Remember when you were a kid and physical limitations were more about “guts” than they were about strength, flexibility or stamina. Remember when you would take on any challenge offered up by our buddies. You could stay up all night just for the fun of it. You tried new things because they looked fun and you laughed at your friends when they failed with heroic attempts. And all the while, bruises & scratches or even a broken bone didn’t matter, if anything they were a badge of honour. If it ain’t bleeding, it ain’t hurting.

Now think for a second. How long ago was that for you?

Somewhere in life you begin to “play it safe”. You stop trying new things, taking on the dares of our peers and testing our physical acumen. You surrender to “watching the kids do it” or making excuses for it. If prompted or prodded in any way you might quickly change the subject and reflect back on the time you experienced the [fill in glorious heyday moment here], in an attempt to somehow say, “You know, I was legit in my day…even though you can’t see it now.”

And this transition – from taking on any opportunity to demonstrate physical prowess to waving off anything remotely uncomfortable – is one of the many beginnings to the end of healthy living.

Now let’s be clear – there is really no need try to ride a bicycle down the nearest hand rail by the steps of the school or to try a double back flip off the roof into your six year old’s plastic swimming pool. But it does make a lot of sense to explore new physical challenges regularly – wherever you are in life, right now.

And what defines “physical challenge”? It can take the form of starting an exercise program, being more regular in one or entering a fitness challenge at your local gym. It might be walking around the block, or it could be learning to swim, working your way up to swimming a mile or entering the next swim competition. Rank beginner to high flier, there is always a new and more challenging place to strive physically (and mentally).

And at whatever level you start, there IS significant value in looking for and embracing new physical feats.

  • First, there is the value seen in a shift in your outlook on life. Putting your body and mind through physically challenging – or even demanding – activities literally trains your mind to be open to new ideas, new discoveries and new opportunities. 
  • Next, regularly challenging yourself physically trains and builds your self esteem and confidence. When you can regain a sense of agility or overcome new challenges for the first time, your self image soars with new confidence and certainty. And that sense of self gets translated to everything you do.
  • And finally there is the obvious health benefit. After all, how many articles, TV shows, books, infomercials and experts do you need to encounter before you believe that regular physical exercise heads off maladies of every sort and builds resistance to the ageing process in total? Exercise is not only necessary for a long and vibrant life, it is mandatory.

Staying in your comfort zone or worse not exercising at all is literally taking years off your life. 

Think about it, the next time you tell your kids or grandkids stories at Christmas dinner? Would you prefer it to be about when you were young (like them) – or would you like it to be about what new obstacles you conquered this week?