Thursday, July 16, 2015

What if you fail?

I grew up with a father who inspired me to accomplish my goals.  Failure was NEVER an option.  If I got a bad grade, he worked with me to help me do better.  I remember sitting at my grandmother’s table practicing multiplication tables with him.  In high school, when I struggled in Algebra II, my parents got me a tutor.  Before I started my first job, my father said, “Remember, this is what they are looking for.  This is what you need to do.”  I never wanted to disappoint him.

This has formed my way of thinking.  As an adult, I have lived my life striving to be and do the best I can.  For months, when I started trying to lose weight, I did not give it my all.  I wavered in my commitment.  Part of me believed that if I failed, it was "ok" because I really did not try.  So when I finally went “all in,” I struggled with the concept of failing.  

There are so many inspirational pictures and sayings on Instagram about working out, nutrition and motivation.  Occasionally I see one about failing.  I am always like, “What are you talking about?” 
Failure.  This is a really hard pill to swallow.  The idea of failing pretty much is something I do not buy.

That said, I am beginning to get it.  There is a HUGE difference between failing and quitting.  When you are serious about reaching a goal, you often have to push your limits.  This means you will inevitably fail.  The temporary failures are signs for you to try things differently, to examine what needs to be tweaked or thrown out, so you can improve the next time.  This is true for exercise, nutrition, sleep, handling stress—pretty much anything you set your mind to accomplish. 

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
Psalm 37:23-24

Failure is not about giving up.  If you examine what happened, “Why did you fail?” you are learning a valuable lesson to guide you next time.  The fact is, you have to be honest with yourself.  If you are trying to lose weight and are not seeing the results, look at your eating habits.  Are you tracking everything you eat?  Are you eating too much?  Are you eating too little?  Are you consuming enough water?  Are you eating the wrong foods?  It is only with an honest assessment of what went wrong that you can learn to improve.

I am currently training to do the Ride to Remember, a 100+ mile bike ride in September.  This ride is important to me to complete, to be able to stay with the group, to accomplish the ride.  So every training ride is a learning experience:
  • Handling nutrition before and during a ride
  • Managing joint pain (not my knee, which is great!)
  • Keeping a decent cadence without exhausting myself
  • Climbing steep (and long) hills without feeling like I’m going to quit or die
  • Safely descending hills at a fast speed (using both front and rear brakes)
  • Handling the heat without getting dehydrated
  • Not giving up when I’m tired and want to quit
  •  I still need to learn how to change a flat tire!
 I learn these things from failures (and near failures) with every ride. Each ride builds my confidence and makes me feel more and more like I’ll be able to accomplish the Ride to Remember in September.  My first ride of the season, I did barely 15 miles on my old bike.  I could not get up the hill near my house and had to push the bike up a good portion of it.  I was exhausted when I finished the ride, but I did not give up.  This past Monday, we climbed a 416 foot hill on our group ride.  I had to stop to catch my breath along the way, but I got back on the bike (mid-hill) and started pedaling like, "Ok, here we go."  The group leader was like, "Tracey, look at you!"  Getting to the top of that hill was an accomplishment that left me feeling like I really can do this!

You can’t allow your fear of failure to keep you from moving forward.  

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Matthew 6:34

Step out on a limb, take a risk, go ahead!  If you are failing, you are learning.  If you’re not sure what you are doing wrong, talk to a professional.  My trainer has helped me figure out the nutritional part of my riding.  (I write about him here:  Dmitriy Made It Happen.) I would eat before a ride and came home starving, he gave me some practical tips that don’t mess up my macros for the day and get me through my rides.  Deborah from Competitive Edge leads the group rides and is teaching me about cadence.  You can’t be too proud to ask for or receive advice.  The professionals know what they are talking about; you really have to trust them.  If you don’t have a trainer, it is worth the investment.  Of course you can always research your particular area of concern and get a lot of good advice, just be very selective with your sources of information and sift out the bad information.  Anything that sounds too good to be true probably is.

If you can say you gave it your 100% effort, any failure you face along the way is only a detour, not an end of the road sign.  The trick is to persevere.

Side note:

*If you lift weights or are serious about body building, there is an expression, “training to failure.”  This is something I don’t understand entirely, but it is worth researching. has an interesting article about it here:  The Principle of Training to Failure.

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