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It’s Not Failure, It’s Feedback

The title above may sound a little like pop psychology, but it also applies to the areas of health and fitness.  In regards to muscle building, I’ve been known to tell my clients “Failure is success!”(insert generous eye roll here, if you are anything like my clients….)

Working a muscle to fatigue (or failure) encourages new muscle fibers to grow.   It also requires a certain amount of focus and curiosity.  Mindlessly pick up a heavy iron barbell and bad things can happen.  It’s not simply the struggle that promotes growth, it’s the integration and comprehension of new movement patterns.  It’s through mindful repetition that familiarity grows and creates a new norm in the body.  Trial and error is not optional, it’s required.

Working with balance is tricky because losing balance is essential to improving it (and let me tell you my clients love this fact…).  The only way to train muscles to support the joints (as in standing on one leg) is to use those muscles to support your joints (by standing on one leg).  Wobbling (safely) is a great opportunity to notice how we can engage our muscles in different ways to remain upright.  Unfortunately this can only be achieved through wobbling (insert more eye rolls, and a few expletives here too…).

Have I ever mentioned I’m into meditation? (insert more eye rolls, and maybe a shutting of your laptop…).  Anyhow, this same theory can be applied to meditation.  What I failed to understand before I began a practice is what a practice actually was (not a constant state of blissed-out inner peace like I was hoping….).

It’s watching your thoughts and coming back to a single point of focus, like the breath.  Like teaching a dog to walk on leash, in the beginning the mind gets distracted by every passing squirrel thought.  The work is in noticing the mind has wandered and coming back to the breath.  Over and over again.

Eventually, the dog may learn to leash walk well and only get distracted for a hot second by a squirrel running up a tree.  Similarly, after practicing meditation for a bit, your mind may only get distracted by a few thoughts rather than running through all the lyrics to “Ice Ice Baby” (I don’t know, I grew up in the 90’s when music was fun but unfortunate….).

In all of the above examples, there are some times when you should get curious only after you stop right away.  While possible feelings of embarrassment over looking like a weak, wobbling, mind wandering fool (silence that inner critic, will you?) should never stop you, the following should:

-No Pain, No Pain: There is nothing to gain from pain except injury.  Productive and temporary discomfort (like “feeling the burn”) is normal.  Sharp, shooting, or intense pain is not.

-Notice Your Nerves:  While holding a balance or stretch for a period of time (like in yoga) tingling in the limbs is usually an indication that a nerve may be compressed.  Should you feel tingling, stop, readjust, or switch to a different pose altogether.

-Take Time With Trauma: When meditating, realize that traumatic life circumstances my require professional help before you are able to sit with them in practice.  While meditation naturally brings up a variety of emotions, you should never feel retraumatized by your practice.

For more tips, tricks, and musings on health, head over to the Joyful Gym Rat page on Facebook!


T says keep it up, you are doing great!

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