We recently moved into a new house with a backyard that is somewhat of a sanctuary for alligators. If that might sound strange to you, please let me explain this a little further.
Our community just happens to back up to a development that never materialized in this struggling economy. In the community in Florida where we reside, a bank-owned development translates to paved roads, a few leveled foundations, and several retention lakes, teaming with an ever expanding population of wildlife, as more and more new housing developments began to crumble in this sinking ecomony.
I have always been a victim of terrible mind games. From the time I was a small child, I was fearful of what lurked under the bed and lived in my closet. As a teenager, I feared the howling coyotes in our rural Southern California neighborhood. Walking home from friends’ houses at night, I would worry about a coyote chasing me home in the dark. My mind would get the best of me and I would be in a full sprint up the final hill home, convinced I was going to be attacked by a wild animal. Running trails in our former San Diego neighborhood conjured up thoughts of mountain lions lurking from ledges above me, licking their lips as they waited to pounce, and I never enjoyed the long lingering shadows that swam below me out in the Pacific when we swam La Jolla Cove, either.
What used to be a fear of running away from wildlife in childhood, has only evolved as a fear of running (or swimming) away from wildlife in adulthood. Now that we live in Florida, I don’t like alligators anymore than I liked coyotes, mountain lions, or great white sharks. This California girl cannot understand how we are still living with prehistoric reptiles in polite society. I don’t enjoy seeing them sunning themselves on the banks of local canals anymore than I care to encounter one on a running trail. For Floridians, this may be business as usual, but I am terrified of these overgrown lizards.
If there is an upside to exercising with the threat of undomesticated animals, I can tell you my fitness has improved with regard to this element. While I would never knowingly put myself in a hazardous situation (running close to canals where gators have been confirmed), I do know in the back of my mind that any body of water in The Sunshine State can host crocodilians. Anytime I run along any type of waterfront, I like to practice running “pickups”, in which I increase my speed and intensity in short bursts in the event I may have to “outrun” an unwelcome predator. My fear of gators has only increased my speed and performance. While this may be an unconventional training plan for most people, it has actually helped with my gator anxiety.
Realistically, I know I will never be capable of outrunning an alligator (their bursts of speed far exceed anything I can turn out), but at least I feel more confident knowing that mentally, I have tried! Armed with the knowledge that gators do not typically consider humans a staple food source, I try to keep my reptile apprehension in perspective. This deep-seated fear has the potential to end my love affair with running altogether if I allowed it to, but I choose not to give in to the demons. I remind myself that statistically speaking, being attacked by a gator is not practical or likely.
If we always surrendered to our fears, we would never realize our potential and dreams.
Do you harbor a fear that is keeping you from realizing your next fitness goal? It could be the fear of the unknown, the fear of sore muscles, or the fear of looking ridiculous in the gym. Maybe you are afraid to work toward a goal because you are afraid you might not succeed. I want to encourage you to take your fears and make them work for you. Use your fears to stoke your fire. Take control of what scares you about exercise and turn it into motivational drive. Sometimes it is as simple as being honest about what frightens you. Alligators don’t haunt my dreams since admitting my trepidation for them. Think about it and share with us, what you are afraid of and what might be keeping you from achieving your workouts?