Check Your Vocabulary

Posted: November 9, 2010 in ATTITUDE

One thing that always catches my attention in the gym is when I hear people say “I can’t.”  I got news for you – 90% of the time the person who just said it is a liar.  That’s right, I said it – THE PERSON IS A LIAR!!!  But, here’s the thing –  they don’t  know they are lying.  In fact, they have likely convinced themselves that they can’t do something that they probably haven’t even tried.  What a shame!!

The truth is that 90% of the time “I can’t” really means “I won’t”.  What is usually going on is the person facing unfamiliar territory.  So, their instinct is to back away.  That’s fine and quite natural. The problem is that this mindset could be exactly what’s holding you back from your fitness goals.

Am I saying that “I can’t” is never true?  Well, if you asked me if I could fly I’d have to say I can’t.   So of course, there are times when I can’t is appropriate.  However, what I’m really getting at here is that the expression  is used way more than it should be.  Not a little more. A LOT MORE.

Here’s an example.  In my family, I’m the gym rat.  My husband is way bigger than me but doesn’t work out anywhere near his potential.  That’s fine.  He has made his choice and I have made mine.  I don’t love him any less.  His favorite phrase in the gym is “I can’t” and it is the source of much irritation for me.  Nevertheless, one night we talked about his habits at the gym.  I explained that he could go wayyyyy heavier than he was lifting.  Of course, he didn’t believe me – I’m not a trainer.  He said he can’t and blah blah blah blah blah.  So, I told him, “Do me a favor the next time you are at the gym I want you to add 10 pounds to whatever you are lifting.  Also, when you thinking you can’t do any more reps, I want you to dig down deep and press out just three more.”  He reluctantly did it. Guess what happened?  That day he did way more reps than he ever did AND said he able to almost DOUBLE (yes DOUBLE) the amount he was lifting. See what I mean?

So, my challenge to all of you is for one week while working out DO NOT SAY I CAN’T.  It’s just one week.  Try it.  Here’s a few things that I hope will help:

1.  Think: What are you basing your “I can’t” on?  Have you ever tried? No?  Well, then how the heck do you know??

2.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Use your common sense here.  If you can really get hurt, don’t do it.  BUT, if the odds are in your favor, I’d say go for it.

3.  This is probably my favorite.  Try adopting this mantra: try it first, be afraid of it second.  Now people – be careful how you apply this one.  No  attempts to fly here please.  Again, use your common sense.  Let me give you an example of the type of thing I am talking about.  There are probably certain machines you wish you could use or exercises that you see people doing that you would like to try.  What stops you?  Fear.  The “I can’t” expressions start flying all over the place.  Not this week.  Try that new machine.  Give that new exercise a shot.  If you tried it and failed, then fine not every exercise is for everyone.  Move on.  But no whining unless you really tried, ok?  Most likely you will like the exercise.  Let’s face it – it already has your attention.

I’ve been there many, MANY, MANNNNNNNNNNNNNNY times.  I still find myself there on occasion.  I look at something and say, “Oh come on.  There’s just no way I can do it.”  Fortunately, my first personal trainer pretty much got me out of the habit of that kind of thinking real quick.  My mind still always goes back there four years later.  And, as a result, five seconds after saying “oh come on”, I always give the exercise a shot.  Nine out of ten times – I NAIL IT.  After years of these types of experiences, I actually find myself attracted to the “crazy” looking exercises.  SO DON’T SELL YOURSELF SHORT.  I promise you can do more than you think you can!





  1. Bill Murphy says:

    I would agree with you Racael. In our family my kids know that there is no such word as “I can’t”. We tell them you may say “I won’t” or “I don’t want to”. These put them at least in power. But, “I can’t” is not allowed. Great article!

  2. Love this! Especially the part about “try it first, be afraid of it second”. I agree that we usually end up surprising ourselves.

    I used to do competitive cheerleading and “can’t” was always said to be a bad word. A 4 letter word we weren’t allowed to say. If our couch heard it, there was hell to pay. I still get a bad taste in my mouth when I think “can’t”.

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