How Do You Move Past Failure?
Updated: Apr 8
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
Failing is a huge part of growth, making progress and changes when it comes to fitness. Yet, most of us are hard wired to avoid failure at all costs.
To fail is to be - weak? rubbish? incapable? embarrassing? frustrating? Who wants to feel any of those things?
Nobody plays a game to lose so why would anybody start a workout they think maybe they won't be able to finish?
Here's why failing isn't so bad after all. How to be OK with it and how you can use it to your advantage.
When you lift weights to your maximum capacity you will get the best results. Manipulating the amount of weight you use or the total reps you do is called progressive overload.
Progressive overload states that for muscle to grow and strength to improve the body must adapt to tension (weight/resistance) above what it has experienced previously.
What this tells you is that when you work to failure (in a capacity that is safe - you're working with a PT or have a friend spotting you for example) you are doing it right.
Pushing your body allows you to really understand just what it is capable of and how amazing it really is. Training your body this way is also going to help you take steps towards your goal to lose weight, get fitter, tone up etc.
This is what we're all worried about really isn't it?
You're terrified of picking up a weight, trying to lift it overhead and not getting even remotely close. In reality, nobody actually cares what you're doing. We are all so worried about what other people might think of us, we have very little time to be watching everybody else around us.
The other day I failed on a dumbbell bench press, dropped the weight on my hip bone and nobody even batted an eyelid. I, however, died inside a little bit.
I tell my clients all the time that when it comes to learning to lift weights, everything is a process of trial and error. Giving something a go and thinking, that's too heavy or too light. There is nothing wrong with that.
I see so many women who come for sessions that train regularly at the gym and don't lift anywhere near what they are capable of. They've started with a weight and they know they can lift it so they stick with it. This means eventually they stop making progress, whether that's losing weight or gaining muscle and they feel frustrated.
Don't get stuck in a rut with your workouts because you're fearful of trying to lift a weight and not being able to do it.
The golden rule is that in any set of exercises, if you're doing 8 / 10 or 12 repetitions of the exercise, the last 2 reps should feel tough. If they're not - try going up a weight.
When people try and fail a diet, it reduces their belief that they can succeed, lose weight and change in the future.
This is why so many people when they start a restrictive diet plan that isn't sustainable will end up eventually falling off the wagon. In order for something to be successful, it has to be sustainable for longer than a few weeks.
Short term transformation programmes work - they're tough, restrictive and require 100% adherence. They don't last forever.
My best advice when it comes to any sort of dieting is start with where you're at right now, think about what you're eating, how you're feeling and what your energy levels are like. Use this as your baseline and look at where you can make simple swaps and changes. Add in an extra glass of water or one less biscuit and try and maintain those small changes for longer periods of time.
A drastic overhaul to the way you eat will be hard to adjust to and near impossible to stick with.
Use it to Your Advantage
Remember that failing at one thing doesn't mean you're incapable of change. It means whatever you tried to do wasn't the right fit or was too much at once.
Take a step back, look at what happened and learn from it.
If you stay the same, in the same place, feeling the same way because your first try didn't work, you're allowing failure to keep you where you are.
Failing isn't absolute.
Failure can create personal growth if you treat it the right way. Look it in the eye and move on from it.
For anybody reading this who has been avoiding failure, pretending it never happened or feeling like a failure. I hope this has helped.
“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”