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Gray: The joy of failure

December 17, 2012
Trina Gray , The Alpena News

I created a new, two-week fitness program for women at the health club. The goal? To fail. That's right. When I announced to the 33 participants on the first night their ultimate goal was to fail, I got a lot of blank stares (and probably some wanting a refund before they started). It only took 60 minutes to change their mindset. I'll use 600 words to change yours.

Failing is necessary to get stronger. This is physiologically true in fitness and absolutely true in life. But most people avoid it.

We never strive to fail; that would be uncomfortable. We don't want others to see us fail; that would be embarrassing. But what if the goal was to fail? Then doing so wouldn't be uncomfortable; it would be celebrated. It wouldn't be embarrassing; it would be exciting.

"Hey, give me a high five - I saw you failed. Great!"

The program I created, "Body Beauty," is a heavy strength training program for women of all levels, all ages and all abilities. Why? Because everyone can benefit from failure. One grandmother in the program was unsure if it was the right fit for her, but signed up anyway. She was the biggest loser of weight and one of the biggest winners of inner and outer strength. Another participant was a young mom who said she'd never lifted anything other than her kids. She laughed at the idea of lifting dumbbells, bars and plates, but did it anyway. She lost inches and discovered a new passion and new energy.

How did they do it? They failed - every song, every set and every workout. They lifted weights with great form and great focus. And when they could not lift anymore, they stopped and rested, even if others around them kept going. Some people would see stopping as failing. But these savvy women began to embrace failing as reaching a new limit, a new height and a new highlight in their day.

Some started to understand failure in fitness in a much bigger way.

"I am finding so much strength in learning to fail," said Amanda Pelleran of Alpena. "I got this nervousness about me when we were beginning the bicep set. The music started, and in my head, I said that I was scared that these weights were too heavy and that surely I'd fail quickly."

"Right then, It hit me hard that many times in my life I have been afraid to start something because I may fail, she said." "So, I picked up that barbell with all my might. I failed quickly, took a break, got a few more reps in and kept repeating the cycle of failing, resting and starting over. By the end of the song, I was smiling, strong and confident! In just three minutes, I learned something about myself and chose to conquer it. It's amazing how fitness spreads into all areas of your life! Conquering one fear, conquers many others. Thank you for helping me make the connection."

Another woman wrote to me, "During last night's workout, I wanted to give up. I am not a person who normally gives up, but in the moment, I felt weak. I've always considered myself a competitor, but I found something that I can't actually win. That bothered me. On my drive home, I thought really hard and realized that I need to encourage myself and not to be so hard on myself, not just in fitness, but in life. There can be joy and pride in failure. So I am focused, pumped, and ready to continue my journey!"

You will learn to embrace failure when you learn to pursue it. Give so much energy, that you inevitably need to refuel. You're still farther ahead. Encourage yourself to harness the strength in failure. Don't blame others for your weaknesses. Just focus on yourself. Get off the couch, get away from the computer, go walk, jog, run, lift, jump anything. Stopping for a break is better than never starting at all.



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