps; rest 60 seconds
200 meter run or 30 jumping jacks; rest 60 seconds

repeat this 2-4 times.

The same goes with nutrition. There are a ton of diet plans out there. Low carb, vegan, vegetarian, zone, paleo, south beach, shang-ri la. It’s crazy! Don’t over complicate things. Just learn the fundamentals.

If it comes in a bag and has more than 1-2 ingredients I doubt that it is real food. Stick to real food 90% of the time and watch the changes that take place. Grass-fed and wild meats and fish, free range and organic eggs and poultry, fresh veggies and fruits (mostly berries), some nuts and seeds. BOOM! There you have it. The fundamentals of nutrition.

John Bennett via Compfight

Lesson #5: Commit to staying
Commitment rears its ugly head again. This time, we are committing to staying. When I went dancing I told girlfriend and myself I was there for 90 minutes. I knew how uncomfortable I would be but I wanted to commit myself to staying and trying no matter how terrible the experience may be. This way I knew I would be giving it a fair shake and ample time to actually learn and try.

Now here is where you need to know yourself. Maybe 90 minutes would be to long for you. Or maybe you just want to commit to showing up this time and next time 10 minutes to participation.

Lets say you are trying to get in the running habit. How about just committing 5 minutes every morning for the first week. Then the following week build upon that. Maybe you want to start doing a little body weight training at home. Commit to 5 minutes every night before dinner to do some push ups, squats, and pull-ups.

Same goes with your nutrition as well. Not every meal has to be perfect every day. Commit to eating a “REAL FOOD” breakfast every morning for 7 days. Then build upon that. Rome wasn’t built-in a day and neither will you be. It takes times to break bad habits and to learn new skills. Accept that and embrace gradual change and you will go a long way!

When my 90 minutes was up I was ready to roll. Not going to lie but I had an awesome learning experience. SO what did I do… I committed to showing up next week. I paid in advance for a dance class next thursday and committed 90 more minutes to dance afterwards.

Set yourself up for success and you will succeed. Set yourself up for failure and you’ll get just that

The quick hits 

So lets run through this real quick. What is something you have always wanted to try? Or what is something you want to learn more about?

1. Commit to going: You don’t even have to participate. Want to learn how to scuba dive? Ask if you can observe a class.

2. Accept the fact you’ll suck: Nervous about starting your workout regiment? Just accept the fact you’re going to be winded, super sore, and your form may stink.

3. Find your Samuel Chen: Have you always wanted to start your own business? Spend some time with someone who has done it. Contact someone you admire. LEARN!

4. Get down the fundamentals: Unlike Allen Iverson I am talking about practice. Practice those fundamentals. If you’re trying to develop healthier eating habits practice it. Start small and go from there. Sub your caloric beverages with water. Take away the pop tart for breakfast and eat some real food (eggs and spinach)

5. Commit to staying: Be relentless in your pursuits. Never give up and commit yourself to a little bit each day.

So what is something you have always wanted to try but have been scared to? 

What is holding you back? How can you get closer to it today?