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“So today, KT, we’re going to work to failure…”

Failure. Shit.

I stared down my trainer with definite wariness.

He’s a fifty-something black former Navy Seal who cuts to the quick both verbally and when he’s piling weight on one of the machines he has me using. His name is Vince.

I’ve never been an athlete. Never even really played a sport (except youth soccer and softball – where teams were made of various colors like Teal and Gold) or tried to hone my skills in a non-organized pastime (i.e. skiing or golf). I never had the stamina or the coordination to even try-out…except 8th grade volleyball, but that ended badly and I’m still bitter.

What I have learned to do to exercise and stay healthy is workout…I enjoy going to the gym and through that, I’ve come to appreciate the dedication that goes into manipulating your body to work towards a specific goal regardless of endzone or finish line.

I’m pretty religious about exercise and it’s for purely selfish reasons. If I’ve had a crap day where nothing seemed to click in place, I’ll go to the gym and pound my frustration into a treadmill and feel better. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. It’s a sense of intense satisfaction when I’ve finished a good workout.

The gym where I’m currently a member offers free training for your first month and then once a month after that. I signed up for a session with Vince and knew we’d hit it off when after shaking hands he said, “ready to cry?” then swatted my shoulder with a, “let’s get to work.”

We train…to failure. Arms. Legs. Back. Shoulders. He has me lift until I am physically incapable of raising my arm again. I’m standing there staring at it and it’s absolutely, completely refusing to move. Then he says, “do one more.”

And I do. And the day I told him I was a Redskins fan, he doubled the weight, adding five extra reps – he’s not a fan of that football franchise.

“OK, we’re done here.” Vince makes a note on my chart and I hobble behind him to the next machine to repeat.

At the end of an hour, my muscles are shaking with exertion. But I feel good. And I find myself fascinated with the fact that he says this is working to failure because failure to me means not accomplishing something, not seeing it through, a cacophony of negative. Yet he sees these failures as measures of success, as an opportunity to learn and grow and build – to eventually reach a tangible goal of fitness.

I’d love to be able to apply this thinking to life where failure actually becomes a means for creation, but I have a feeling that in most cases if a person (me included) hits failure more often than not, they’ll be unwilling to ever try again. Somehow, I’d like to get out of that mindset – and in ways, I think I am.

Vince pushes my muscles to failure and I come back the next week ready to do it all again. I look forward to working beyond what I think I can do to what I actually am capable of completing. So each week I work to this end. I add more weight, do more repetitions until finally I hit failure again.

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