The “I Should Be Able To” Trap

We’ve all done it; maybe you even did it today during the 3-Position Snatch Complex. We’ve said something like, “I should be able to do this,” or “I should totally have gotten that!” The reality is that missing a lift you’ve gotten a hundred times or missing countless double-unders when you usually nail them, totally happens. It’s not the end of the world, for one, but mostly it’s not productive.  And it prevents you from being open to the cause of the miss (physical, mental, technical, etc.) and instead focus more on the disappointment that you “should have done it!!!” Taryn Haggerstone, blogger and CrossFitter, wrote an article for Tabata Times recently on this very topic. Read it…apply it.

“You need to stop saying, “I should be able to do ‘x’” — there is no “should.” Just what you can do and what you need to work on in order to be able to do what you want to.” (the wise, and probably grumpy (it was 6:30am, after all) Alexi Bergeron (aka my coach)

Quarterfinals at the 2013 Taranis Titan Challenge

A couple of weeks ago I was getting frustrated with my cleans (which happens pretty frequently as it is a movement with which I struggle), and during a morning class, I said something along the lines of

Based on my front squat and my jerk (225lb and 190lb, respectively), I should be able to clean way more than 160lb – what the f*#$?!

And as any good coach should when their athlete starts down a destructive thought pattern, Alexi pretty much shut me up right there and told me that if I wanted to improve I needed to remove the phrase “I should” from my vocabulary (at least in that context…I’m sure he would be OK if I said something along the lines of “I should go to the store and get bacon”).

Alexi pretty much shut me up right there and told me that if I wanted to improve I needed to remove the phrase “I should” from my vocabulary.

And he was 100% right. Since that class I’ve thought about it a pretty decent amount — probably more than he realized it (like I said, this conversation went down during a 6am class and I was being a bit of a whiny brat) — and made a conscious effort to stay away from the “I should” mental trap.

Yes, there are websites and calculators that allow us to plug in our strength numbers …

deadlifts, squats, strict press, etc, etc

… and using some formula or equation can calculate (roughly) how much weight our bodies can physically handle for the more technical lifts. There are also those general “rules of thumb” or the ”common knowledge” that we often default to using when we assess our physical abilities:

  • “I should be able to clean more than I jerk”
  • “My power snatch should be less than my squat snatch”
  • “I should be able to do ‘x’…”

But that’s all they are — equations, guidelines or “general rules of thumb” — and we need to remember that they don’t and can’t take into account the physical and psychological differences that make up who we are and contribute to how well we handle (or don’t handle) different movements.

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