Monday, July 9, 2012

Dealing with failure during your workout

I read an article in a fitness magazine a year or so ago that really stuck with me.  I thought about finding it and referencing it here, but I decided I shouldn't because the article... well… sucked.  It was poorly written without much meaningful content.  So, why do I remember it?  There was one piece of it that really stuck with me.  The writer said that he considered any workout that he didn’t fail at least 3 times to be a failure.  It sounds really odd, so go ahead and read that again.  How odd, right?  You hope to fail?  What?  

So, what are we talking about here?  Does failure mean you give up, run home, and eat a whole box of cookies?  Of course not.  The context here is in the middle of the workout.  You begin each set (or each interval or whatever) with a goal in mind.  The failure I'm talking about here is when you fail to reach that goal.   

For fitness newbies to get started, they need to create a plan, find a place in their day-to-day routine to make the time, and then actually execute that plan.   For them, being able to get to the gym and complete a preset routine constitutes success.

The newbie has to train themselves to avoid that failure.  At first, you learn to push yourself through to complete the task.  From there, here is your progression.
  1. You learn to accept mid-workout failure.  If you push yourself beyond your newbie weights and intensity levels, sometimes you won't be able to get it done every once in a while.  Really, it's okay.  
  2. Next expect failure.  You're pushing hard enough that it's going to happen.  Learn to not let it bother you at all.  You bounce right back and try it again or you move on.  No problem.
  3. Last, you demand it.  If you didn't fail enough in your workout, the workout as a whole was a failure.  You just didn't push yourself hard enough.  
If you've been working out for a while and have a nice routine in place, you should be setting your mid-workout goals just high enough throughout the workout that you can't always complete them.  That's how you'll know that you are really challenging yourself.  Often, you can't get it done!  

Obviously, this is a progression that takes time to work yourself through, but this is the state that you should be striving towards from the first day you start exercising.  Without that real challenge, your body will never be forced to adjust and rebuild itself.  And you'll never get the value from all of the time you spend exercising.