Getting Over the Can’t: When Your Mind is All that Matters

Clear Your Mind of Can't


Last Sunday when I was halfway through 5 sets of 15 barbell squats (apparently 65 lbs), my trainer looked at me and said, “When you’re done this, I’m loading up and you’re squatting 100 lbs.”


“Say what?”


“Well, you’re already doing 65 no problem, so I think you can do it. I know you can.”


NO PROBLEM? Easy for him to say.


My first instinct was to look at him with disdain and flat out turn him down. The concept of putting that much weight on my back and taking my butt to the ground was totally whack. I mean seriously, 100 lbs? Two years ago when I was in the throes of Graves Disease, I didn’t weigh much more than that (I still haven’t had the courage to tell you all about my illness and why one of my eyes is bigger than the other).


Believe You Can and You're Halfway There

Getting Over the Can’t: When Your Mind is All That Matters


But then as I stood there panting like a horse after a good race (because I wasn’t just doing squats I was suffering – joyfully – through a tri-set which included 25 lb single-arm dumbell overhead lifts and 35 lb kettlebell swings) I realized that he wasn’t going to take no for an answer. Just like the week before when I finished my box jumps and instead of congratulating me, he pulled out a taller box and said, “Ok, now jump on the higher one,” taking the next step was non-negotiable.


So I just went ahead and did as I was told.


And afterwards, as I stood there, smile on my face, after completing not ONE squat, but three, and not one set of three but two, and not 100 lbs but 105 lbs, I realized that the only thing had been stopping me from saying “Yes” the whole time was me.


I was my worst enemy. My greatest barrier to success.


Being truly poor at math and seriously athletically challenged, I have lived a life full of nos and I can’ts. My lack of ability in those areas has carried over into the rest of my life, and has often made me wary to try new things, take leaps into uncertainty, or to push the envelope (it’s seriously demoralizing to not be able to do a somersault. You don’t even know the half of it). Sure, a lot of my negative self-talk has been brought on by feelings of self-preservation. No matter how much I try to understand them, numbers are just a different language to me. And however much I don’t want it to be so, attempting complex dance moves or any sport involving a ball, rules, hills, ice, or other people is just not prudent (from a safety perspective).


But what I’ve recently realized is that I sometimes there ARE things I can do, even if I don’t think I can. That it’s actually my mind keeping me in my comfort zone and blocking me trying.


How did I figure this out? Was it some epiphany? An existential enlightenment? A spiritual awakening?


Not really.


It was a box. The box. The higher one.


As I said, the trainer pulled it out and told me to jump on it. It was literally ONE INCH higher than the one I had just easily (yeah, right) jumped on 36 times (classic 3 sets of 12).  I stood in front of it, and I stared at it.


“I can’t do it.” I said out loud. “It’s too high.”


“No it’s not. You can do it. Just do it.”


“I can’t do it.” I went to jump on it and stopped. I stopped myself. The can’t just stopped me dead. I tried again. I bent my knees and got ready. Then I stopped. All I could see was me NOT doing it. I was visualizing myself out of jumping on that goddamn box. That’s when I realized it. It wasn’t that I actually couldn’t do what I wanted to do, but that I was telling myself that it was impossible. I could literally feel that mental roadblock. Sort of like an emotional R.I.D.E.


I was having none of that. It was unacceptable.


I took a deep breath. I stared at that box. And I visualized myself jumping on it. I saw myself on top of it. Then I took the leap. And landed. On it.


Four months ago when I started this fitness journey I thought it was going to be purely physical. I wanted to get back in shape, to avoid the perils of sitting all the time in my bed-desk. What I didn’t realize that it was going to be a psychological experience too. I’ve become so much stronger (not just in my muscles – although I gotta tell you, my shoulders are definitely looking pretty good). I can do 10 push-ups. I did a half-moon in yoga class (and about 1 second of crow!) I’ve attempted pull-ups, I own boxing gloves, and I wear my bruises like a boss.


Plus, I can do this.



I think next I’m going to try jumping out of a plane. Or maybe not. What if I forget to pull the string. Maybe I’ll just learn to ride a bike instead.


Are you stopping yourself from being able to do anything?

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