I’m trying some new things during this training cycle: lifting to my potential every week, lifting as heavy as I can without a belt, and asking more questions. This means there will be times I hit everything I try and times I fail. And for me those failures are teaching me more than my successes ever could. I am learning where I have weaknesses and what I can do to improve – I am learning to be better.
I haven’t always embraced failure. In fact, most of my life I’ve used the phrase “failure is not an option” as a motto of sorts. I would work as hard as I needed to work in order to achieve a goal I knew I could achieve. I rarely pushed myself beyond my comfort zone (though I have climbed many intriguing cliff walls and kayaked many rapids-filled waters) and I was OK – this meant I never failed, I wasn’t a failure. And being a failure is one of my biggest fears.
But at this time in my life playing it safe isn’t an option. I need (read: want, have the desire to) to push to do more, listen to the people coaching me that I can do it and I will be safe if I fail. Wow. Failing safely is something my many people have told me about but I couldn’t embrace. I couldn’t be seen as less-than and not in full charge of what I was doing. But I’ve grown in the past few years to see that failure is a learning moment – no matter where or how it occurs.
During my last training cycle, one of my coaches at The Movement Minneapolis (Mark, for those keeping track at home) would look at me and shake his head when I went to put on my weight lifting belt if the weight I was lifting didn’t warrant it (it was something I could do for an easy 3 reps). He was trying to get me to work on my core strength which would help me get stronger and be able to lift more weight. This was great, but I was still playing it safe – only putting as much weight on the bar as I knew I could lift successfully.
Over the last four weeks (Yikes! four weeks of my training have gone by already!) I have been working on doing my squats and deadlifts belt-less. This has made previous “light” weight squats seem incredibly heavy. Twice I have failed at a weight 40 pounds less than my previous meet PR – and I shouldn’t do that, right? WRONG! Previously squats at that weight were done with a belt. Now, without a belt I am learning that there is more I need to concentrate on – building my bracing technique, core stability, foot placement, and so much more!
(There is ONE caveat to this: I have never been afraid to fail at bench pressing because it is so new to me. But it didn’t mean I liked failing. I would still play it safe with the weight I put on the bar.)
Failing has actually expanded my horizons. I am comfortable knowing that when I fail I will learn how to improve and make myself better. This is true in my non-powerlifting life (really, is there such a thing?) as well. I’m still a bit risk-averse but I am experimenting with the freedom that knowing failure IS an option brings. I don’t dread asking questions, or doing something “wrong” because I will take time to learn and improve from all my experiences.
I’m excited to learn the next steps for improving my squat, which along with my deadlift has always been “easy” for me. To make them even easier is my new goal, one which will require more failures to see what works. Each failure points me to the direction of better, each success helps me question if I can do it even better next time.
As they say: Failure IS an option. And sometimes its the best option out there.