We need to talk about some of the language that I’ve been hearing in the gym.  I’m not talking about exclamations of frustration when you lose your balance or drop a kettle bell.  I’m talking about crud e words, gutter-talk, locker-room language, foul language, verboten verbage.  I’m talking about the kind of language that would inspire George Carlin to do a monologue about the 7 dirty words that NEVER, EVER belong in a gym.


 Here is my list.

Should, wuss, right, can’t, usta-could, outta-shape, and bad.

Should sounds like a word that ought to be OK.  If all were right in the world, I should be able to bench press my own weight, touch my toes, run a 6 minute mile, hike 20 miles in a day, or see lines in my abs; Right? NO!!! “Should” is a value judgment.  “Should” is the movie in your head; “Should” is the way you think things “ought” to be.  But where did this picture come from?  Advertising agencies, television executives, and people who sell beauty magazines created it to point out every place that you are not a rock star, not a movie star, size 2, or Superman. “Should” because it lets them tug that little string that brings you in to the store to buy their crap.  “Should” keeps you comparing yourself to other people and focusing on where you are behind.  What does it really get you except a handle for all that baggage?  Let it go.  I promise you will run faster and squat more without all the extra guilt weighing you down.

Wuss.  There is no excuse for this one.  Most people direct this at themselves.  YOU may feel like it, but would you put up with anyone saying that about your spouse? Everyone in the gym has PROVEN that they have the fortitude to set a goal and take action to make it happen. There are enough people OUTSIDE the gym cuing up to take a shot at your dreams. The gym is a place to build yourself and others.  

Right is another one that sounds good.  We want to do an exercise properly. We want to make sure that we are not making a fool of ourselves. We want “the right answer”.  But “right”, like “should” keeps us focused on “wrong.  Who said there was ONE right way to do something?  There are certainly some methods of doing Lat raises that are less efficient at building strength than others.  Over the years I’ve learned 2 dozen ways to do push-ups.  Which one is THE right way?  Each one will change my body in subtly different ways.  Let’s stop thinking about “the RIGHT way” to do something, and start thinking about an effective way to target the body part we want to work on.

Can’t say can’t.  I keep hearing that something is impossible; usually right after it has just happened.  And telling ME that you can’t do something is a whole lot more believable if I haven’t just watched you do it 3 times.  

Usta-could.  Exercise is about NOW; today; here in THIS moment.  What you did yesterday doesn’t matter.  And if you notice, people only talk about what they “usta-could” do when it usta-be more.  No, you don’t have the body that you did 20 years ago.  So what?  If you stop trying to be the person that you were 20 years ago, and focus on making the most of who you are NOW.

Outta-shape is simply not possible.  ROUND is a shape.  The question is “what shape do you want to be?” Very few people ARE the shape they WANT to be. It’s one main reason that people come to the gym.  I’m certainly not going to enter a figure competition any time soon; at 10% body fat, with 13” biceps, I’m too outta-shape. And for a power lifter I’m too small, but my wife will hit me if I claim to be outta-shape.  Love the shape you ARE, and let your workout transform you into the shape you are becoming.

Bad is a bad word.  I know it sounds so small and innocent.  It sounds like a Michael Jackson song from the late 80’s, but bad is another value judgment.  Whether it is a person, a rep, a set, or a skill like balance, there is no reason for such a put-down.  As soon as you do, you mentally write it off.  And as soon as you do, you stop improving.  I have never managed to walk a tightrope; does that mean my balance is bad?

Words shape our perceptions in the same way that exercises shape our bodies.  Let’s make sure everything is taking the shape we want.


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