The Coach’s Perspective on the “I Can’t” Syndrome in the Gym
By Rana Wright
I see you. Don’t think I don’t. I see you standing back from the rest of class. I see the self-doubt in your face even if you think you’re hiding it. You are unsure of yourself.
I understand you have only been at this CrossFit thing for a little while. I hear you when you tell me you can’t do something like jump on a box. CrossFit is hard. It’s meant to challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. And, boy oh boy, does it do just that.
I believe you believe you can’t, but I won’t let you stay in that head space! Not today! Not on my watch! I am here to help you through this crazy hour of fitness. I know you can. Do you know how I know? Because I’ve had exactly those same days at the gym.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. When I first started CrossFit, seven long years ago, I used to say, “I can’t” all the time to work outs. I would cherry pick the WODs. Especially if they involved snatches, thrusters, or running 400m. I would make up excuses as to why I couldn’t do something.
I could list the excuses but really, they all boiled down to one thing: I. Was. Scared. Scared I would fail or drop a barbell on my head or humiliate myself in front of other people. I was afraid because I didn’t believe in my own self-worth or abilities.
I will let you in on another little secret. I cried on more than one occasion during and after work outs. Every time I went, I would tell my husband I wasn’t going back. But the very next day I would go back. I guess I was a glutton for punishment, or just a stubborn ass.
Let me tell you a quick story. I entered a little competition at the gym I was going to at the time. I had never done a competition like this before, so I didn’t know what to expect. There were 5 work outs that day but one work out in particular weighing on my mind the entire day. Event #5, the last event, was a zig zag run, 15 thrusters, 15 ring rows, then another run, 12 thrusters, 12 ring rows, run, 9 thrusters and 9 ring rows with 10 burpees to finish it all off and it was for time. Guess what I did!
I said, “I can’t” and I didn’t. I made up a lame excuse as to why I couldn’t and slunk off to the sidelines with my head hanging low to watch everyone else finish off their day. To this day I am sad I didn’t believe in myself – that I decided “I can’t” was the winner instead of I can.
Those two little words “I can’t” can get in your brain like a bad song you hear on the radio. (You know, the one you end up singing all day even though you hate that song.) “I can’t” is just like that! What if instead, you said to yourself, “Heck ya, I can do this”?
We tell others they can “do all the things” and we support them no matter what. What would happen if told ourselves this very same thing? I bet our mind would start to shift to “I can”!
Building the belief, “I can” is hard work too. Just like CrossFit. Here are some things you could do when you are in the gym:
- Take a deep breath and remind yourself, “I’m doing this to be healthy and strong”.
- Remember to smile and have fun because after all, even though CrossFit is hard, it is fun!
- Focus only on yourself and not on what others are doing. There will always be someone faster and stronger which is ok! As a wise man once said – “You do you!”
- Try your very best every time you hit a work out
- Listen to the encouragement of others around you. The beautiful thing about CrossFit is the community of people around you cheering you on and saying, “I can” too.
I changed my mindset to believe I could do the work outs that scared me. I went on snatch day. Now it is one my favourite movements and I know I can do it!
I know that you think that you can’t, but I know you can. You are here. You are doing it. I am here for you.