Turning fear into your friend

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, is a Certified Health Coach and a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. 

By Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach

As we open the pages of a brand-new calendar, many of us are armed with the good intentions of those New Year’s resolutions. We feel impervious to negativity, powered by the belief that this time we shall succeed, perhaps unlike in years past. No holds barred, we are on our way to better health, a better job, improved personal relationships, or whatever goals we have set forth for ourselves.


As for the rest of us, who sadly constitute a hefty percentage of the population, we may not be quite as confident in our resolutions’ success rates. While our plans are indeed laudable, we often feel backed into a corner by that dreaded “FEAR Factor”: False Evidence Appearing Real. I have written about this dynamic in the past, with regard to many aspects of our lives. In early January, however, when many goals are health and exercise-related, many of us take FEAR to an entirely new level: Fitness Evokes an Awful Response.

If this definition rings a bell for you, or in some cases a deafening alarm, I’d like to offer you an opportunity for a fresh viewpoint, a road less traveled but always leading in the right direction. It is actually possible to turn FEAR into your ally.  If channeled properly, FEAR can work to your advantage in achieving your goals. The secret is turning it into your FRIEND: Forging Respect In Each New Decision. 


Let’s face it: change is hard. Breaking old habits is hard. Climbing out of a rut is hard. Did you notice I didn’t’ say “impossible”? If a task is daunting, it just might take a bit more determination, but it can be conquered, even mastered, with the proper set of tools. The handiest of these tools, and the most useful in just about any situation, is self-compassion. Lest you think I am suggesting a “pity party”, please think again, for there IS a difference!  Self-compassion refers to the knowledge that it is perfectly fine to take your time, being kind to yourself as you establish a new routine, and incorporating ways within daily life to applaud even the smallest efforts toward improving fitness and health.

Each step, whether it is a timid tiptoe or a leap, represents a brick on the walkway you are paving.  Rather than comparing yourself to those fashion-clad divas whose photos are plastered on the glossy pages of every magazine, already successfully enmeshed in their exercise and meal plans, remind yourself that you deserve a tremendous amount of respect for what you are doing to improve each day of your life. Every prudent decision, every positive nuance, every effort will build on the one before and weave a new fabric of health, energy, and a positive outlook.  Those certainly sound like good FRIEND qualities to me!

This January, resolve to kick FEAR in the face. Take control in a good way, your way, and make this a year of new FRIEND-ships that can last a lifetime!