Fitness journeys are like relationships: there are ups and downs, and sometimes you want to tell the whole world about it and other times you’d rather ingest porcupine needles covered in ghost pepper sauce than even think about uttering one syllable related to it.
As with every relationship (see: fitness journey), there may be a disagreement or two that can result in some impressively colorful language and negative thoughts. Sometimes, we need to check in with ourselves and look for ways to improve the situation and experience. Words, for instance, are powerful and can hang around for a long time, having unwelcome effects that impact the journey. The secret is to redirect that power to words that can be helpful and encouraging.
Here are seven words that you should keep out of your fitness journey:
1) Can’t. This particularly nasty word creeps up on you without warning. It burrows in the back of your mind and sits in your throat ready to spring out at any given moment. And it’s embarrassingly easy to give in. “Can’t” should only apply to the things that you really can’t do. For example, you can’t shoot lasers out of your eyes at your boss/husband/kids/MIL no matter how hard you concentrate. You CAN try a workout or an exercise again tomorrow. If you are struggling today, it’s not that you can’t do something, it’s that you haven’t yet but are working toward it. You have to dig and find the “Can” within you.
2) Fail. Any form of this word, including failed, failure, and failing, should not have a place anywhere in your fitness journey jargon. As a cousin of the “can’t,” it harbors many of the same characteristics. The dangerous factor about this word is that it attacks your entire body and commandeers your persona, especially in its “failure” form. The power of this word is forceful and can act like a punch straight to the ovaries. You are not a failure and you have not failed. You are a work in progress. We all are. Sometimes we step forward, and sometimes we take a step back. That does not change who you are, and it’s up to you to stand your ground.
3) Won’t. This one is pretty simple. “Won’t” is the result of a choice that you, and only you, make. You are an adult and nobody can make you do anything you don’t want to do. You have decisions to make on this journey based on choices that will be presented to you every single day. There are people who will be your support team and those who might do some hand-holding and/or strong encouraging (such as an instructor’s enthusiastic shouting to “give me just five more burpees!”). When it comes down to it, though, you have to be your own cheerleader – you are your worst enemy and your greatest supporter.
4) Ugly. Unless you’re referring to an “ugly” squat or an “ugly” push-up (I’m guilty of several of these), this word should never be spoken pertaining to any single part of your body. Ever. There are so many body image issues in our nation due to media, stereotypes, and idealized “perfection,” — which is simply ridiculous — most likely making this the hardest word to remove for a lot of people. We’ve written a lot about improving body image here at The Sisterhood (and here and here and here), and we’re all very strong proponents that each and every woman is beautiful. Body bashing has become commonplace in our culture. The power here can be taken away (which may honestly take a while) by replacing words like “ugly” with body-positive vernacular.
5) Busy. This is probably the most over-used excuse in the book. You’re busy. We get it. We’re all busy. Between work or school or school plays or book club (or wine-tasting club) or pottery class or all of the other events on your daily calendar it can be hard to find the time to exercise or make healthy lifestyle decisions. Altering choices slowly over time may be the answer to permanently making changes – this includes food choices, sleep schedule, fitness routine, and mental health exercises. Alternatively, if it works for you, implementing these changes and sticking to them quickly might be the way to go (like ripping off a band-aid, but this will actually make you feel better). Life will not stop being busy. It’s about finding the time and motivation to implement healthy changes.
6) Next. Next week. Next meal. Next time. When does “next” turn to “now?” Taking the first step (or even the next step – ha!) can be scary. If you’re serious about your health and your fitness journey, you’ve got to start sometime. Make that sometime now.
7) Only. You can only run for 5 minutes. You can only do one “real” pull-up. You only lost 2lbs. Putting “only” before each of these minimizes the significance of what you can do. What you can do should be celebrated. You ran for 5 minutes and you’re working toward 6 minutes. You actually did one “real” pull-up and you looked good doing it! You lost 2lbs and you’re proud of yourself. Celebrating the small things should absolutely be part of your fitness journey. The recognition of these little victories can be just the thing to drive you to keep pressing on.
Removing these seven words from your fitness journey and replacing them with positive affirmations can change your mindset and the way you see your progress (because it’s about progress, not perfection). And, since we can’t shoot lasers from our eyes, anything we can do to help ourselves through the struggles of this fitness relationship should be given a shot.