Failure is often thought of as something to be ashamed of, perhaps even something to judge one another on. In certain entrepreneurial and sports circles, failure is seen as something to work through and part of the process. But for the majority of the population, the mental block of trying not to fail is a weight around the neck weighing them down.
We must remove that weight today.
I once read a quote about athletes that I liked: “An athlete is someone who tries something new every day”.
If you are in the gym regularly, and not failing once in a while, then you are not challenging yourself hard enough.
You can fail by attempting a higher weight than you’ve ever lifted.
You can fail by attempting a harder workout than you’ve ever done, and not finishing.
You can fail by trying a new workout, and not doing it correctly.
You can fail by working out so hard that you puke.
The word ‘fail’ has so many negative connotations but in the 4 situations above, I would argue that those failures were actually good things, or at least the result of a good philosophy of challenging yourself with more than you can handle.
Now, a disclaimer before I go further: failure in the gym should not, and does not involve hurting yourself or putting yourself in unnecessarily risky or dangerous positions. You shouldn’t regularly be trying to fail in the gym – that’s reckless and dangerous behavior. Be safe and workout safely with weights you know you can handle, or with spotters, or with safety racks. You need to know what your limit is.
Only once you know what is safe for you should you ever attempt to push a little farther with a heavier weight or more intensity. Don’t over do it by attempting too much at once.
But in general, failure is a necessary consequence of pushing past your limits.
I’ll end this chapter with an anecdote. Do you know what sled pushes are? It’s a common football workout that has somehow found its way into some normal gyms around the country. Basically, there is a sled, with weight on it, and you just push it as fast as you can, back and forth.
If you haven’t tried this workout I highly encourage it, as it fully embodies Lesson #2: It’s intense!
Back to the story, which was actually someone else’s: so one guy was working out in the gym, and another guy was doing sled pushes. The sled push guy was working really hard, so much so that he ended up puking after a particularly intense set of sled pushes.
Now before I go further, what do you think of this sled push guy? What’s your initial reaction to what he did?
I originally read this story online, on a fitness forum on reddit, and the comments were disturbing, to say the least: a full 90% of them disparaged the sled push puker, teasing him, making fun of him, calling him an idiot for pushing so hard. I was the only one who posted that I admired him for pushing past his body limits. Obviously I don’t condone puking in the gym everytime you workout. There’s a limit, and you want to respect the gym which is a very public space for everyone to use. But the guy’s determination to push himself was admirable, and most people couldn’t see it.
They were more concerned with looking “cool” in the gym, with looking like they were in control and not embarassing themselves. And that’s NOT the Dream Body Mindset! Mr. Sled Push Puker, if he continues pushing himself that hard, will inevitably surpass all the people who made fun of him. People who care more about not looking foolish than pushing as hard they can will reach a fitness plateau and never climb higher.
The lesson is: don’t be afraid to push yourself. Embrace failure once in a while.