Coach Tip Tuesday: There's a Difference Between "Wanted to Do" and "Couldn't Do"

Posted On:
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023
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Here we go...another round of Coach Tip Tuesday!!

How many of you have said the following to either yourself or your coach, “I should have done XXXX.”  (With XXXX being any number of things - “more,” “better,” etc.).  How many of you have thoughts similar to this on the regular??

I know that *I* hear some version of this from the athletes I work with regularly.  They’re either comparing themselves to others (many times they are seeing things like workouts or selfies on social media and misinterpreting that that automatically means that the other person is doing “better” than them) or they’re beating themselves up all due to the perception that that “should” have done more.

I’m here to tell you that there are MANY days in the life of the average age group athlete where athlete legitimately *cannot* do more.  And that distinction - between “wanted to” and “couldn’t do” - is incredibly important.

Yes, you probably *wanted* to do more.  You probably *wanted* to run faster.  You probably *wanted* to go about your daily life instead of having to stay in bed all day being sick.  You probably *wanted* to fit in the entire duration of the workout that you were planning to.  You probably *wanted* to set a higher FTP on your power test.  You probably *wanted* to get your workout in instead of taking care of your sick kid.  But guess what??  You couldn’t.  And guess what again??  It’s very, very okay.

I say this all the time to a lot of people: Be kind to yourself and give yourself some grace.  And now I’m saying it to all of you: Be kind to yourselves and give yourselves some grace.  Treat yourself the same way that you would want to be treated by others.  If you wouldn’t say the things you are saying to yourself to your friend, you shouldn't be saying them to yourself.  A good “litmus test” of this is the following: If you are saying something along the lines of, “Coach Laura Henry, you really should have worked harder today and done better.  You were way too slow, and Athlete A over there is so much better than you.” to yourself, ask yourself if you would say the exact same thing to another person.  If you wouldn’t, then it doesn’t pass the sniff test, and it means you need to be just a bit kinder to yourself. :)

In the same realm, be careful with how you classify laziness.  Life happens, and that’s a very real thing; that is NOT lazy.  If you had to work late, pick up your kids early, got stuck in traffic, or got to the pool and it was closed, etc., those are all reasons (not excuses) why you *couldn’t* do something, and they don’t make you lazy.  There have been days where you literally couldn’t give more than you did, and there will be days like that in the future, too.

So reframe how you think about this.  Acknowledge that what you *want* to do and what you *can* do are sometimes two entirely different things.  Once you acknowledge this, accept it.  Try not to fight it and spend energy on lamenting what’s done.  You can’t change the past, so it’s honestly a waste of your time to spend your limited energy and resources worrying about what you “should” have done.  Choose instead to invest that energy into the future, when you can use it in a more productive manner to help you reach your goals.

Trust me, once you get to a place where you stop wasting energy beating yourself up, you have a lot more energy to build yourself up.  And building yourself up is how you make gains, get stronger, and smash your goals.  So do that, my friends - build yourselves up.  You’re worth it. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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