Paul Robinson recommends expecting failure as part of the process in reaching fitness goals.

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The road to shapely thighs and tighter arms is a winding one. Pitfalls, sidetracks and detours derail the best of us with constant temptations. The path to ice cream, on the other hand is a straight line with a hard right at the fridge.

As frustrating as stop-and-go progress can be, the ultimate prize comes from getting back up after a setback, which can be difficult when the immediate rush of chocolate fudge brownie fogs the long-term vision of better health.

I was listening to an interview with motivational speaker David Goggins the other day. David was an abused, overweight kid with no prospects who became (among other things) an ultra-distance athlete, Navy SEAL and world record holder.

David’s message speaks to the pain of getting up when everything is telling you to stay down. His story is riddled with defeat (he went through grueling SEAL Hell Week twice). In fact, his success was based on a series of failures.

Many people who achieve incredible success follow messy, non-linear paths.

David didn’t shape muscle and stamina, he built perseverance. Not the glamorized determination you see in movies, where the hero grits their teeth and wins the day, his path was one mired in frustration, demoralizing insecurity and struggle.

“Great story,” you say, “I’m definitely not doing what that guy did!” Nope, neither am I, but there’s a lesson for anyone trying to improve their health. The lesson isn’t ‘suck it up’ or ‘stop being lazy.’ The message is threefold: expect failure, regroup when you’re down, and keep going.

Expect failure

We all have high hopes and determination the Sunday night following a weekend of debauchery. ‘Starting tomorrow I’m going to work out five times a week and eat lettuce.’

Sorry to burst your bubble but no, you’re not. By Wednesday, five turns to none and salad turns to fries.

Hint: High hopes and dreams of weight loss grandeur often end in weight gain. Many of our successful clients break this cycle by realistically planning biweekly workouts with few dietary changes. Aim low and expect failure.

Practice and consistency turn twice-a-week workouts to three and four.

Success in the gym eventually translates to restraint at the dinner table and lower numbers on the scale.


Bless me father for I have sinned; I just ate a pie.

Hint: As trainers, we spend Mondays vetting the confessions of weekend indulgences.

Going off the rails and regrouping should be part of any fitness plan. If not, failure will put a quick end to pious efforts.

Be realistic. Successful people view failure as a learning tool, not a reason to give up. What went wrong? What could you have done differently? How do you prevent future missteps?

Maybe your slip was inevitable and the solution is as simple as putting it in the past and moving on. In that case, say three Hail Marys and return to the path of righteousness.

Keep going

‘I was doing well but things at work got a little crazy.’

Hint: Life has a way of disrupting healthy eating and exercise. Sorry to break it to you but life is healthy eating and exercise. It’s all the other stuff that needs adjustment.

People who succumb to the stresses of everyday life end up with coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a host of other ailments — just like everyone else. When you’re surrounded by sickness, it becomes the norm.

Don’t let negative influences soften your resolve. Surround yourself with enablers and keep going. Don’t think, just do! Toss the fast food leftovers, pack your gym bag, and whatever you do, don’t base your next workout on whether you feel like it. The good feeling comes after.

Beating yourself up after failure does little to move you forward. Despite bumps along the way, winners stay the course. As David Goggins suggests, ‘You can’t start a fire by lighting a log. Think of small accomplishments as kindling. Over time, they fuel the big ones.’

Paul Robinson has enjoyed 30 years as a personal trainer, executive, speaker and consultant in the fitness industry. He owns Kneifel Robinson (KR) Personal Training, with his partner Monica Kneifel Robinson, serving St. Albert & Edmonton. KR specializes in helping beginners, Boomers and gym-phobics achieve success in-studio and online. You can reach them at [email protected];



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