The Awkward Beginner Phase of Anything, and Why It’s Worth It

“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” — Epictetus

Very few people enjoy the feeling of being a beginner.

That awkward, bumbling beginner phase is something most people will do just about anything to avoid. I know this because I avoided being bad at things for most of my life, choosing instead to always play to my strengths.

Growing up, I wouldn’t even try something new unless I was reasonably sure I would be good at it. I followed this same strategy until around my mid-twenties, when I realized that I’d need to start putting myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations or risk remaining the same person for the rest of my life.

I’ve tested my willingness to be a beginner countless times over the years, pushing myself out of my comfort zone by doing things like taking up handstands, writing my first book, traveling, and living around the world. Most recently, I began training in martial arts. After feeling somewhat athletically competent for years, training elements of taekwondo, Judo, karate, and jiu-jitsu instantly transported me back to being a complete beginner.

The other day, my martial arts coach taught me a new skill called a tornado kick, a 360 roundhouse kick that’s considered basic level at best for any taekwondo practitioner.

I didn’t grow up doing martial arts or gymnastics and have no natural ability for either. Now, in my thirties, anything involving twisting feels especially foreign to me.

I was acutely aware of my thought process as I began to work the skill, feeling the epitome of foolish and stupid.

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The Power of Micro Workouts

the power of micro workouts

Despite what most people might think, you really don’t need much time to work out.

In fact, even ten to twenty (or yes, twelve) minutes of challenging exercise a few times a week is enough to burn fat, build muscle, boost strength, and contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle.

Which means that no matter how busy you are, we all have time to exercise.

After all, just think about how much time you waste on social media, watching TV, or being inefficient throughout your day. You can easily shave a few minutes off your daily tasks and have enough time for a warm-up and a twelve-minute HIIT or circuit workout most days of the week.

But sometimes, the resistance isn’t really about the actual time the workout takes. It’s about the energy it takes to gear up for it.

Maybe your stress levels are over the top, or your energy levels have been so low that you keep talking yourself out of a workout. Or maybe you just don’t want to get all sweaty and have to take a shower afterward.

These are understandable excuses, especially during a pandemic. We’re all struggling right now, myself included. But when it comes to exercise, being healthy and fit isn’t actually as black and white as the fitness world tries to make it seem.

This is one of my gripes with the average person’s understanding of a typical gym workout — they either go to the gym for 45 minutes or none at all.

The reality is that something is always better than nothing when it comes to movement. Getting out for a fifteen-minute walk instead of doing the strength training workout you’d planned on doing that day might not be what you’d hoped for, but it’s significantly better than doing nothing at all.

Doing something movement-related — whether it’s a short walk, a few sets of push-ups or pull-ups, or ten minutes shooting baskets in your driveway or playing catch with your kid is always better than doing nothing at all.

If you want to maintain a healthy lifestyle, make time to move every day. And if you’re not sure where to start, I have a few suggestions.

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The 12 Minute Athlete January Accountability Challenge

We’re kicking off the new year with a new community challenge!

This challenge is all about accountability. The start of a new year can feel overwhelming (so many goals and ideas), and many of us are still navigating the pandemic and other stresses.

So we’re keeping things simple.

Set the intention to show up for your fitness journey this month. Prioritize your health. And get moving. 

We’re ready for new beginnings and a fresh start, and we hope this challenge will help you feel refreshed and energized in the new year.

Read on to get all the details for the 12 Minute Athlete Accountability Challenge!

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The Best Articles and Our Favorite Workouts from 2020

Well, 2020 was certainly not the year I expected. What a year… I want to end the year with ten of my favorite articles we posted on the site this year. If you missed any of these the first time, take the time now to check them out. Or, if you read them the first …

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What seems impossible today will become your warmup tomorrow

Stick with something long enough and your goal really does become your warm-up. When I first started training handstands back in 2014, my dream was to hold a five-second handstand in the middle of the room. I didn’t even *know* about other handstand goals at the time. I just knew I wouldn’t let myself give …

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Staying Motivated to Work Out During a Pandemic

 Staying Motivated to Work Out During a Pandemic

How do you stay motivated during a pandemic?

It’s a question I’ve been asked a lot lately.

When the COVID-19 pandemic first began, many people stayed optimistic about fitness. They focused on the time they would save by no longer commuting, and dove into the world of Zoom workout classes and home gym setups.

But nine months later, so many of those people have lost that sense of optimisim that kept them going at the beginning, and are struggling to find the energy to stick with their goals.

Without something to train for, even athletes whose lives typically revolve around their workouts are having a hard time staying motivated right now.

And I get it. COVID has made me question my goals and priorities in all areas of my life — including my training goals. Short and long-term goals that used to feel so important no longer seem to matter as much any more.

Despite my dedication to fitness and long-term health, even I have days when I wake up and wonder why I even bother. Why put myself through the stress of a tough workout when no one knows when any of this is going to end?

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I never thought I’d miss the gym

I never thought I would say this, but I miss gyms. It’s not that I miss the equipment. Even when I did go to a gym before Covid, I rarely used more than a pull-up bar, medicine ball, and a plyo box. I certainly never touched the weight machines or cardio equipment (I always bring …

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Plateaus are Part of the Process

Plateaus are Part of the Process

We’ve all experienced it: that initial burst of progress any time we’re starting something new, then, what seems like a lifetime of being stuck at the same level.

Plateaus happen to everyone. No matter what level you’re starting at, you will experience a plateau at some point. While plateaus are never fun, they’re a normal, albeit frustrating, part of getting better at anything.

When you reach a plateau, it’s helpful to acknowledge it, then reevaluate where you are in your journey.

Here are a few things to consider:

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