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Why we step up: the benefit of challenging yourself

At some point everybody - no matter who they are or what they are doing - gets stuck in a rut. An inevitable sense of boredom and doom starts to creep in, and the all encompassing plateau starts to take hold. It's frustrating, this sense that grinding away at the same thing over and over again seem to bear little to no results or satisfaction. Yet stepping out of our comfort zone to the next level can be even scarier and more daunting. It is this very step, however, this ability to take the challenge inside of ourselves that sets us apart and truly makes us great. There are countless benefits - and pretty much no drawbacks - to stepping up for yourself. Physical and mental challenges are part of our overall progress as human beings, though sometimes in the moment it may be hard to see clearly why we do what we do.

We've put together some inspiration quotes from some of our fantastic personal training and group fitness staff about why we challenge ourselves, intermingled with some good reasons for why those challenges are good for you. So read on, get amped & step up!

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We've put together some inspiration quotes from some of our fantastic personal training and group fitness staff about why we challenge ourselves, intermingled with some good reasons for why those challenges are good for you. So read on, get amped & step up!

I make it a priority to challenge myself every day by asking myself what I can do to make me stronger, faster, happier or more successful than I was yesterday. Always better than before.” - Sarah Ruhl, CAC Group Fitness Director

Let go of the thoughts that don't make you STRONG.Growth is part of life, and a lot of it happens when we are younger. Literally, our bodies go through crazy amounts of rapid growth during our childhood (can you say puberty?) not to mention the extreme amounts of mental and emotional growth happening at the same time. As we get older and our natural physical development comes to completion, it is up to us to continue the cycle of growth on our own terms. Physically, this means exercise, practicing coordination and balance, maintaining flexibility and strength. Our physical bodies are the vehicles by which we navigate the world, and like any other complicated machine it needs to be taken care of - and not allowed to sit idle lest it become inoperable.

"When I challenge myself I know I am changing, growing, becoming more authentically me- we are alive and meant to feel, it’s what we do with those feelings that shapes us in and outside of the gym. You can give in or give it all you got- It’s a choice and that choice is what makes me feel strong." - Donna Walker, CAC Specialist Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor

While physical development may have a technical end, mental development is a life long practice. In fact, just like our bodies, our minds can start to deteriorate if we do not keep them active and stimulated. Challenging and exercising your mind is just as important as challenging and exercising your body - and it can be fun and exciting to do both at the same time! Choosing to begin a new activity will always stimulate your brain through the process of learning the coordination of the movement, and exercise is shown to stimulate neural connections and help ward off diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia. Some activities require more mental focus than others - rock climbing, for example, involves both physical and mental puzzle solving. Yoga also focuses on a mind-body connection with an emphasis on balance, control and breathing. Just trying something new is a great way to start challenging yourself.

Julie Speck marathon"I believe intentionally challenging myself prepares me for unexpected challenges in life. Intentional challenges provide goals that guide my daily activity instead of settling for the status quo." - Julie Speck , CAC Group Fitness Instructor and Marathon Runner

Our emotional health is just as important as our physical and mental health. Sometimes we can get complacent socially, or feel we are in that rut with our work, our activities and our friends. It may be difficult to break out of that cycle, sometimes because of self imposed mental barriers we create to "protect" ourselves. Finding and facing new challenges in life helps us to build confidence in our own abilities, and provides an overwhelming rush of endorphins and satisfaction when we succeed. And what if we fail? Even better! Failure is not to be feared, but to be welcomed as a lesson on how to do it differently next time. Failure is just the last step before we succeed.

"I challenge myself because I love watching my body get stronger." - Nikki Veit, CAC Elite Trainer

For those looking towards a fitness or weight loss goal, the plateau is something everyone hits. This is because our bodies are amazing organic mechanisms that are able to adapt, and this is what our muscles do when exposed to the same repeated activity. Challenging your fitness routine and mixing it up is the only way to break through that barrier. As we age our bodies naturally lose strength, meaning that we must increase our efforts and up our challenges in order to maintain healthy and active lives, because if that's not the point then what is?

Run Outside"Up to this point, challenging myself is the only way I've found to live a life of meaning." - Andrew Leonard, LSAC Personal Training Manager

Challenges give us purpose in life. Setting goals and working towards them are the basic building blocks of finding satisfaction and happiness, and it is not always easy. It shouldn't be. Arthur Ashe puts it beautifully, "Success is a journey, not a destination. The doing is often more important than the outcome." Indeed, those challenges provide us with the pathway to move forward, above and beyond what we thought we were capable of.

"I challenge myself so I never become complacent." - Becky Schlagater, Webster Place and Bucktown Personal Training Manager

Seek your challenges, and enjoy facing them head on! Let us know why you challenge yourself on our social channels, #cacwhyistepup.

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