Thursday, June 25, 2015

Reflections on Failure

Reflections on Failure
How working out can train you to overcome failures.
I recently listened to a Diane Rehm interview with Megan McArdle about her life and book The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.

The roughly hour long discussion struck a chord with me, I’ve added the book to my must read list, but the conversation sparked some thoughts on my renewed venture, JKF Fitness & Health. In many ways, I would say I have at times wallowed in the failures I’ve faced during my early twenties to my now early thirties. Seeing how I have faced these failures and working with clients has really help me gain perspective.

For the over 8 years I’ve trained people, one of the most important keys to success and real life changes I’ve seen with clients was their ability to get comfortable with failure.

So much about training and competing is learning how to fail and push forward. Literally, there’s a term in weight lifting called “Go to Failure”. The process of repeating an exercise or movement until the body can no longer perform the act. 
I’ve grown so comfortable with this practice I hardly notice it any more in my own workouts, but I was always a little taken aback on how clients reacted when I asked them to do this. There was always a guttural emotional response of anger, sadness or frustration. A lot of “Why are you making me do this?”, “You just want me to fail so I look bad”, “I just can’t do this”.

What I quickly learned was how exposed people were in working with me to accomplish their health and fitness goals. It’s certainly never been easy for me to ask for help and place my fate into the hands of another, but in many ways that’s the responsibility I take on when working with a client. It’s my job to make sure that losing those last few pounds, building up their muscles, gaining control of their eating habits, or living a more healthy and balanced life isn’t another failure.

The best way I’ve found in helping to make sure that its not a failure is to get my clients comfortable with the idea of failing. We’re supposed to do 10 reps and you could only do 8, well that’s no big deal. Now we know what you’re capable of and we can work towards a plan and implement actions that will get you to those 10 reps the next time. Ate some unhealthy foods? We all do and you know what the added benefit of “falling off the wagon” of healthy eating is? You certainly have the calories/energy to burn during your next workout.

I constantly stress to clients, it’s my job to ensure you don’t fail and when you do that we have plan to overcome that failure. Picking the right weights, amount of reps and the correct exercises to achieve your goals is what I’m paid to do It’s your job, as proverbially said, to “Get up, dust yourself off and try again”. The path to health goals is not without turns and dips.
 There will be good days and bad. What you can take away with the right program and trainer is that sense of goal accomplishment and overcoming your “failures”. And hopefully, the end result will be a fitter, healthier body and a more balanced life

Personally, I know I have struggled with career success over the years. Eschewed from the typical post Ivy career path due to my own thoughts on a disappointing college experience that I believed left me with few career options or opportunities, I dove head first into the big dream of being an actor.

In retrospect, where things went wrong with the failure of acting was actually my lack of will to truly fail at the endeavor. To put it in a more positive light, it was actually a failure to truly commit to succeeding. The lack of commitment resulted in a string of freelance and temp jobs, minimal auditions or classes and years of existing and not progressing.

The silver lining of living this rather aimless existence, outside of the ample time to think and stress, was the cultivation of my interests in health and exercise into work as a personal trainer. It was a parlay of a desire to help and interact with people and some of the only real tangible knowledge I felt I had left college with. Not enough to spring directly into a medical education, another distant dream, but certainly something I could do in the interim to make a living. The surprise for me was when I actually started having an effect on not only clients bodies, but also their lives.

Which brings me back to the interview with Megan McArdle and my own reflections on failure and taking risks. For the first time in a long time, I’ve gone more in on dream/endeavor (JKF Fitness & Health) than I thought I could anymore. I have to admit it hasn’t been a smashing success, but I’m willing to lean all the way in to this potential failure to truly succeed.

Feel free to reach out to me if you have any thoughts or stories about your own failures. And as always, I’m available to answer your fitness questions or work with you as a trainer.


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