The cargo bay door begins to drop and the wind flushes in all around me. I take a few steps and there I stand on the edge of a giant metal grate, looking down 12,500 ft. into clouds and nothingness. Before I even have a chance to take a deep breath we jump.
Last week, I had the absolute honour of getting a once in a lifetime invitation from the Canadian Forces Paratrooper Stunt Team, the SkyHawks, to go sky diving from a massive Hercules aircraft on one of their training routines. They were in town for a special guest appearance at the Red Deer Westerner Days and through a friend they asked if we wanted to join them for a jump. With my heart beating and fear filling up my lungs I reluctantly said ‘yes’. Little did anyone know around me, this guy is somewhat afraid of heights, let alone 12,500 ft. worth of heights.
I found out that I was jumping with the SkyHawks only 24 hours before take-off and thank goodness I didn’t have a week to think about it. It felt like I was watching a scary movie on repeat for the entire day; palms sweaty, heart beating and I was on the edge of my seat. That morning it was hard to eat and I have never chewed my finger nails that much in my life. Here we go; we drive to the Red Deer Airport, barely anyone speaking to my friend (who is also scared of heights) on the way there.
Then the weirdest thing happened to me. We arrived in the airport and met the paratroopers and this wave of calm and stillness came over me. I think it was then that my mind finally made the connection that this event was happening whether I liked it or not and made peace with the idea. Needless to say, I have never had so much fun, exhilaration and adrenaline pumping through my veins then when we back flipped off the cargo door of a 75,800 lb military aircraft well above recommended sky diving altitude.
I got over my fear. The hard way, mind you. There was no one against me but myself. I had been losing the fight for years but now I can say that it’s over and I hope it never comes back. It was me versus myself and I won.
Now, how the heck does this relate to the health and fitness column?
Simple. We all have fears — fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of new things and even fear of success. The only thing that is similar about all these fears is that they don’t go away until you step up and greet them with a smile and a kick in the ass.
At our gym, we see new people come into the facility with fear in their all the time. With fear of crowds, fear of being in gym clothes, fear of letting themselves down, fear of embarrassment and fear of admitting defeat. I am so happy for each and every one of these people. Just walking into our doors is the same as me standing on the edge of the plane. They did it! They faced their fear, they made the phone call and they showed up. For the average onlooker, heck it’s easy to say, “Oh don’t worry, join a gym and get in shape, it’s easy.” It is way harder than we all think. Usually when we have a new personal training client come into our gym it was not their first time walking into a gym, a diet centre or fitness class. We are usually the last step for people because they have tried, failed and tried, failed and failed some more. Naturally, you start to develop a fear of walking into a place and asking for help to lose weight, burn fat or just to feel good in your clothes again.
I am so proud of these people. Not only did they make the realization to never give up but they keep trying and trying until success comes to them. Our clients are some of the most driven and stubborn people in Red Deer and that’s why I like them all so much.
So to everyone out there that is scared to ask for help in losing weight, fitting into your favourite jeans or being able to keep up to their own kids — keep going. Keep trying. Keep standing up to your fears and make a decision for once and for all who’s going to win? You or yourself?
Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer. He can be reached at 403-347-1707 or check out www.360fitness.ca for more information.