Fitness Failure? There’s No Such Thing

Pete Egoscue tells it like it is: If you’re focused on reps and perfect form, you’re missing the point.

December 12, 2017 | by

I won’t lie: the first time I came upon the Elev8d Spiders in a workout, I was scared to do it. I simply could not imagine that I wouldn’t face-plant. I was doing my workout at home on two dining room chairs pushed side-by-side, so it would have been into the dining room table. Still, my workout called for the Spiders, so I pushed ahead and gave it a shot.

And didn’t pull it off. I didn’t face-plant or fall—I stumbled, unable to get my left foot high enough to land on the chair. I recovered and landed on my feet, but on the floor.

I didn’t quit. I went upstairs and grabbed a small, backless bench and took it to the living room. I tried again, and even though the height was six inches lower, I still couldn’t pull it off. So I gave up and moved on to the next exercise. But after my workout was finished, I couldn’t stop wondering if my problem with the Spiders was physical or mental. Was I physically incapable of doing the Spiders? Or was I just too scared to jump high enough to succeed?

“Both,” says Pete Egoscue, Co-Founder of Elev8d Fitness. “They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, they’re mutually reinforcing. Physically, you were incapable of jumping that high. Your hip wasn’t functional enough.” And by functional, Egoscue means my hip isn’t moving in all the ways it should.

We have eight load-bearing joints—the shoulders, the hips, the knees and the ankles. Most of us do not have full range of motion in those joints. This is in part because we’re sedentary, but also because even when we’re not sedentary, we’re still not asking our joints to move in all the directions that they are designed to move. We hardly ever move sideways, or rotate, or do something approximating a backbend or a crab walk. As a result, the range of motion in our hips has become limited.

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I couldn’t physically do the Spiders, and my mind knew my body couldn’t, so I felt fear at the attempt. But when it comes to exercise and fitness, you never want to leave things at, I can’t. “From a design perspective, you can do the Spider. The body is designed to do it,” says Egoscue. I can’t too easily becomes judgmental, quickly turning into, I’m not fit, and eventually, I failed.

Such is the insidious nature of the measurement and expectation that dominates fitness.

“People go out for a three mile run,” says Egoscue, “and yet they only do two. They think they’ve failed because they were supposed to do three. But if I ask them how they feel physically after those two miles, they’ll say they feel great. Therefore, they didn’t fail. Same with the Spiders and Elev8d Fitness. People might do everything else in an 8- or 16-minute workout, but they’ll think they failed if they didn’t do the Spiders. Nonsense. If you do most of your workout, or even part of your workout, you’ll still have worked out and you’ll still feel great. So skip them today, and eventually you will be able to do them. Your hips will become more functional. Because the more you commit to doing the Elev8d workouts, the less you will have to skip.”

My hips are too dysfunctional for me to do Spiders onto a bench? “Then work up to it,” advises Egoscue. So I start with my hands on the ground and jump as high as I can and land with my feet just outside of my hands. Once I’ve get good at that, then I go a little higher, perhaps the curb or the first step of a stairway. “Eventually, the more you do this motion, the more functional your hip will become, and the higher you will be able to go.”

And the more fun I will have. Because that’s the other thing: the Spiders look like fun. It’s a fun move, like a cartwheel or handstand. Jumping is fun. We do it on a basketball court, we do it off of a diving board, we do it on a trampoline. We jump when we celebrate. The Elev8d Spiders are a jump and when I see people do it, I want to be able to do it.

“When it comes to fitness,” says Egoscue, “physical capability is linked to spontaneity and fun. The more we can do, the more fun we have, and the more open we are to doing more. It’s a positive cycle that reinforces itself and takes you to better and better places. The body responds very positively to lack of self-judgment. It lets the spirit play loose.”

So if you struggle with the Spider—no big deal. Do what you can. If you start by landing on the ground—great. Start there and have a blast. If it’s the curb, great. Start there and have a blast. Or skip it and do the rest of the workout. Just know that your body is designed to do the Spider, and you can have fun with the process that gets you there.

Elev8d Spiders

  1. 1. Standing at the side of a bench, facing the bench, bend over and place your hands palms-flat on the bench.
  2. 2. Pinch your shoulder blades together and jump so that both feet land next to your hands.
  3. 3. Hold a squatting position on the bench for a second before jumping back to the ground.

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