This weekend I competed in a Strongman competition. I was competing against people around 20kg heavier than me, in events that I had never attempted before, at an unfamiliar gym with unfamiliar equipment. I knew I was going to lose but I entered anyway. Here’s why...
● I’m not afraid to lose (or fail)
I can think back to a few times in my life that I didn’t do something and later regretted it. The reasons I had for not doing those things were predominantly that I didn’t think I’d be very good at them, and would look stupid when I performed badly or ‘failed’ (whatever that meant in regards to the to activity). How stupid is that?! These days I’ll pretty much try anything as long as I’m sure it won’t hurt someone I care about. I don’t really care about what people I’ll probably never see again think of me. And let’s be honest, they won’t remember anyway - nobody really cares how well I did except me.
● I wanted to try something new
There were some events at this competition that I’d never had a chance to try because they require special equipment. I am willing to place badly in a competition if it means I get to experience a new event. One day that event might appear in a competition I care about, and having the experience will be much more valuable than the feeling of accomplishment I might have in knowing I’ve placed well in all my competitions (even though I’d only entered ones I knew I’d do well in).
● Competition brings out the best in me
Even though I knew my best wouldn’t be good enough to even come close to winning, I knew that it would probably push me to a PR or two. Well I was correct, I hit PRs in 4 of the 5 events. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m at my best when chasing an ‘impossible’ goal - and trying to compete with bigger, stronger guys always makes me perform just a little bit better than I otherwise would.
● Fun and friendship
Honestly, I had a great time! I enjoyed testing myself and had fun trying the new events. I met some awesome people and made new friends. What’s not to like about that?!
OK Mark, but why should I care?
What I want you to take away from my story is this:
It’s OK to try something, even if you don’t think you’ll succeed
There seems to be a thing these days where people are afraid to attempt anything unless they’re sure they’ll succeed. I have a feeling this is because kids these days live their lives on social media and any failure is broadcast to the whole world within seconds. Well I say fuck that shit motherfuckers. Most of the time you don’t know what’s holding you back until you find out what causes your failures. Up until recently I thought the weak point of my deadlift was breaking it off the floor, it wasn’t until I loaded a supramaximal weight onto an axle that I discovered my weak point is actually the lock out - useful information that I
wouldn’t have known if I played it safe all the time and only attempted lifts I knew I wouldn’t fail.
The harsh truth
Nobody except you cares if you fail or make a lift. Nobody except you cares where you place in competition. I definitely don’t.
As a coach what I care about is your continual improvement. Every coach is different and I’m by no means saying that my way is the best. I do, however, believe that you have to learn to fail in order to improve. I fail at least one lift every week, usually lots more. The first time I was devastated, the second time less so, and now I don’t care. I fail so that I can learn where I need to improve. I’m definitely not saying everyone should go try to deadlift 300kg, but occasionally overreaching is definitely a tool that can be useful to drive improvement. Failing also doesn’t, and shouldn’t, have to mean totally failing to move the weight and/or injuring yourself. Often what I look for is the point that form breaks down. This type of ‘failure’ can show where your weak points are and what we need to work on next.
So next time you’re not sure if you can do something maybe you should give it a try. You’ll either surprise yourself or learn something - neither of which is a bad thing.
See you on the flipside. Whatever that means.
This late-night writing session was brought to you by aching legs and a bottle of red wine.
- Mark Boylin
Thank you for reading :)