“I don’t know, can you?” Perhaps you had an English Grammar teacher like I did. You would ask a question such as “Can I use the restroom?” and the response would be “I don’t know, can you?” What accompanied was an explanation that “can” is an ability word. The correct word you want to use, my English teacher would say, is “may.” May is permission. You are asking permission. When you use “can” you asking if you have the ability to do something.
In the midst of becoming more fit, there are constant challenges that you come up against. The challenges may be in the form of particular movements or in the form of a heavier external load. It is unavoidable that you will come against these challenges. Indeed, part of the excitement of fitness and exercise is experiencing these new challenges and facing them head-on. The question becomes, how do we mentally process those challenges as we experience them. For example, this last week in the announced Open 18.3 workout, there were bar muscle-ups and ring muscle-ups. That posed a challenge for people. They ran square into a challenge of not being able to complete the prescribed movements. How do you face the notion of “I can’t do muscle-ups”? There is that ability word again. Can’t says I don’t have the ability to do something. What happens when we are faced with the “can’t”? What happens when we seem to lack the ability? It is easy to become frustrated.
How do we move past the challenge? How do we overcome the obstacle? How do we move beyond the “can’t” to the “can”? It is rumored that Michelangelo was asked about his work on the statue of David that he said he just chipped away everything that did not look like David. In other words the material was all there, it just needed to be refined, chipped away, until all that remained was the finished work of the statue of David. That’s all good and well, but how does this relate to overcoming those challenges and obstacles in movements or exteral loads? It is about mindset. It is employing a mindset that goes beyond “can” and “can’t.”
When we face a challenge the stops us and we think “I can’t” we are saying something about our ability. We are saying in our minds we do not have the ability or capacity to do this thing. However, if we start thinking in terms of Michelangelo’s statement, we unlock another dimension. Instead of thinking we can’t, we start thinking we can. We start thinking in terms of potential. Much like the statue of David, the ability is there, we just have to chip away everything until we get to the statue. How do we do that? We do it through training. We do it through repetition and practice. No longer do we limit ourselves in ability, but now we unlock the mindset of potential, believing that we have the ability to do great things, we just need to chip away through our training until that ability breaks loose.
Far too often we think of exercise and fitness in negative terms, but our movement and ability to exercise is a celebration of what the human body can do. Don’t think in terms of limiting your ability with a “can’t.” Begin to think in terms of having the ability, but work at refining until that ability comes shining through.