The language we use matters

Whether that’s the way you speak to yourself, you speak to others, or your coach speaks to you.

I’ll often think hard about how I say things, with the goal of being clear and encouraging. I do my best to help build people up instead of breaking them down, and on times when I need to have more difficult conversations with clients, I try my best to make it constructive.

As a gym, we use the Level Method and as a team of coaches we work hard to ensure people follow the right progression for them. We talk about why the way we move is important and why we do certain things, to ensure our members understand and get stronger faster, by using the right option for them. Instead of a harder one because they feel they should – “because everyone else is”.

For example, doing a more complex movement with a lower rep range to encourage practice with good form, instead of too much and causing injury. Or balancing the other movements in a workout to allow quality instead of too much fatigue.

Last week I had a very quick and difficult reminder of why that’s important and why I put effort into choosing the best words wherever I can.

I started following some conditioning programming for a month to take it a little easier on lifting and prioritise some longer fitness workouts. On the second day of the programme it said:

  • “50 Box Handstand Push Ups – Beginner
  • 50 Kipping HSPU – Intermediate
  • 50 Strict HSPU – Advanced”

My reaction feels fairly irrational but also helpful.

I saw beginner beside my option. I’ve been working hard on my upper push, an area that has always been my weakness. An area I have put effort into improving. I suddenly felt like all my effort was completely worthless. I’ve been training in CrossFit for 10 years and I felt like I’d never tried, my efforts were worthless, because I was called a beginner.

I remembered immediately why it’s important to talk about progression one, two or three. Instead of beginner, intermediate or advanced. Because dependent on what you need to work on, or where you are in your training, those categories may not reflect where you are. You may be capable of doing 50 advanced movements, but you need to work on 50 beginner or intermediate, which may push you to do the “more difficult” one because it’s how it’s framed.

Honestly, I felt like a failure. And I cried.

Granted, I was already feeling a little anxious and overwhelmed at the end of the week, and this took me by surprise.

Also worth bearing in mind. 50 reps of a movement is a lot of volume and it’s hard. Regardless of which option I went for here – it’s hard.

It’s the same in the way we talk to ourselves.

“That person gets it so easy – they’re a natural” – You don’t know what they battle with

“I can’t do that, what’s the point?” – You can’t yet. The point is that by trying you’ll get closer than if you don’t try and you’ll make yourself proud.

“I do everything and I never make progress” – But do you? Consistently? Every day/week/month?

You’re absolutely entitled to push yourself hard to do the small, manageable steps well and absolutely nail them before you move on. You do not need to guilt yourself into making big leaps or pushing harder. Being able to do the foundational things really well is incredibly important and will lead to long term success.

This is your reminder to keep checking in with yourself and the way you speak to yourself to encourage the best results for you.


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