How to Fail Your Way to Success at Exercise

How to Fail Your Way to Success at Exercise

I bet you don’t remember when you took your first steps, but I can guarantee you fell down. A lot. You failed at walking. And talking. And using a spoon.

You didn’t know what failure meant then, so you kept on trying until you succeeded. So why as adults do we resist continuing to try after a few failed attempts at something? Our culture has taught us at a young age that failure has to be avoided at all costs. But there is another way to look at failure: as something we can use to our advantage in our journey toward growth and success.

Failing your way to a successful exercise routine

Let’s consider exercise as an example. Everyone knows exercise is a fundamental part of a healthy lifestyle, not just for physiological fitness but for mental and emotional fitness as well. When you feel good about your body, everything in life tends to fall into place. You look better so you eat better. You eat better so you feel better so you perform better. It’s all very synergistic.

But finding the perfect exercise routine takes a lot of trial and error. Or, put another way, it takes a lot of failure.

My relationship with failure in school

I used to be ashamed of failure as much as anyone else. At school, Field Day filled me with dread. Having a distinct lack of athletic ability, I knew I’d be overlooked by the team captain for every event. I believed I had no skill and no talent in any sport and plotted to be conveniently ill so I could hide out in the nurse’s office all day. I felt weak and unpopular.

Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment someone told me I was no good at sports. I internalized that belief and from that point forward believed I was simply no good at anything athletic. Trying to develop and stick to an exercise routine was a chore instead of the healthy choice it should’ve been.

Obesity as a growing global problem

I’m not the only one who felt this way as a kid. According to the World Health Organization, obesity rates have nearly tripled since 1975 across the board for all age groups. Most notably, over 340 million children and adolescents aged 5-19 were overweight or obese in 2016.

It’s also no surprise that exercise has been slashed from school curriculums worldwide. This short-sighted decision has bred a generation of students that are unaware of the importance of exercise and unaware of how to incorporate the habit of exercise into their daily routine.

Obesity rates continue to climb as people become more and more sedentary every generation. So how can we reverse this dangerous trend? I can’t speak for the whole of society, but I can share how I was able to start leading an active lifestyle in my own life.

How I changed my relationship with failure

As I grew up and chose my occupation, I discovered I loved food. I loved to learn about it, make it, and most of all, eat it. I became fascinated with the concept that food was fuel for my body, so I learned about the best fuel for my body and how it could nourish and heal me.

I knew I needed to incorporate exercise into my daily life, but I didn’t want to feel miserable doing it or ashamed for not doing it. I needed to adjust my perception from an expectation of perfect athletic performance to one of just showing up and seeing what happened.

I tried everything: group aerobics, softball, basketball, spin classes, you name it. But still, I resented having to ‘show up’ for something that I wasn’t genuinely looking forward to. I wanted to have fun at getting fit, but first I had to figure out how to reframe my own concept of failure.

Seeing failure as part of the process and accepting it as an inevitable instead of something shameful let me try new things without so much pressure on myself. Eventually, I found the type of exercise that is exactly my jam: running. I’m proud to say I have competed in multiple 5K runs over the last 25 years.

Find Your Jam

Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you find your jam:

  • What did I love to play as a kid? Kickball? Softball? Or did I like dancing in my room all by myself, or riding my bike?
  • What time of day am I most active? What does my schedule look like? Am I an early bird or a night owl?
  • Am I a competitive person or do I just want to have fun? Sometimes the best exercise is when you don’t even know you are doing it. Team sports like soccer, baseball, volleyball, hiking, and even dancing fall into this category.
  • How much time do I want to devote to exercise? Do I want to work out daily or a few times a week? What can I genuinely commit to for optimum results?
  • Do I want to exercise alone or in a group? Am I happier in a group or do I prefer ‘lone warrior’ pursuits like the bike or the track or the treadmill?
  • What does my budget look like? Can I afford things like gym or team fees, uniforms and equipment?

The key here is to focus on the process, not the end goal.

Try something. Fail at it. Fail at it repeatedly until you find the program that works for you.

Failure is not a bad thing, it simply means you haven’t found the solution or process that works for you yet. This theory can (and should) be applied to every aspect of your life. If you never try, you will always fail. Yet with every failure, you are closer to a victory. It’s the process that counts.

As NBA All-Star Michael Jordan so famously says, “The key to success is failure.” So keep trying, and keep failing. And keep on keeping on!

Shannon Llewellyn is the health writer for Universal Owl. A Cordon Bleu chef who always enjoyed writing on the side, she recently made the transition into writing full-time.

Her spare time is mostly taken up with running, meditating, yoga, and being grandma to Sammy.

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Prepped for Success: How To Meal Prep If You’re a Young Person Who Can’t Cook

Prepped for Success: How To Meal Prep If You’re a Young Person Who Can’t Cook

When it comes to starting your day, you probably set your alarm, get up, brush your teeth, dress and grab a bite (hopefully!), and hustle out the door to tackle your day. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re developing lifestyle habits. These habits set the tone for how you manage your time and energy for the rest of the day.

How Do You Prepare for Your Day?

You may not realize it, but the way you do anything is the way you do everything.

