Frustration and Failure

Frustration is a common emotional response related to anger, annoyance or disappointment. It often occurs when we face obstacles to fulfilling a goal and is likely to increase when a goal is denied or blocked altogether.

For the sake of argument, I am talking about dealing with external causes of frustration - such as a new or very challenging physical task (although the same could apply to a cognitive task). When trying to learn a new and/or difficult physical skill, our bodies and minds struggle to process the unfamiliar sensory input. As a result, we fail. Again and again.

Our resistance to this failure is what causes frustration. 

Unfortunately, we are generally conditioned to believe that failure is distasteful and a sign that something is wrong. This starts from a young age and can come from many sources, including the media and education system. As a result of experiencing failures, we may label ourselves. We may say things like, 'I am not a maths person', 'I'm not creative'. When it comes to physical practice, we may say things like, 'I am not flexible', 'I’m not strong’. As well as labelling ourselves, many of us will give up altogether.  

Newsflash: Failure is also one of the best learning devices there is.

Giving up potentially means robbing yourself of the opportunity to grow physically and mentally, while learning something new about yourself (the main exception to this would be stopping the process due to injury, but we’ll cover that at a later date). One alternative strategy is to learn to distinguish between what you hope will happen, what will probably happen, and then, what actually happened. 

In this age of social media superstars, it’s really easy to get into a trap of comparing yourself to people who have achieved impressive physical feats. Jordan Peterson says: 'Don't compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.' He's right, except I would add that progress is not always completely linear, so let's not take 'yesterday' too literally. If you had a crappy yesterday, then look at last week or last month and focus on the progress you are making overall. If I am pretty bad with something today, it’s often the case that I am actually slightly less bad compared to yesterday or last week. Tomorrow or next week, that bad might even become mediocre. 

Let's take handstand practice as an example. Even with the right teacher, if you practice regularly you will experience failure so many times - especially at the start. You will get familiar with frustration. 

Rather than letting frustration completely define your way of thinking, just notice it, allow it, reflect on it or even make a joke about it. If you stick with it, you'll achieve the handstand one day and it'll feel great. Then that'll wear off and you'll find a new goal and be met with another load of failure and frustration. This stuff doesn't end! And it shouldn't. 

Embrace the failure. Befriend the frustration. The process is what is really valuable. 

Dan Živatović

Dan coaches Movement on Saturday mornings.

Why Gymnastic Strength Training?

Summer of 2013, I attended my first ‘Gymnastic Strength Training’ workshop in London, taught by Christopher Sommers. I’d known for a long time the benefits of training with your bodyweight, but didn’t fully grasp the potential until listening to Chris tell stories of his athletes. Some of his student’s never having touched a barbell before, deadlifting three times bodyweight on their first attempt! Incredible. 

How was this possible? Why is it these gymnasts could pull off strength feats respected amongst the traditional strength training communities, but regular strength athletes wouldn’t be able to perform anywhere near the same level quality bodyweight movements as the gymnasts? Well over the years I’ve realised it comes down to a few factors:

- Varying ranges of motion

GST will cover many ranges of the hips and shoulder girdle. The increased use of these ranges means the joints become more stable. And as we know, the more stable a joint the more power and strength it can express. Very few sports will need you to be strong in both shoulder flexion (arms above your head) AND shoulder extension (arms behind your back). But in GST we’re using these ranges all the time (plus more).

- Increased movement complexity

When increasing the difficulty of a bodyweight movement, we need to change the movement itself. Adding extra weight to the movement will only take us so far until we plataeu hard. But by changing the levers, or planes of movement, we can keep increasing the difficulty. So not only do we get stronger, but we also learn new skills and patterns. This is important, because as we learn new skills we also become better at learning new skills (so if we wanted to start a new hobby, or try a new activity, we’d adapt to it quicker than the average person). So for example, picking up a barbell with good form would be easier for our brain to handle. And because we’re already strong in the joints, we can then express that easier by loading that barbell up. There are lots of neurological benefits to learning new skills, and expressing strength easier is one of them!

- Open Kinetic Chain vs Closed Kinetic Chain

A lot of our GST involves moving our own bodies around an object, this is an example of a closed kinetic chain movement. So for example, holding onto a fixed bar and pulling yourself up. The opposite of that would be the Lat Pulldown in your conventional gym, sitting on a seat and pulling a bar to your chest (Open Kinetic Chain). Now the main differences include the number of joints being used and the levels of co-contraction required (multiple muscles working together). Closed Kinetic Chain exercises are a lot more demanding on the muscles and the body working as one unit, in a co-ordinated fasion, so it also stimulates your proprioceptive system!

So fundamentally speaking, this is why I love GST as a form of strength training.  It provides us with a good base to perform other activities, meaning we have more physical freedom wherever we decide to go. And it has all the physiological benefits as weight lifting does plus more!

