I should be able to do a pull-up. I should be able to ass-to-grass squat. I should be able to bench press my bodyweight. Deadlift twice my bodyweight. Complete 70 pushups in 2 minutes. Touch my Toes. Do a handstand. I should be able to place competitively in that race. Should, should, should….I should be recovered from my injuries by now. I should be leaner…
I’m not sure when should became such a constant thought for us humans. I suppose alot of my drive throughout young adulthood was rooted in notions of where I should be. A notion all to often present in my training. Dangerously so…
Is it the same for you? Without diving down the rabbit hole of where these shoulds come from, I wanted to take a moment and offer a reality check. Mostly for me, but hey, since I like to share…
Regardless of what you think your body should be capable of, it has no bearing on what your body IS capable of.
Intrapersonal communication is essentially how you speak to yourself and the language you use is exceptionally critical. Constantly barraging yourself with this false expectation, wrapped in a one syllable death trap, is one of the largest causes of injuries within the fitness scene. Beyond an inability to check egos’ at the door, and recognize what one can/can’t do, throwing “should” into the mix is a double hazard, as one blatantly disregards personal ability in favor of unrealistic personal or societal expectation. By using “should” instead of “can’t” something that could have become a goal, has become an obstacle. An impassable barrier, buried beneath comparison and heartbreak, with an injury cherry on top of a shame sundae. For example….
Lets say you are confronted with a new fitnessy task. Like a rope climb. Your workout buddy, someone of similar stature and countenance, a doppelganger if you will, climbs the rope effortlessly. You’ve never climbed a rope, but hey, if that guy can, why not you, right? You jump on the rope, get a couple of feet off the ground, and slide ungracefully to the floor. Boo-Hiss. Despite the pain in your elbows you rally your faculties, ‘I should be able to do this!!” echoes throughout your mind. You jump high and grab the rope again, terrifying your nervous system and your coach, only to reach a similar height before gravity unyieldingly serves you another helping of humble pie. MMmmmm.
Oh and there’s a cherry on that pie, called elbow tendinitis. Even ring rows suck now…Crap.
Tell me something like this hasn’t happened to you, and I will probably call you a liar…or a sage…
But most likely a liar, I am after all a realist.
So what do you do? Cower in the face of adversity beneath an unwavering dedication to never risking injury in the pursuit of physical prowess. I suppose that depends on the stakes, though I personally could never live that way. So the predicament remains. Perhaps looking at our little story will offer some wisdom.
“Comparisons are odious.” – Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Your friend just climbed the rope. Huzzah for him. Bastard. If he can do it, why can’t I? I’m pound for pound just as strong as he is. Logic demands ascension!! Never mind that decades ago there was a rope in his high school gym, whilst my hometown insisted on padded walls and banning dodgeball. Never mind his tendons make a gizzard seem tender due to a life of physical activity, while I’ve been hustling a stapler for the last ten years. Our internal comparisons seem to always leave out critical details like this…blissful ignorance, or blind arrogance?
You may be shocked to find out, it doesn’t matter. Regardless of motive, the comparison itself is meaningless. Because…
It doesn’t matter what your friend can do. It only matters what YOU can do.
I’ve always disliked competition that focused on the defeat of an opponent. It relies to much on comparisons, on shoulds, on some kind of ‘better man’ mentality. That isn’t to say competition isn’t awesome. It’s more a question of mental direction. Besting your fellow man doesn’t make you better. Besting yourself makes you better. So why compare yourself to someone else? Why allow these shoulds to poison your mind when you could be focused on setting goals to better yester-you. Instead of attempting to one-up the instagram page of some schmuck a thousand miles away, why not work towards transforming one of those “can’ts” into a “can”. So often one gets caught up in the web of “I should” that we lose sight of the necessary steps to ‘I can’. Well, no more.
Regardless of the circumstances, you are where you are. Nothing is going to change that. The only certainty is that if you act now, you could end up somewhere different tomorrow. Maybe not always better, but most definitely, definitely, somewhere different. So cast off the trappings of the past. Forget the expectation of tomorrow. Focus on the NOW. What can you do NOW. What can you do now that will get you up that damned rope, without exploding elbows. Impatient? Hungry? Good. That means you will get to work all that much sooner.
But make no mistake, your body doesn’t respond to impatient. It doesn’t care what you think you ‘should’ be able to do. The ability of tomorrow is rooted in the action of today. Building a solid physical foundation is rooted in the careful, regular accomplishment of what you ‘can’ do. But keep playing around with “shoulds” and you’ll be too busy rehabbing injuries to see any progress.