Sometimes a great learning moment can come from a most horrifyingly embarrassing gym fail.
Each piece of new equipment in my gym represents an exciting, groundbreaking way to seriously injure myself.
For example, last year my gym procured a step climber machine. It’s basically like three escalator steps that automatically move downward. You continually climb these steps, allegedly to get fitter without the fear of imminent death. There are handle bars to hold while stepping, and a screen to set difficulty levels, speed and so on.
When I first saw the shiny, new machine, I thought, “Oooh, I’m going to try it. What could possibly go wrong?”
(You know where I’m going with this, right?)
I climbed onto the machine and pressed the big, green GO button.
The steps started moving, and I started stepping.
After a few seconds, I felt confident to go a bit faster.
I looked for the button that would take me there. It was an up arrow, which I pressed, and indeed it made the steps go faster.
But it was still a bit slow, so I pressed the button again.
The steps got faster.
Still not fast enough.
I pressed it again, this time holding the button down for longer.
Ah yes, that’s better. What a good workout I’m going to have!
The steps are getting really fast.
Before I knew it, the steps were whizzing at an impossible pace. I’d become like the cartoon character, Road Runner, racing so fast that my legs were a blurred circle of movement. Meanwhile, I’m holding on to the handle bars for dear life, my face a sweaty platter of wide-eyed horror.
The machine was making the loudest whizzing sound, alerting everyone to my embarrassing gym fail. It even had a concerned expression that said, “We’ve only reached this speed in lab testing.”
I was certain I was going to miss a step and fall off unceremoniously, possibly tragically. I was trying to press the ‘down’ button but it was hard, given I was also simultaneously trying not to die.
Finally, I did the only thing I could think of at that particular crazy moment.
I sprung up so both my FEET were balancing on the HANDLE BARS. Yes, the left foot on the left handle bar, and the right foot on the right handle bar. It was like I was riding a Harley Davidson, only I wasn’t. I was riding a step machine.
Not my most graceful or proud life moment.
After a few seconds, (it felt like days though), I managed to eventually get the speed down without major injury to my physical body. My pride on the other hand…
The steps returned to their slow pace, and to preserve a tiny shred of dignity, I just kept on stepping as though the whole fiasco was a successfully planned and executed cardio/flexibility program.
When I suspected everyone had moved on with their lives (and stopped filming!), I sheepishly got off the machine, took a casual sip of my drink, and walked, head down to the remotest corner of the gym to do some stretching. (Clearly flexibility was an important and necessary part of my life!)
The next day I returned to the gym.
I decided I wanted to get back on the horse.
When I climbed on, I saw something that made me both laugh and sigh. There, right next to the GO button was a big, red STOP button.
Yes, a button that would have helped me avoid impersonating Road Runner.
Avoid straddling the bars, with my feet.
Avoid looking like someone who thought the machines were taking over.
What went wrong, and the lesson.
Unfortunately I went too fast, too quickly, and panicked; rendering me blind to an instant, easy solution.
Well, it wasn’t a new lesson, just a reminder of something most of us already know. In life, and in business, it’s easy to press the GO button. It’s easy to keep increasing the speed, to keep taking on more tasks and activities, to keep burning the candle at both ends.
It’s much harder to take measured steps gradually, at a safer pace. When we don’t though, it can quickly lead to a sense of overwhelm, stress and panic. It’s okay to go fast, just not so fast it becomes unsafe, life threatening, or causes you to do weird things to new gym equipment.
What are your thoughts? Has a particular life circumstance taught you a valuable lesson?