The Only (Curse) Word Not Allowed in My Gym

I’ve been training people for over a quarter century. People say all kinds of things under the duress of training.  One client was a lovely, respectable lawyer lady who under normal circumstances was the picture of positivity and sunshine.  When I put her on leg presses, however, a rapid string of F bombs would fly out of her mouth.  It was hilarious because — well a string of F bombs is always funny to my stunted sense of humor, and because it was just NOT her.

No "C" Words HereSo foul language certainly doesn’t bother me.  I try to be respectful and not use it in my gym, but clients are free to do as they please.  After all, sessions are usually private, so have at it.

There is one word, however, that I just don’t tolerate because it’s a negative, grammatically inefficient, and most of all, self-cursing word.

That word is “can’t.”

If exercising is supposed to be challenging, and you’re effort is supposed to be all out (as in HIT), then “can’t” has no place in your training vocabulary. You are either trying, present tense, or you failed, past tense.  “Can’t” does not describe either of these.

“Can’t” means quit.  “Can’t” means is “this has become  hard, and I don’t believe that I have what it takes to even try to continue.”  It mean’s you have decided that you will no longer try.  You have cursed yourself to quit, and that’s just not acceptable.

I have had to break people of the habit of saying it.  For some, it’s an automatic thing that just comes flying out of their mouths.  It’s just drama that they have learned is supposed to be part of a workout, perhaps from seeing stupid shows like “The Biggest Loser.”  That training should not be full of theatrics is another blog post.  Just know that once the “C” word leaves your lips, your ears hear it and deliver the message to your brain: Halt.  Congratulations, you just gave up, probably when you were just getting to the part of the exercise that is most meaningful.

I do a demonstration for newbies.  “Do you think I can move this wall if I push hard enough?”  They usually look at me like I’m crazy.  So I explain that if I back up and get a running start, I may be able to break through, but I’d more likely break a bone as well.  But I demonstrate that if I get my stance, brace myself, and use all of my strength, maybe I will be able to move the entire wall over just an eighth of an inch.  Within a few seconds, ten maybe, I’m breathing heavy with effort.

So far, I have not moved the wall in the ten or so seconds I give myself to do it.  I have failed.  But not for lack of an honest effort.  And I have never harmed myself in the process.  How could I?  There are no moving parts!

Of course this is only to demonstrate many things about training with intensity, including the choices before you when the going gets tough.  The fact that an exercise is hard means it’s more valuable as exercise.  At the moment movement seems impossible, smart trainers choose to continue as if pushing against a wall.  Again, since movement has (temporarily) stopped, it’s the only chance you get to go all out, emptying yourself into an exercise, with little risk of injury.  Forget “can’t” be curious.  “Will today be the day that I do the seemingly impossible and move the wall?  I will not quit.  And if I fail, it will not be for lack of trying.”

No “C” word here please.

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