I Can’t Do That!!…..Can’t I???

When it comes to engaging in activities meant to improve our health and fitness, our relationship with the phrase, “I can’t do that.” becomes significant.  Like many of our favorite swear words, “I can’t” can have many different meanings and implications both positive and negative.  Today I want you to explore 5 ways on how using it can be key towards either making progress on your goals, or keeping you stuck to your couch.  

  1. Physical Limitations vs. Self-Limiting Beliefs:

The first key distinction lies in the origin of the statement. “I can’t” can stem from either genuine physical limitations or self-limiting beliefs. Understanding the source of this phrase is essential to distinguish between when it’s a sign of a true limitation or simply a mental barrier we impose on ourselves. 

True limitations generally fall into 2 categories: physical limitations outside your control like a chronic condition or injury which prevents you from some measure of performance.  The other being general conditions within your control.  Not having the money to buy new trail boots is a real limitation but you can create a saving program to work towards it.  Similarly, with exercise, you don’t have the ability to run a marathon which is a true limitation but it is something you could work towards.  

Take time to work out for yourself if the reason you can’t do a thing is a real limitation or not, and whether it’s something that may just take greater levels of planning to get to.

  1. Realistic Boundaries and Safety:

Sometimes, “I can’t” serves as a protective mechanism, indicating our body’s limitations and preventing us from engaging in activities that could lead to injury. Recognizing these genuine limitations can be a crucial aspect of a responsible fitness routine, helping us make choices that are safe and sustainable in the long run.


Risk/Reward is something that should always be included.  I LOVE playing basketball, however, joining a league just isn’t that appealing anymore after my experience blowing out my knee.  I’ll go shoot baskets, but running in a pickup game with people I don’t really know?  Nope.  Too risky.  It’s something I’ll miss doing forever, but I have too many other things I like doing that just don’t carry that same level of risk. 

  1. Exploring New Challenges:

“I cant’” can prevent us from exploring new challenges and opportunities for growth. By constantly telling ourselves we can’t do something, we may inadvertently hinder our progress and miss out on unlocking our true potential.  

It’s completely ok to try out a spinning class and, after a month, decide you just hate it.  Trying things out and changing your mind is fairplay so long as you continue to work towards improving your health and fitness.  If spinning didn’t crank your gears, that doesn’t mean you can head back to Netflix.  Try something else.  

On the other hand perhaps you love spin classes, exploration may take the form of planning a big cycling trip somewhere amazing!  Take the skills and abilities you have been cultivating and push towards something new.

Kayaking on Deer Lake
We never had kayaked before but now we're hooked

  1. Mindset Shift: “I Can’t… YET”:

Rather than being a blockade, “I can’t” may illuminate a pathway forward to something interesting and different.  You may require additional information or support, like working with a trainer(wink wink), or just diving into a YouTube spiral of information can help set benchmarks and guidelines moving forward.  Whether you are an experienced weight lifter or are just starting out with daily walks, setting out a plan for progress makes growth more attractive and tangible.  

Embracing a growth mindset can transform the meaning of “I can’t” from a permanent limitation to a temporary obstacle. Adding the word “yet” at the end of the phrase opens up the possibility of future achievements. For example, “I can’t do a pull-up… yet” signals a belief in growth and development, fostering determination to work towards achieving that goal.

  1. Redefining Success:

In the realm of fitness, success is not always measured by reaching a specific goal or performing a particular exercise. Understanding that fitness is a personal journey allows us to redefine success. Embracing the phrase “I can’t” when it aligns with our true passions and abilities can lead us to focus on activities that bring joy, fulfillment, and improved overall well-being.

Goals are great but can be limiting themselves.  What does one do afterwards?  Is the goal to bench press a certain weight or to run a particular distance?  Can you shift the emphasis towards the process, becoming a weight lifter or a trail runner?  For some, becoming ‘pain free’ is a goal but may never really be achieved.  In cases like this can you instead become more resilient by not missing workouts or mobility sessions?  Minimizing the effects of chronic conditions is just as lofty a goal as squatting twice your bodyweight. 


Embracing the process of the activity...with 4 miles left lol!

The phrase “I can’t” carries diverse meanings in the context of fitness activities. It can be a signal of physical limitations that necessitate caution, but it can also be a self-limiting belief that hinders our progress. By discerning the origin of this phrase and adopting a growth mindset, we can use “I can’t” as a stepping stone to overcome obstacles, redefine success, and continuously evolve in our fitness journey.

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