I was on the flanks of Mt Rainier on a brilliantly sunny day when Jake, one of the mountaineering guides who was instructing us on glacier travel, made a statement that, while specific to climbing mountains, seemed profoundly applicable to life in general.
“Always, always, always… assume that you are going to slip.”
The day was warm with no wind, the sky above a brilliant cobalt blue, blinding sunshine reflecting off the snowfields and glacier. Our group of about a dozen were standing in a rough circle, all geared up in climbing helmets, ice axes and ropes, heavy mountaineering boots with crampons, but with only sweaty t-shirts above our harnesses.
We were all anxious to dive into the meat of the training, learning how to survive in the high mountains and to rescue ourselves or our friends from crevasses and falls. But, as is typical of any training that is inherently dangerous, the instructors admonish their pupils about the risks and probable hazards that they’re sure to face at some point if they persist long enough.
These past couple of weeks, through the lens of weight loss we’ve been chatting about self-control, its power to positively affect our lives and how the lack of it can be the source of many of our frustrations.
Jake’s point that magnificent day was that, in the mountains we should assume that the worst will happen and be prepared for it. Couldn’t we extend that same admonition to our efforts to lose weight?
“Always, always, always… assume that you are going to slip.”
Who hasn’t started out on a diet or new workout program and not encountered frustrations, obstacles, or temptation? We might be sailing along smoothly for the first few weeks and making encouraging progress. But, we inevitably encounter some sort of friction. We get sick or super busy at work. A sleepless night or some bad news undermines our motivation. Sometimes, we just get bored with the routine. We miss a workout, then another. Or we abandon our self-discipline and power down a half-gallon of ice cream. However it happens, we have probably all experienced setbacks like this.
Sadly, too many of us abandon our efforts too early; maybe not with that first stumble, but after a few we get so discouraged that we throw in the towel and begin justifying ourselves to take the edge off of our disappointment.
But, what if we assumed… always, always, always… that we were going to slip???
We will have bad days. They’re inevitable. What if planned for them? We know they’re coming, right? How would things be different, if we adopted a mindset that viewed these expected setbacks as opportunities to strengthen our self-control rather than diminish it.

Isn’t it through adversity that we grow stronger? Isn’t it the resistance of resistance training that makes our muscles stronger?

So, why not change the lens through which we see these initial stumbles? If we can agree they are inevitable then let’s agree to not allow them to derail us. The strongest people I know, and by this I mean strength of character, developed that deep well of strength through perseverance. They expected friction, obstacles, missteps and stumbles. They mentally prepared themselves for these. They assumed, always, that they would slip. When the inevitable occurred, they simply dusted themselves off, refocused on their objectives, and got back to work. There was no wallowing in self-pity, no long periods of off-the-rails binging, just a quick acknowledgement that they messed up and a commitment to themselves that they’d keep going.
Just keep going. Learn from the experience. Refocus on the objective. Persist.
Jake’s caution to always assume that we will slip, brings to mind another powerful life lesson that one of my good friends related to me from his experience in rehab. Let’s call him Matt. Matt will wrestle with the demons of addiction for the rest of his life. He once told me that the most useful lesson he learned in his battle with with alcohol was…
“If you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery.”
More on that in my next post. Look for that under the title, “I Can Resist Anything, But Temptation.”
Until then, please let me know in what ways we can work with you to persist toward your goals and objectives. As I noted in last week’s post, we feel that our role as coaches extend well beyond teaching correct form and providing great workouts. The path to better health is challenging and fraught with obstacles and missteps. We there with you every step of the journey. Let us know if you’d like some company on that trip.

Paul Reilly

Paul is the Owner and Founder of MidStrong. He created MidStrong in 2017 to train men and women in midlife who are busy with work and family to build muscle and burn fat so they can look and feel better than they did in their 20’s. MidStrong is making Functional Fitness training safe and fun, and inclusive. He and his wife, Julie also own and operate MidStrong locally, their bricks and mortar business, previously called ACCELERATED Strength & Balance. It is a boutique fitness center specializing in training folks in and around Westborough through the challenges of midlife for more than five years.