I took the photo above as a screen capture from a Google search for images of Jess Sims. She teaches strength (and probably lots of other) classes for Peloton, which has amazing online workouts. (You don't need to buy the bike or the treadmill to get a monthly membership, which offers hundreds of great classes -- yoga, stretching, boot camp, meditation, and more). No, I'm not paid by Peloton, but I am impressed by what they offer, including their inspirational banter.
In general, I'm not a fan of clichés. As an English teacher and wanna-be writer, I actively seek out and wish I could find new ways to put our language's twenty-six letters together into phrases that arrest people's senses, that force them to gasp in appreciation of the effects words can have. (I'm not there yet, but that's the goal.) I want what I hear and read to be original.
But there's a big difference between a cliché (which is overused) and an aphorism (which expresses a truth). The clichés annoy me, but the aphorisms encourage me. In Goldilocks style, I don't want words I've heard a kazillion times before or words so complex I have to stop to figure them out. While battling the gradual decay of my muscles, I need the words to be just right.
The instructors are lifting twice as much weight as I am and panting half as hard, but it's not about how hard they're working. It's about how hard they can get me to work. It's about what's going on in my head as I'm trying, with my fifty-one-year-old body to recreate their moves. Of course, I don't look like them when I'm working out. (Or ever. Check out their photos online. Every instructor they have is stunning.) But contrary to last week's post, this post isn't about looks. Their talk can make me feel better, work harder, endure longer. Their words, along with their amazing muscles, make me push myself, and only by pushing past what's comfortable can we grow. (See what I did there? I used an aphorism that applies to sports and to life.)
Peloton's instructors, including Jess Sims and my other favorites (Andy Speer, Robin Arzon, Aditi Shah, Adrian Williams, Denis Morton, Matty Maggiacomo, Chelsea Jackson Roberts, Kristin McGee, Rebecca Kennedy, Ross Rayburn) often speak in aphorisms. I'll list a few in case you don't know what I'm talking about.
- We can do hard things.
- Together we go far.
- This is tough, but you're tougher.
- Breathe in the good sh*t; breathe out the bullsh*t.
- Life is more interesting when you participate.
- I make suggestions...You make decisions.
- I know you are able, but are you willing?
- Change "I can't" to "What if I can?"
- This side feels different? Welcome to being human.
- Take a moment to get your life together.
- Easy is bullsh*t. Don't be proud of easy.
- Show up every day.
- Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes progress.
- Whatever you did today is enough.
- You didn't come this far just to come this far.
- It doesn't get easier; you get stronger.
- There is no growth in your comfort zone.
- Can I do this? Absolutely.
- Better is in you.
- No excuses.
- Failure is not falling down but refusing to get back up.
- Remember this work.
- I don't accept failure. I accept effort.
- The bigger the dream, the harder the hustle.
- If you don't try, you don't know.
- You are your fiercest competitor.
The good instructors at Peloton, in doing the work and saying the words, are an inspiration. Of course, the etymology of inspiration is breathing into something. Think of "spirit" and "respiration" and "expiration" and "conspiracy" and "respirator" and even, important for today's musings, "perspiration." With their breath, they blow encouragement my way. (Since it's all on my TV, I don't have to worry about staying six feet away and wearing a mask.) Their positive words breathe energy into me. I hear their ideas and push myself harder.
The aphorisms they use work and persist because they're true. Coaches everywhere use their words to coax us to work harder, to get stronger, to stick with it. During this off-the-charts-strange year, having consistent positive coaches to make me want to work out has helped me to maintain a little equilibrium for which I am so grateful. I found out recently that I'll be helping to coach cross country this fall. Maybe I'll throw in an aphorism or two to see what happens.
I started this post saying that in general, I like new phrases better than used ones, but aphorisms have power because they have multiple meanings, so each time hearing them feels new. I posit that the power of these short sayings is that they're applicable to more than one aspect of life. They're all useful life lessons. When I hear them, I apply the ideas to the workout, but also to whatever else is going on in my life.
And I'm hoping that using aphorisms will work in my classrooms as well. I'm thinking that I can get my students' brains to flex if I lay some positive aphorisms on them. Will they work harder? I plan to give aphorisms a try.
What do you think about aphorisms, in sports and in general? Do you have a favorite? What's the line that gets two extra reps or three extra seconds of thought out of you? How have coaches and teachers helped you learn to push yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments.