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Choose Your Words

By Shane Borza, MCC

You may not think much about it, but the words you use are important. How you say things, and what you call things, help create the perspective through which you see the world.

Specific to training is that very word itself: training. Most people refer to exercise as ‘working out’ and why shouldn’t they? There’s nothing wrong with that term, but there just might be a better one.

What would changing ‘work out’ to ‘training’ do for you? Anything? For me, there is a difference.


To ‘work out’ literally means to work someone until they’re done, as in, ‘They worked themselves out.’ Whereas ‘training’ conjures up practice or learning. Whether that's improvement at work, learning at school, skill-building in a sport, or simply mastery of any activity you enjoy.

This may seem like a slight adjustment, and I have heard people ask what difference it makes. After all, if we both know what we’re talking about, do the specific words we use really matter? What's the difference?

The difference is intent. Whether it’s substituting ‘could’ for ‘should’ or ‘want’ for ‘need’, If you call it ‘training’ instead of your ‘workout,’ you'll unconsciously shift the gears in your head.

Calling it "training" moves you towards a learning mindset--you're trying new things, experimenting,! "Work out," however, may only bring to mind thoughts of getting sweaty and tired. Both can be fun and challenging, but give yourself every resource to reframe exercise as an opportunity improve your skillset, and not just your physique.

To "bitch" or to "complain?" That is the question.

Mental outlook is important, especially in outdoor sports where, quite often, suffering is the name of the game. If you're a runner, cyclist, hiker, or climber, you grapple with long miles, unpredictable weather, heavy gear, and all kinds of unforeseen obstacles.

When confronted with these challenges, are you going to "bitch" or are you going to "complain?" Again, some may say the two words are interchangeable; I say they conjure totally different mindsets.

Bitching is a team building strategy, a means to get through the tough times through humor and creativity. There’s a reason the Marines talk about ‘the shared suck’. Bitching aloud to one another builds camaraderie by reinforcing that you’re all in it together. Sure, you're suffering; but your buddies are, too. And you know this by bitching together.

Complaining, on the other hand, is nothing more than vocalized negativity, frustration, and anger. There is nothing positive contributed to either the group or to the situation. Where bitching can add, distract and amuse, complaining can detract, anger, or annoy.

The great "Bitch vs. Complain" or "Training vs. Workout" debates are only two examples of this reframing technique. How often do you say to yourself all the things you have to do, need to do, should do? How does this make you feel - like you have a choice? Like you want to? Does it bring joy to the idea of those tasks, or that list?

What would happen if you changed those words? What if you had things you wanted to do, things you got to do, things you chose to do? How does that feel?

Lesson Learned

If you're a student of history, especially of exploration, you know of the famous exploits and tales of woe passed down from the thrilling adventurers of the past. These explorers left for the unknown and suffered, but were able to overcome adversity because of their reframed mental outlook. If you were to read their accounts, you might be surprised by the words they've left behind. Quite often, those great adventurers handled genuine calamities-- shipwrecks, storms, starvation, the loss or deaths of friends--like a walk in the park. (Talk about "keep calm and carry on!")

To quote the great Monty Python, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Yes, it’s difficult, arduous, and hard. Of course you’re tired, hungry, cold, and sore.

But are you having a grand adventure outside? Are you in the very place you’d rather be? It’s just as helpful to be in the mountains thinking of yourself sitting at a desk, as it is to sit at a desk and imagine you're in the mountains.

I've noticed a significant difference in my attitude and wellbeing by mindfully choosing the vocabulary I use. More often than not, it’s not what I say out loud to others, but what I say to myself that results in big shifts.

Examine your own vocabulary and self-talk. Try changing your "shoulds" to "could’s;" your "have tos" to "want tos" and - perhaps - your "workouts" to "training sessions."

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