If you start your day by sleeping in as long as possible, spending 2 minutes in the shower and wolfing down a sandwich, you’re probably going to carry around that feeling of being rushed with you for most of the day. Fortunately, there’s a more relaxed way of doing things.

Ever heard of meal prepping?

What is Meal Prepping?

Meal prepping simply refers to preparing food before you need it. Usually, you’ll prepare food in bulk to make your life easier. Getting into the habit of meal prepping eliminates the impulse to grab unhealthy junk food when you are feeling hungry or exhausted.

Meal prep standardizes portion sizes, saves you time, money, and all the precious energy it would normally take you to find something to eat. It’s already there in the fridge or the pantry ready for you to prepare and chow down.

My story

As a chef and single parent, I can’t stress enough the importance of meal prepping. Knowing what’s already prepped and waiting in the fridge made my evenings less stressful when I got home from work when the kids were hungry but there was still homework and baths and getting ready for the next day to be done. So many tasks before bedtime!

Better yet, as my kids grew up, they developed the meal prepping habit too. These days, as full-fledged adults, each one of them meal preps in order to ace their own days. Again, meal prepping saves time, money, and the precious energy you need for slaying your day.

Rev-Up Your Engine

Imagine your body is a luxury vehicle. Would you put low-quality petrol in your high-end Maserati? No? Then why would you put cheap, processed junk food in your body and expect it to perform at its best? It’s a matter of basic self-respect.

Meal-prepping takes the guesswork out of what’s on the menu at the end of the day. Simply grab and go from your own fridge or pantry. Eat better, feel better, perform better.

How to Meal Prep

Figure out what part of your day needs streamlining. Is it your morning routine or the evening hours that stress you out? Is it both? No problem. Meal prep doesn’t have to be a chore. In fact, you can learn to enjoy taking that one-or-two hour period each week to do your prepping.

If you live with roommates, enlist the help of a ‘meal prep buddy’ to split costs and labor and share ingredients. Maybe you’ll buy the zucchini and they’ll buy the tomatoes, and share portions of the meat and the beans. Listen to some music or a podcast, or watch a movie while you wash, chop, dice, and package food for the upcoming week.

What Meal Prepping Style Fits Your Lifestyle?

Are you someone who often arrives home late from school or work feeling ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry)? Then you’ll like to prepare complete meals ready to cook from the refrigerator or freezer. Just reheat your meal in the microwave or on the stovetop, and dinner is served.

Do you smack the snooze button on your alarm every morning to get those last few precious minutes of sleep? Then batch cooking is for you. Separate a large batch of food into individual portions for early morning breakfasts. Oatmeal is a favorite ingredient for this type of prepping, and it works for rice, pasta, beans, and veggie sides too.

If you fancy yourself a bit of a gourmet, you can still meal prep individual ingredients and then pull them together when you are ready to cook. Splash some balsamic vinaigrette or use some seasoning or spices, and you’ll have a different meal every day with the same basic ingredients.

What Do I Need for Meal Prepping?

If you’re thinking you’re going to need to be a rich kid to pull this off, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. You’ll be able to get started with meal prep even if you’re living on a tight budget. In fact, it will probably end up saving you money. So check out our shortlist of the things you’ll need:

  • Firstly, food, obviously! Meat, veggies, beans, oatmeal, anything that you know you’ll eat.
  • Zippered freezer bags in gallon or quart sizes or airtight containers to put your prep in.
  • A thick-tipped black marker is necessary for labelling the bags and containers with the item and date you prepped. Most prepped food keeps about a week in the refrigerator and up to two months in the freezer.

Here are some easy, economical ingredients for meal prep menus:

  • Animal products like chicken, beef, pork, fish or seafood.
  • Vegetables like potatoes, squash, spinach, tomatoes, mushrooms, or peas. Anything that you like and is versatile enough to go into a variety of dishes.
  • Starches like rice and pasta. Both are excellent foundations for future meals or a meal on their own.

Sample Prep Recipes

Seasoned Chicken Bites:

  • Purchase some skinless chicken thighs.
  • Cut each thigh into smaller pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place seasoned, raw chicken in individual portion zippered bags and place in the fridge.
  • To cook, simply saute the chicken pieces in a frying pan with a little olive oil, butter, or bacon grease — whatever you have on hand.
  • Or, to save even more time, cook the chicken pieces in advance and once they are cooled, portion them into bags. Simply reheat when you’re ready to eat!

Breakfast Smoothies:

  • Cut up a variety of fruits in zippered bags and freeze.
  • When you’re pushed for time, throw a few frozen pieces of fruit into a counter-top blender along with some milk and whiz away.
  • You’ll end up with a quick and healthy snack for breakfast on-the-go or a last-minute study session.

Final Words

Adulting means being in charge of your time, energy, and resources. Meal prepping is the kind of habit that, once in place, will benefit you not only during these hectic years of ‘figuring it out’ but for the rest of your life. Just ask my kids.

Shannon Llewellyn is the health writer for Universal Owl. A Cordon Bleu chef who always enjoyed writing on the side, she recently made the transition into writing full-time.

Her spare time is mostly taken up with running, meditating, yoga, and being grandma to Sammy.

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