Failure. What an ugly word. If you are anything like me, you don’t enjoy failing. But like taxes and death, failure is inevitable. That is, unless you aren’t really trying at all, but no one ever got anywhere without taking risks here and there either. But regardless, it can feel embarrassing, devastating and debilitating. Finding the motivation to move on can seem near impossible some times. In the first of a two-part blog, I'll talk about how to stay positive during a bad period, and next time I'll share some ways to accomplish this goal.
TURNING A BAD DAY INTO GOOD ENERGY
And, if you are anything like me, you know that you have good days and bad days in the gym (or on the road, pool, trail, etc.). Sometimes the bad days can be really bad- enough to make you question why you ever started working out in the first place. The weights feel heavy; you don’t run very fast; everything just feels “off”.
I recently had one of these days when I went to do an 8-mile obstacle course race on a mountain. I knew it would be a challenge, but after the first climb, I knew it was going to be a downright grind for the rest of the day. Ultimately, the race didn’t get any easier and I ended up throwing in the towel somewhere around mile 5, which by the way, took me about 4 hours to reach (yes, it was that bad.) I returned home covered in mud, sore, with no medal to show for my efforts.
It would have been very easy for me to engage in negative self-talk. After all, those months of training seemed like all for naught. I was prepared, but on that particular day, things just didn’t go my way. And sometimes they don’t and that’s ok. And that is just it; sometimes, poor performance happens even when we try our best. Yes, there were things I could have done better, things that were out of my control and things that actually did go right. I now know where I need to focus my training so the next time around the mountain won’t get the best of me.
Have a short memory
The important thing is not to dwell on failure even though it feels natural to us. After all, we are hardwired to focus on the negative because, on a primal level, it warns us of danger and triggers our fight or flight response. As a means of survival, avoiding negative experiences and minimizing risk are things we do best. In fact, negative experiences trigger such a strong chemical response in our brains that they get imprinted on the brain more easily than positive experiences. This makes the negative experience seem that much worse to us, making it hard to ignore. In exercise and sport, however, this causes us to play tentatively, beat ourselves up unnecessarily and not perform our best. Overriding this response can be very difficult, and takes a lot of practice. In my next post, I'll share five things to do when failure strikes to help keep you positive.