Push your Limits the Right Way.
Examine your motives.
A big part of outdoor adventure is getting out of your comfort zone. But look at why you’re doing it. Intrinsic motivations—like wanting to experience nature or develop a skill for your own satisfaction—lead to more enjoyment. Extrinsic motivations—like impressing other people—on the other hand, can lead to feeling stressed, pressured, and burned-out.
Find your threshold.
The Yerkes-Dodson law of psychology maps stress as a bell curve. No stress means no drive. As stress levels rise, so do levels of focus and excitement. But at some point, increasing your stress pushes you past the point of feeling both challenged and capable, and feelings of fear set in, undermining both your focus and ability to perform. Everyone has a different threshold. Find—and stay at—yours.
Take it slow.
Start small. Take a class or go with friends you trust. It can help to think of your progression as a pyramid: Before going on a long backpacking trip, for example, doing a few dayhikes and weekend trips will help build both your fitness and comfort levels. Need more time? Take it.