“I can’t believe I missed that rep,” said J. “You know, I worked so hard for the past year and a half and have been progressively getting better. I’ve been eating right, lifting on a linear progression—trying everything bro.” J then walked away from the bar shoulders slumped over with a grimaced face, begins to strip the bar, and shakes his head.
We’ve all been there before—a missed opportunity for a new PR, the feeling of mental fatigue setting in, the feeling of utter defeat. As a personal trainer, it's tough when I don't meet a standard expectation. It's comparable to a trainee, binging on the weekend, a manager, letting a customer or two fall through the cracks or an athlete, missing a try. These are all failures.
What Is Failure?
Failure is defined as the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends; falling short. In so far as our training is concerned, fatigue is a part of failure. As Mark Rippetoe described failure in Practical Programming, “physiologically as a reduction of the force-production capacity of a muscle.
We often forget that we are predictably irrational creatures and mistake failure for inability. Interchanging them to mentally block ourselves from possible embarrassment (self-preservation)." It's clear that our ego needs to be checked.
Learn How to Fail - Fitness, strength and conditioning, failure, mindset, personal growth, mistakes, training plan, growth mindset
Ego is described by to Sigmund Freud as: “the portion of the human personality which refers to the “self” or “I” and is in contact with the external world through perception…responsive to and acts in the surrounding physical and social world.”
It’s something that most of us take for granted and subsequently do not cultivate. Cultivation means to promote or improve the growth of something by labor and attention. I relate to this particular meaning, amongst others, to support the idea that training and failure require attention and work despite our ego. It’s a process.
The Role of Failure in Training
Training, as Mark Rippetoe explains, is “physical activity performed for purposes of satisfying a long-term performance goal, and is therefore about the process instead of the constituent workouts of the process…resulting in metabolic and architectural changes that, over a period, yield a specific type of accumulated physiological adaptation.”
Learning to fail well will translate to a better training session and ultimately, as Freud explains, a “strong ego”: "having objectivity in one’s apprehension of the external world and insight; ability to follow resolves while choosing decisively among alternatives. Resisting immediate environmental and social pressure. Directing his or her drives into useful channels.”
Training consists of education, instruction, and discipline of a person or thing that is being trained. Your muscles need education, too. You know the poor posture that every smartphone owner develops. Those poor postural muscles need re-educating and once we choose to objectively fix the problem, the process of learning and failure begins.
My client taught me something about learning from my failures as a trainer and also as an average gym goer. Failure forces you to look within yourself, to find the “self” that can do what it is you originally set out to do. Introspection is required. The “I” must be tamed, cultivated by paying attention to form, stress levels, recovery, nutrition, and the amount of work being done. You must be disciplined enough to note metabolic and architectural changes and make choices based on them.
Let’s begin the process together.
How to Cultivate the Ego During Training
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