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Educating Exercise: Learning to Fall

Posted by Adam Naylor  November 10, 2012 03:07 PM

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“We want to remember that had we waited until we could have walked perfectly before we made our attempts, we never would have attempted.”

This is one of my favorite proverbs on the mindset of success from the late Harvey Dorfman. It creates such a clear analogy for athletes about the value of accepting and embracing challenges. Standing with my nose pressed against rink glass while watching my daughter start her learn-to-skate program this sentence was bouncing around in the back of my head. It fits the fitness experience.

The rink was packed with children from ages 3-7 in various states of stress – eustress, distress, and everything in between - all about to embark on a new exercise activity, skating. Lesson number one for the young skaters: learn to fall. Such a terrific start, all the kids rolled around a bit on the ice and then expertly popped back onto their feet. After this initiation, the children marched from end to end of the ice. There was wobbling, falling, smiling, pouting, standing, stepping, and even a little skating. The foundation of it all however was falling.

In embracing exercise, how often do we hesitate because we may fall (or even fail)? When considering new exercise activities, we are all kids at heart. At the start, we are filled with various states of stress. “Walking perfectly” is kind to our egos… too bad toddler like tumbles and falls are part of initiation to exercise. Fitness is a learning experience and learning can be both energizing and humbling. Acknowledging this is valuable when stepping into new exercise or onto your next level of activity. Take your cues from the learn-to-skaters, embrace falling and you will be skating in no time.

NaylorMug.jpgDr. Adam Naylor leads Telos Sport Psychology Consulting and is a Clinical Assistant Professor in Boston University’s School of Education. He has a decade and a half of experiences working with professional through amateur athletes – of note: US Open competitors, NCAA champions, Olympians, Stanley Cup winners, and UFC martial artists. Beyond sports, over the past five years he has served as a corporate performance and wellness consultant. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ahnaylor.

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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