Why it’s okay to fail

I don't win or lose.  I win or learn. 

It’s okay to fail. In fact, I say it to people in the gym all the time - I even encourage it.

Failing means you’re pushing yourself to the absolute limit, and it’s when you push yourself to breaking point that your body changes and adapts. The next time you perform that exercise or activity, you’ll find it easier; your body will handle the stress that little bit better.

And it’s this willingness to risk and accept failure that helped me through an incredible challenge over the last couple of months: a television show called School of Training, which has just aired on Maori Television.

I eventually found myself down to the last two contestants, and was ready to compete in the final challenge!

When it’s all on the line, lots of things go through your mind.  I had prepared well, but had I done enough? Was I really in the best shape I could be? Could I actually go all the way?

I was fatigued and I was nervous, but I was determined. The final challenge was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I went to a very dark place mentally and to this day, I am not really sure how I got through it at all.


The fiercest workout I’ve ever faced

This was our workout for the final elimination – for time:

20 calories on the assault bike 

15 pull ups 

15 burpees 


30 unbroken clean and press (with kettlebells)

30 unbroken kettlebell front squats

30 unbroken snatches (each side with kettlebells)

(Break penalty = burpees for reps remaining) 


5 x donkeys    

5 x wall walks (chest to floor, chest to wall)


10m farmer’s lunge 

10m rack lunge 

10m overhead lunge 


10m bear crawl x5 (forward/reverse)

10m crab x5 (forward/reverse)

10m gorilla x5 (forward/reverse)

30 overhead swings 


15 pull ups 

15 burpees


How it went down

I didn't win, but I did learn. 

I don't really want to re-live every moment, but I can tell you exactly where I lost it - those unbroken sets with the kettlebells ruined me! At the start, we were asked which weights we wanted to use. I could choose the 20kg kettlebells, making Donny (my opponent) use the 12s. Or I could choose the 16s, and leave Donny with the 8s. I choose the 16s and I’m glad I did – I might still be there today if I had chosen the 20s!

To be honest, I went too hard, too early. Donny had a lot of experience with Ludus Magnus workouts, and I wanted to establish an early lead and then try to stay ahead.

That worked for the first 10 minutes of so, and then I hit the wall - HARD!

Having never done a kettlebell clean and press with a swing, I was forced to learn on the move. I made it through 22 of them before breaking, earning myself an 8-burpee penalty.

Then came the kettlebell front squat… with these I thought I'd go 30 unbroken easy, but that was not the case! I lost them 8 reps in, resulting in 22 penalty burpees! I picked those kettlebells back up and battled for my life to get the next 30 reps. 

Snatches were next; I’ve done snatches with barbells and dumbbells, but never with kettlebells. The right arm was okay - 5 burpees I think. Then the left, well I felt like a baby giraffe - I couldn’t control the flow and it was like my arms were no longer connected to my body! At this stage, my heart rate was through the roof - I could see my MyZone heart rate monitor and it was all ‘red zone’ (90% heart rate max). That's where it stayed for the next 45 minutes of what I can only describe as the 'hurt locker'. 

My vision went blurry, my arms and legs filled with lead, and there was a buzzing noise in my head. At this point I realised, I'm no longer in this to win it - I'm in this to survive.

I thought about all the people who helped me get to this point and decided I would never give up. 

The rest was a blur. I pushed and pushed. I spent a lot of time on the floor, sweating, swearing, and gasping for breath. One voice kept pulling me back to the present – Jordan (one of the coaches). 

Step-by-step, rep-by-rep, he helped me through; his calm, reassuring tone giving me the belief I needed to get through. We were in it together, and there was no way I was going to let him down.

Without Jordan by my side there’s no way I would have made it through that punishing workout. He’s an amazing coach and a true inspiration. His ability to get someone across the line is something I will take with me for the rest of my life.

The feeling of finishing was amazing. I was broken, covered in sweat, and bleeding. I could hardly stand. But I wouldn't have had it any other way.

Yes, I’m disappointed I didn’t win. But I can wholeheartedly say I gave it my all. I left everything out on the floor that day. I nearly fainted three times during the course of that workout, but fortunately, my mind stayed in the game.  

I was beaten by an amazing competitor, athlete, and person. Donny absolutely rocked it, and, to be fair, kicked my butt! Donny – I wish you all the very best for your future as a Lanista at Ludus; it's an amazing opportunity for you to fulfil your dream. Keep influencing people and showing others that even if you are small, you can conquer anything if you really put your mind to it!


The support that got me through

I met so many amazing people on this journey, got to work with some Lanistas (coaches) I never thought I would meet, and made some friendships that will last a lifetime.

Joe, Hohepa, Jordan - I've learnt so much from you guys. Thank you so much for the opportunity - I will never forget it.

The contestants - I could individually go through and thank you all but I just want to say, what a wild ride! Stay in touch and keep doing your thing. You’ve inspired more people than you could ever imagine. If you’re ever in Christchurch, let's catch up.  

Nicole, Xavier, Tash, Adam, Zara and the film crew - You guys are amazing in everything you do; how you pulled everything together was mind blowing. Thanks for being my ‘mums’ when I needed a kick up the butt. This wouldn't have been possible without all your efforts.

My wife -  For putting up with me... always sore, tired, complaining, hungry. You are my rock and help me through my struggles. You seem to have an amazing way of making everything seem okay and you stop me from doing stupid stuff. 

Tony and Cat - Thanks for putting me up and it was great to meet the wee Ard-man.

And to my entire support crew - workmates, clients, friends - I couldn't have done any of this without any of you!


Where to from here? 

This experience with failure (on national TV nonetheless) has reinforced in me that failing is just part of the journey. If you view your failures as opportunities to learn and grow, the sky truly is the limit! 

I'll take this lesson (and many others learned on the show) with me as I continue working with my amazing clients. I love what I do; I couldn’t think of a better job than transforming people's lives and watching them grow stronger, mentally and physically – and failure is an important part of the process. Trust me, I know.

-       Reece #noexcuses