It all started a few weeks ago when I was at the gym working on my pull-ups upon returning from our family trip to Italy.
As many of you probably know, traveling often makes it difficult to do pull-ups. You might find yourself in a hotel gym sans pull-up bar, or you might be relegated to doing bodyweight workouts, which makes any kind of pulling a bit of a challenge.
Drinking wine and eating pasta, pizza, and pastries for 10 straight days also makes it difficult to perform pull-ups.
So, as you might imagine, that first day back at Deuce was not my best showing in terms of pull-ups. I try to work on pull-ups every day after class, especially if there were no pull-ups programmed in the workout. It’s a strength skill that’s really important to me, which means I need frequent practice in order maintain and improve strength.
I mean, I knew I’d have a hard time with pull-ups post Italy—I guess I just hadn’t faced the reality of how hard. So when I hopped up there and did a single pull-up, unable to string on another, I jumped down a little surprised, a little disheartened. Alas, I kept my chin up (necessary pun!) and set out to do as many singles as possible in the time I had allotted myself—which turned out to be 16 single pull-ups.
(Side note: 16 is actually my lucky number! It’s the day of my birth, as well as the number I wore on most of my softball teams, so I think there was a bit of magic in that outcome.)
“I used to be able to do 16 pull-ups unbroken,” I said to myself. I’ve taken to speaking to myself out loud of late. Not sure if it’s a sign of aging, lunacy, or self-confidence/acceptance. Maybe a combination of all three. Either way, it’s true. I was once able to string together 16 pull-ups.
This was what I have often referred to as the “prime” of my athleticism. It was also, incidentally, when my entire life revolved around training and nutrition, and I had little to no play or wiggle room.
As soon as that statement came out of my mouth, I felt a little irked by it.
Used to. As if somehow my younger, once stronger self was in competition with my present self.
Used to. As if my 16 consecutive pull-ups a few years ago blot out the effort and accomplishment of my 16 single pull-ups today.
Used to. As if today I am less worthy and less of an athlete because I can’t do what I did in the past.
Used to is total bullshit, I discovered in those moments.
Used to is just another sneaky way in which my inner critic uses shame and unworthiness to spur some sort of misguided ambition.
But it doesn’t really work that way, does it? Shame doesn’t inspire us to work harder or smarter. It simply keeps us feeling small. And I’m done feeling small; for the rest of my life, I refuse to play small. I’m playing BIG—as big as my heart, mind, soul, and body possibly can. That’s the game I’m playing.
Am I in the game to win? To let feelings of “used to” and “not as good or strong as before” allow me to feel as though I need to one-up myself? Hell no. I’m in the game to play. That’s it! Play and laugh and learn—that’s what I intend to do.
If I focus constantly on what I used to be able to do, I’ll miss out entirely on right now. Right now is what matters.
Right now I can do pull-ups triples. That’s what happened when I stopped saying “used to” and started focusing on now.
Right now I can practice. I can do my best. I can be consistent. I can be satisfied.
I have no interest in dwelling on the past because I want to focus all of my energy on the present. That’s how I can be the best possible athlete that my almost-34-year-old self can be, by being here, fully and wholeheartedly.
Taking used to out of your vocabulary is one of the most impactful things you can do for your personal power, especially as it pertains to the way your body looks and performs.
Replace “used to” with “I am,” “I can,” and “today I will.
By doing this, you’ll be detaching from the painful storyline of who you think you should be, and embracing who you are. Focus on, and direct your energy towards the totally rad woman you are—right here, right now. After all, that’s what this journey is all about—flowing with life’s natural changes and doing your best to thrive in every moment.
Being fully present, in the gym and in all other areas—that’s where we’ll find both our peace and our power.
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