Japanese students training at Chuwattana Gym, Bangkok, Thailand, 2009
Have you ever known you could have pushed just a little harder during training? Have you ever left the gym wondering why you even showed up? I suspect most of us have been there. For whichever reason(s), we experience days that disappoint, days we didn’t realize our performance expectations, days where our general motivation lagged.
Having lived and trained in Muay Thai in Thailand, I learned an invaluable practice which the general fitness enthusiast and athlete alike can benefit from: the art of not complaining. During training, questioning our trainers was frowned upon, as was complaining, both in our words and in our actions. We simply did. For example, regardless of what a trainer asked you to do, regardless of how many repetitions were shouted out, you did as you were expected. No sighs, no comments and absolutely no non verbal indication of anything but acceptance.
Hailing from North America, this was something I wasn’t accustomed to. I was used to being able to joke about how difficult something was. What did I notice once I made the change? Once I adapted to the gym culture I was living in, I became mentally stronger, more motivated and what I once thought were high performance levels became starting points to later reflect on.
How many of you have been in a class when an instructor announced an extended number of reps only to hear someone or some people respond with groans, Oh My God!’s, and/or shouts that they must be crazy or sadistic? The intent may be good natured and add to the fun of a class, however, responses like these may equally contribute to what’s holding your performance back. They may be sabotaging your fitness goals (particularly if you’re the one voicing them). How? Compliants, even the ones meant to be lighthearted contribute to a belief system of boundaries and of lowered expectations.
Complaining, be it vocal or a thought, sabotages your motivation to reach your goals.
Complaining will move you to believe that you’ve already done enough and can’t do (much) more. Complaining blocks out what your instructor, your personal trainer and that voice inside of you (aka the one reminding you that you could have performed better) are aiming for you to accompish. Complaining acts as a barrier to surpassing what in the moment, you think is possible.
Not physically voicing your complaints will eventually silence the thoughts that provoke the complaining to begin with.
How to Master the Art of Not Complaining
Control Your Emotions
When you’re in a class and the instructor calls out a number of reps, shouts at you to speed up or voices anything meant to push you harder that doesn’t require positive feedback (i.e. a group “Yeah” or a “Whoo”), don’t speak, just do. Don’t respond with facial expressions. Resist the temptation to roll your eyes or communicate any indication of frustration and / or exasperation. If you find this difficult, respond with a smile (even a forced, Oh how I hate you smile is a good start!)
Practice the same when working with a personal trainer.
Don’t Be Influenced by Others
When someone in a class speaks up, jokes, or acts in any way expressing limiting beliefs that resembles complaining, don’t buy into it. View it as their perspective, as their inability to perform (even if they’re at what you consider a higher level of fitness than yourself). It’s their outlook, not yours. This can be challenging if they’re contributing to the fun of the class, but it’s possible. Remember, it’ll just make you that much stronger.
Discipline Your Mind
Once you’re able to control the habit of voicing anything less than motivating during a session or a class and once you’re able to ignore the complaints of others, you’re ready to kill the thoughts that originally prompt the complaints. How? When the thought to complain manifests, squash it. Stop where your mind is going before completing the thought. For example, when the response, “What? Ten more reps?” comes to mind, don’t complete it, throw it away instantly. Editing at “What?”, ideally at “Wh..” is what you’re aiming for. Don’t finish the sentence; ideally don’t complete the first word in your mind.
This applies to when you’re training alone and have the gumption to push harder. Please note, the aim isn’t to lead yourself towards over training or injury, it’s to push your comfort zone.
In time, you’ll realize all three points influence one another. By not voicing your complaints, the thoughts that create the need to speak out slowly dissipate. By not allowing those thoughts to reach completion in your mind, nothing remains to express outwardly. Eventually, the thoughts will cease to exist. You’ll be focused. You’ll increase your motivation and you’ll find yourself happily anticipating what you can do. You’ll simply accomplish more. In addition, you won’t unintentionally sabotage the people around you. You may even inspire them.
Let us know how it goes!