Jan. 23, 2020

Say goodbye to your fitness comfort zone and hello to something new

UCalgary Outdoor Centre's Paul Chiddle offers five steps to change up your fitness routine
Paul Chiddle descending with two clients from the summit of Mt Logan, the highest peak in Canada.
Paul Chiddle descending with two clients from the summit of Mt Logan, the highest peak in Canada. Trevor Steven

If you feel like you’re stuck in a fitness rut, maybe it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and switch it up. It’s challenging trying something new but it can be exhilarating too.

No one knows that better than Paul Chiddle, manager of the University of Calgary’s Outdoor Centre. Chiddle grew up in Portsmouth, U.K. and has made a habit of trying new things and challenging himself all his life.

“Stepping out of your comfort zone is mentally engaging and good for your brain. It’s all about not being afraid to fail,” explains Chiddle. “As long as you put the effort into preparing beforehand, if you fail, you can leverage that to maximize learning.”

  • Photo above: Paul Chiddle descends from the summit of Mount Logan, Canada's highest peak, with two clients. Photo by Trevor Steven

Chiddle began his career in the British military as part of an elite unit, retrained as a physical training instructor then, after leaving the military, went on to a career as a mountain guide and elite rock/ice climber, scaling Mount Everest in the process.

This past winter, Chiddle was a stunt double for actor Willem Defoe and last summer he took on his new role at UCalgary. In short, he’s not afraid of trying new things and in fact relishes novelty.

'You should be having fun'

Chiddle sees people trying new things all the time whether it’s a lesson on cross-country skiing, a river rafting trip or day at the crags. He actively encourages clients to push themselves to new heights and to have fun while doing it. He says the element of ‘fun’ is something that is often lost as people pursue goals or tick off boxes in order to get a photo for social media.

“As long as you’re outside, you should be having fun,” says Chiddle.

Stepping away from a tried and trusted fitness regime can be intimidating. Humans are hardwired to seek comfort and security but maintaining the same old thing won’t give you a chance to grow, develop and perhaps even find a new passion.

“The first step is to do some research on what you want to try,” explains Chiddle. “Then begin actively preparing yourself and understand what will be required. Ask yourself ‘what do I want to get out of this?’”

“Maybe your motivation is to meet new people who have similar goals. That can be motivating in itself,” Chiddle points out.

Trying something new won’t always be a success but Chiddle says every failure is an opportunity to think about what could have gone better.

5 steps to change

  1. Do your research
    Decide what you’d like to try and find out more. What fitness level will this activity require? Will you need new equipment?
  2. Have a plan
    Figure out how you should prepare and get started. Preparation and planning equals success.
  3. Be prepared to fail 
    It takes time to develop confidence and expertise. Look at failure as a chance to grow and improve.
  4. Take baby steps 
    Starting from scratch is hard. Be happy with the small improvements you see.
  5. Expand your horizons
    Trying new things is fun, exciting and good for your brain! Even if you don’t try something new, you can set goals for yourself that are outside your comfort zone.

Read the January/February issue of Impact Magazine. 

Paul Chiddle, Outdoor Centre manager

Paul Chiddle, Outdoor Centre manager