Erdi Babili

Erdi is our Co-Founder and Head Coach and coaches GST on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays.

Flexibility v’s Mobility

How often have you watched an instagram video of some insane gymnast and said, “Wow, I wish I had her flexibility!” Or how many times have you felt some movement is just out of reach and said, “I’m so inflexible!” We use flexibility and mobility as interchangeable words that mean the same thing. In reality, while they are related, they’re not the same.

Flexibility is defined as the ability of a muscle or muscle group to be passively lengthened through a range of motion. Mobility on the other hand is the ability of a joint to actively move through that range.  Put into real terms, you can stretch for hours to achieve a nice flat forward fold but if you can’t actively get into that position, then your forward fold is only temporary and will be ineffective when applied to movement.

While we can have good flexibility without mobility, we can’t have good mobility without flexibility. Back to our nice deep forward fold on the floor, but now apply that position to a hanging toe to bar. You may have the hamstring flexibility to maintain that position when you get there but if you can’t raise your legs past your hips in the hang then you lack the strength in the opposing muscles to actively pull you into that position.

Achieving full active range of motion of the joint takes into consideration a number of things; restrictive muscle tissue, joint and joint capsule health, motor control and soft tissue health. Actively strengthening our end range combined with a variety of stretching techniques will lengthen, strengthen and stabilise our muscles, improving our overall mobility.

Consistency is key in mobility training. You might feel like you’re making little or no progress at all but over time, all those little victories add up to big changes. Initially it will be something you feel rather than see. Do a little each day as part of your warm up or cool down to your strength training, or in between reps as part of your active rest. Before you know it those leg raises will feel a little easier instead of feeling like lifting elephants.

When we apply increased mobility to our strength training, our muscles and joints will be better balanced and aligned, as will our posture as our range of motion increases. Better alignment means being able to complete exercises to their maximum, pushing further and harder. The central nervous system (CNS) will fire up more muscle fibres and more rapidly with continued mobility drills helping to build speed, power and endurance. 

Having active control over the positions we move through keeps us pain free, reduces injury risk, corrects imbalances, keeps our joints healthy and allows us to move in a way that looks effortless.

Ruth Woodside

Ruth is our Co-founder and General Manager and coaches Mobility on Thursday evenings at 6.30pm

Talent v’s Technique

A few years ago I spent some weeks at my brother's place in North London. The TV in the living room had Extreme Sports channel on, and different housemates would watch it on a pretty regular basis. Most of the stuff they showed was skateboarding and different disciplines of bmx.

In the beginning one could just not pass by the living room without feeling a force towards the screen. The awe and admiration at the different skills displayed there. The finest artistry and seemingly über-human performing qualities of most skateboarders, bmx-ers, etc was a reminder to us in that living room of the amazing potential of us as human beings.

After a while however, the same tricks didn't seem as entertaining. It didn't matter who did them, they all looked the same. They weren't as surprising or impressive anymore. Maybe because we had seen them already, or maybe seeing more people doing the same tricks made us feel that they were not so special after all. 

Yet, there were still a few times when a certain artist would blow everyone away.  I thought there were mainly two reasons for this: either he had plenty of tricks of his own that were therefore totally fresh, or somehow, his personality and style would shine through. Whatever it was he was different. And I knew it. I would remember his name and whenever he was on screen again I was sure he wouldn't disappoint. And he didn't.

I have now come to call this phenomenon 'Talent vs Technique' as I have come across it on many more occasions in my life. So many times in fact, that I just think it is a universal phenomenon in human artistic expression and creation.

I believe that in any art you need to have a minimum of technique to express yourself or otherwise you are at the mercy of your tools and you won't be able to truly shine through them. But I don't think they are totally related 1 to 1. In fact, if I had to choose between having talent but bad technique or good technique and lack of talent, I would probably choose the former. Of course if both are present then the result can be breathtaking!

Yet, 'talent' is personal, subjective. It is not as easily and objectively measurable as technique. It is not measurable in absolute terms. Even if you may feel that your expressivity as an artist/performer is improving or worsening, it is, ultimately, subjective.

So how do you train? Do you train talent or technique? Both? Separately? Together? Is that even possible? What do you think?

Guillermo Justel

Guillermo coaches Handbalancing on Monday evenings at 7.30pm

Recovery is Key

We can’t believe it’s already been 2 months since Move Hackney opened its doors! We know what it means to love training and to be in the gym every day, we also know how easy it is to over train and end up plateauing. It’s fine to move every day, but training hard day in and day out will impair our body’s ability to restore energy levels. We would like to take a moment to give some basic advice to help you make the most of your training so that the gains can keep coming and you all can stay injury-free…