Maximize your Failure

How much time can you spend moving – really moving? Can you take the stairs to the third floor? How about the sixth? If your kids, or grand kids, wanted to play tag, could you?

These activities are what we are called to do. Most of us are not called to lift weights, program a treadmill, or follow a prescribed workout regimen. Those activities are not our calling, they are place holders to develop us physically. Through fitness we increase our ability to engage in the world around us physically. Just as in English class we developed language skills not to become professional writers, but so that we can communicate with those we encounter beyond the classroom walls. Similarly, fitness allows us to function/perform physically beyond the walls of the gym, fitness studio, or running track.

When I asked the questions above, how certain were you of your answers? We often say that we don’t know what we are capable of until we try. I disagree. What you learn from trying is that you can start. The truth is that we don’t know until we fail. Once we fail at an activity, we know the full measure of our capabilities.

When it comes to fitness, we often define failure as the place from which we can no longer move. When you say, “I’ve run 2 miles and I can’t run another mile. In fact, the last quarter mile was a struggle and I walked for part of it.” – that is a moment that needs to be celebrated. You won because you didn’t quit. You didn’t get bored and stop, you didn’t lose interest. You ran until you couldn’t. Why do we celebrate the failed quarter mile? Because now we know what we’re up against. Once you’ve maxed out at anything, you can identify what you need to do more of in order to move forward. If you were gassed after a round of tag with the kids, you know it’s time for you to increase your cardio activity.

Once you’ve bought in to the fact that you need to do more and you need to do it until you fail, the next question is, “How do I get started?” My favorite answer? Badly. You get started badly. Have you ever been the new person at work? At a gym? New in town? Remember how everything was a challenge? You didn’t know where to eat, how to get there, and how long you should plan on anything taking. You did all those activities poorly at first. Then you figured it out. You found the shortcuts and the work-arounds. You became efficient and proficient. At some point, you were able to share what you learned. As you got better, your confidence increased. You became braver and started testing out new ideas. You were able to make that progress because you started off doing it poorly.

If you’ve spent any time in the corporate world, you’ve probably heard someone talk about the 80/20 rule. It applies to a lot of elements, but here we use it to talk about the benefit of learning how to move. When you’re new, you’re going to spend 80% of your time figuring out how to do something and about 20% of your time reaping the benefits. Then, as you keep at it, a shift occurs and you’re able to maximize your efforts. I experience this rule when I meet with a client for the first time. Our first session is pretty experimental as I learn what they’re capable of accomplishing. I discover their comfort zones and their limitations. On continued sessions, we are able to further maximize the time we spend together. We search for the ability to “get right to it.” By making the ability to get right to it, a goal, we identify the time we waste. In a sense, anything you do in a fitness environment that isn’t directly related to fitness is wasted time. It’s important that you don’t get hung up on the phrase, “wasted time.” Allow me to explain it this way: You’ve got 60 minutes to spend at a new gym. While you’re there you have to learn where the lockers are located, figure out where they set up the cardio machines, and the correct setting on the leg-press. Of your 60 dedicated minutes, you spent 20 minutes just figuring out what’s what. Which means you spent 40 minutes engaged in actual exercise. That 20 minutes was wasted time. A necessary waste – but wasted time nonetheless. The next time you go, you know where everything is and the correct setting on those machines. Here’s what’s great about the value of failure -you don’t fail again until you decide to Level Up. You don’t waste time again until you decide to increase intensity or try something new. I’m not saying that the wasted time isn’t important, but that’s not why you’re here. What’s great is that everything you did poorly yesterday, you’ll do better today, and tomorrow you’ll have the knowledge to pay forward what you’ve learned.

My favorite format for group fitness is “Each One Teach One.” For every person who awkwardly starts a program for the first time, we’ve got someone else who has been right there where they are. As a “newbie” you were answering the call to be accountable for playing with your kids. As you increase your ability in the fitness environment, we will give you the opportunity to be accountable for assisting new members as well.

There are two sayings that I think go together nicely: “The hardest students to teach are the ones who are already good at something” and “Good is the enemy of Great.” Remember that we seek to learn from failure, If you’re already good at something, you may have found a safe way to limit failures. You remain good and only good. To move the needle toward great, you have to leave good behind and start failing. No one has ever mourned being told they’re in great shape. If you’ve been told that you’re in good health, take that as a challenge. It may seem ironic that failure is preferential to good, but when great is within reach, the only real mistake is doing nothing. Everything else is an opportunity to learn, develop, and become great.

My hope for you is that between now and when my next article publishes, you will have tried something new and failed, and tried again. I look forward to celebrating with you the Power of maximizing your failure and the benefit of getting it wrong so that we can get it right, together.

Let us know how you’ve maximized your failure and what you’ve discovered.  How did you celebrate?  Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@ptfitness), and Instagram (@ptfitnessdfw). Share #myfailure so we can encourage and celebrate with you. See you soon!