There’s this funny thing that happens when I first meet people and we get to the part where we ask “So, what do you do for work?”.  More times than not that once people hear about CrossFit, they immediately tell me why the can’t do something like CrossFit.   The can’t usually has to do with an old injury or age or something along those lines.   Any of you that know me know that I’m not a salesperson and these comments are completely unsolicited, I simply answered their question about what do I do for work.

A recent interaction that went just like this made me think about what we convince ourselves is true about our abilities, our health, who we are, etc.  An old injury has become an identity – one of the first things a stranger is notified of.  It changes how one sees oneself in the world, what they are capable of, how vital they are.  This makes me kind of sad.  As a physical therapist and now the owner/operator of a training facility, I see all sorts of people with myriad physical ailments do any number of things that most would think not possible for them.   This interaction made me question what I have accepted about myself and challenge the words I use to describe myself.

I am extending this challenge to all of you.  Do you limit yourself with proclamations of CAN’TS?  Now, don’t get me wrong, there are injuries that are acute and need rest, so absolutely exercises should be changed/modified.  What I am talking about is the old stuff that has set up residence in our brains telling us we can’t which trickles down into how we are in this world.  The more we convince ourselves we aren’t capable, the more that shows up in all aspects of our life.   Simple changes in our language could make a big difference.

I’ll use myself for three examples.  Each example is slightly different, but demonstrates how limiting speech/thoughts are affecting how I feel and my outcome.

  1.  I’ve had two major knee operations from a skiing accident 16 years ago.  Until last year, it held up well.  The knee is now showing signs of severe deterioration, which was completely expected.  Things like lunges, box jumps, and jerks will flare it up to a point where I am not as functional in my daily life.  I can say out loud “I can’t do lunges ’cause of my knee” or I can say “Lunges make my knee hurt, so I am going to do something else today” or I can say “These lunges are going to flare me up, but I really want to do this workout, I accept the fall out”.  The latter two empower me, the first one makes me feel sad.
  2. Muscle Ups:  HA! For seven years I have been “working on” getting a muscle up. BULL HONKEY!  I can use the shoulder surgeries as my reasons why I haven’t gotten one or the fact I carry my weight in my butt or the wind was blowing the wrong way or whatever.  The reality is, I’ve seen people missing parts of their upper extremities do muscle ups.  It just hasn’t been a big enough priority.  Telling myself I can’t because of this or that is just keeping me comfortable, not being honest with myself.  The real reason is because they aren’t a priority for me and, frankly, they scare me.   I think it would be great to get past that fear, so here’s to another few years of “working on” my muscle up.
  3. Butterfly Pull Ups:  Saying I can’t do these because of my shoulder, again, takes away my sense of power or abilities.  I can do butterfly pull ups, I choose not to because of the risk is poses that other forms of kipping do not pose.   So instead of saying I can’t do those, I simply say it’s not worth the risk for me.   Being firm in this helps me stay solid when my ego starts pulling at me to do them because they are faster.  If I say I can’t, my ego can prove me wrong because I do in fact know how to do them.  If I say the risk is not worth the increased speed, my ego is unable to argue with that.

Listen to yourself over the next week and look for these proclamations.  Like, I can’t do a mile because I am a bad runner, I am too slow, I can’t do pull ups cause I am too old, or ____________.  Can you alter the sentence to make it more empowering?

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