Willpower workout 9: Going beyond failure

Willpower Workout #9: Going Beyond Failure

September 3, 2020

We called this challenge Explore Your Limits because we wanted to gain a better understanding of what our true limits are. We often stop short of our true limits because we believe we have reached our limits. In his book, Faster, Higher, Stronger, Mark McClusky explains how perception limits us:

“…Overall, it seems that exercise performance is ultimately limited by perception of effort rather than cardiorespiratory and musculoenergetic factors.”

If this is true, then how do we determine our true limits?

We must flirt with our perception of our limits and pressure ourselves to go beyond them. When we do – and don’t worry, you will – you’ve permanently altered your perception of your limits. You’ve drawn a new line in the sand. That line still may not represent your true limits, but at least it’s closer.

This workout is designed to help you flirt with your “limit line,” to adjust it out further.

Why is this a willpower workout? Because when you near what you think is your limit, you’ll want to quit. Everything inside of you will want to give up. There is a reason you want to give up when you near your limits. It’s uncomfortable, even painful. Will power and its cousin grit are necessary to push you past your perceived limits to get closer to your real limits.

Day 9 Willpower Workout:

  1. Start this workout during the first part of the day.
  2. Pick a bodyweight exercise you can do a moderate number of times (5-50) or for a moderate duration of time (1-5 mins). I will be doing push-ups. You could do planks, pull-ups, chin-ups, wall-sits, sit-ups or another exercise of a similar nature.
  3. Now do that exercise as many times as you can until you physically fail to be able to do it anymore. For example, if you’re doing push-ups, you’ll know you’re done when you collapse to the floor.
  4. Write down how many repetitions you did or your duration.
  5. Wait 20-60 mins.
  6. Do the exercise again and do whatever you can to do more repetitions or a longer duration than you did in step 3 (while trying to keep your form).
  7. Write down your repetitions or duration for step 6.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 four more times so that you’ll have completed 6 sets of this exercise by the end of the day. Each time, do whatever you can to increase your repetitions or duration.

If you’ve read all eight steps before starting step 3, you may be tempted to take it easy on your first set so that it will be easier for you to increase your repetitions or duration each time. Don’t do that!

Evaluating Your Workout:

1. During the first set (step 3), were you able to do more than you thought you could?

2. If so, what do you think enabled you to do so?

3. Were you able to increase your repetitions or duration each time?

4. If so, consider what this means about your perception of your limit?

What we’re trying to get at here is that logic would suggest that you would do worse each time because you’ll get more fatigued over the course of the day. If you’re able to do more, this likely means that your perception of your limit was stopping you short and you were able to stretch that perception each time.

5. Where in your life are you stopping short because you believe you’ve reached your limit, but having done this, you realize now that you haven’t? Consider the past 8 workouts.

Willpower Workout in Action:

Stay tuned for my attempt to go beyond failure in number of push-ups. Subscribe to our YouTube channel to be notified when it comes out.

This is day 9 of a 40-day journey to explore your limits. If you’d like to receive a daily email with the willpower workout of the day, you can sign up here to start at Day 1 with the first workout:

If you’d prefer to jump in where Matt is right now and then make up the other workouts on your own schedule, sign up here:

Past Workouts: