Why it’s good to learn a new skill to stimulate the mind and generate feel-good hormones

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At the core of the Bodyshot philosophy is the importance of moving into your discomfort zone every few weeks or a few times a year to develop mental, physical, emotional and spiritual resilience. I’ve blogged about this in the past, and this belief forms part of our coaching packages and corporate workshops.

As you would expect, we embrace this belief ourselves, and every member of the team takes part in a significant challenge every few months. As a team, we have a race coming up in September called the Man v Mountain, which is a 22-mile run up Snowdon and then back down via some natural obstacles (one is called the Vertical Kilometre – they were a bit short on details but the mind boggles). Training has started for that already, and we’re looking forward to pitting ourselves against the natural elements and the trickery of the course designers.

In March 2018, Bodyshot’s co-founder Antonia and I are taking on our biggest challenge by a long distance; we’re taking part in the world’s toughest cross-country skiing race, the Arctic Circle Race. The race takes place through the magnificent countryside around Sisimiut on Greenland’s west coast approx. 65 km north of the Arctic Circle. The three-day race takes competitors through the magnificent, varied and sometimes harsh Greenlandic terrain, and apart from setting up camp we are entirely self-sufficient. We’re doing this for three reasons:

It’s a total unknown

We’ve never cross-country skied before, we’ve never been to Greenland before, we’ve never taken part in a multi-day event of more than 2 days before and despite having done several endurance events this will be without doubt the greatest physical challenge that we will face. As we get older, I think we settle into what I call the ‘velvet rut’. We’re progressing but only in one direction and in the very small confines of our world (the rut) – but, it’s comfortable (hence the velvet) and often we don’t want to leave it as a result. It’s so easy to stick with what we know as an adult and forget about learning new skills.

We want to see how we cope with the unknowns

Have you ever done something that took you out of your discomfort zone? It might be an event, public speaking, an interview, learning a new skill – you will have done something. Think back to how you felt once it was over and had gone well – did you feel different? Facing a challenge and then executing it well not only increases our sense of self-worth and confidence in our own abilities, but it also releases neurotransmitters like dopamine (reward), serotonin (pleasure) and endorphins (euphoria). It feels great to have overcome a challenge, and it adds a layer of resilience, confidence and inner strength which you can then use to help you in other areas of your life. It’s powerful stuff.

We have an ambitious fund-raising target

I worked out the other day that I have personally raised more than £10,000 for various charities in the last 4 years. Now that’s great, but wouldn’t it be even better if I could team up with Antonia and double that by this time next year? So that’s why we’re taking part in the Arctic Circle Race in March 2018, and then running the London Marathon a month later to raise £10,000 for a charity close to our hearts, Alzheimer’s Research. We had an extraordinary amount of support this year just running the marathon, so we are very confident that the added challenge of the Arctic Circle Race will help us reach 5-figures.

Training begins – 10 months before the race!

We haven’t done any cross-country skiing, so the first step is to learn to rollerski, which is basically learning the techniques of cross-country skiing on short versions of skis with wheels at the front and back (see image). We’ll spend the summer learning how to do this effectively and efficiently, before heading out to Europe for a week on the snow with an expert coach. We will spend a few days in Finland in February next year honing our technique before the race starts in March.

It’s an odd feeling to learn a new skill. I tend to do things I’ve been doing for a long time like running, tennis, boxing and circuit training – I haven’t really learnt a new skill for a while. The last time was 3 years ago when I learnt to box properly and had my first white collar boxing match. I feel I’m stretching myself, stepping outside of that rut and trying something new, even though as adults, we are less used to starting from scratch. It’s a humbling feeling and there’s no place for ego.

Take a few moments to reflect on when you last tried something new or learnt a new skill. How did you feel? If you’re struggling to connect with that feeling, it’s probably been too long. Make a note of 10 things you’d love to do before your next birthday, or in the next year or so and then explore how you can achieve those things. It doesn’t need to be a crazy race in the Arctic, it could be anything as long as it’s new and challenging for you. Go forth and stretch yourself!

What’s your Health IQ?

If you’re reading this, you’re are probably in a reasonably senior position, running your own business or have a busy life running the home and juggling other responsibilities. Either way, you’re busy. The convergent pressures of work and family life have probably meant that the time you did have to spend on health and fitness has disappeared. If you’d like help understanding what your Health IQ is click here to take our test.

Leanne Spencer is an entrepreneur, coach, TEDx Speaker, author of Remove the Guesswork, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that helps busy professionals get more energy by removing the guesswork around their health, fitness and nutrition. Visit www.bodyshotperformance.com or email info@bodyshotperformance.com to register your interest in our services and connect with us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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