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The fallacy of the “I can’t” and “I will never be able to” view of exercise

March 17, 2014

One thing I have found to be true after working with hundreds of people over the last few years is that everyone can do more than they think they can.

This holds true for people of all ages and all fitness levels.

Keep in mind that this is my observation as a teacher. From a student, or practitioner perspective it is often quite different. At least when I first start working with many of the older senior or someone with a disability.

Many time I show a movement or exercise to someone and the first time they see it their reaction is negative, immediately deferring to the vision they see of themselves, as someone who can’t do a certain thing.  They let their age,  condition or self value make the determination without trying to see what the reality is.

As an example, I am working with a group of senior women from a 55 and over community in Belvidere, NJ, teaching them balance exercises, some Tai Chi and Qigong.   Three weeks ago we started on their first exposure to a Qigong form.  I told them they would learn the basics enough to follow along fairly quickly.  They all laughed and said, give us a year.  I said no, really.  And at least 1/2 of them said,  NO, REALLY.

Talking with this about them most said:

  • Our memory is not that good
  • Our balance is bad
  • We are not coordinated
  • and a host of other excuses

Well, today, yes, three weeks later we went through 90% of the first section, not once but 5 times.  And with each time through more of them were catching on enough to follow along in close to the correct positions.

This is the same group who three weeks ago told me they could not stand for an hour. Here they were today not only standing, but moving, rotating and doing knee raise balance stances 45 minutes into class.

I see similar results working with seniors who are chair bound, arthritic, stroke victims and others  who see exercise as something beyond them.  Once they start and work a program and exercises designed for their capabilities they quickly see then can do more than they think.

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