You are capable of more than you think

Self efficacy White Cat CoachingThe other day I was in a spin class – the first class of the year after a number of weeks off. And I learned a valuable lesson about capability… I had a deluded view of the class thinking a number of things would be true:

  • I am so fueled by carbohydrates after weeks of Christmas cheer, I would do great
  • The instructor will go easy because it’s just after Christmas, I would do great

Well… none of these held true. Firstly, my “carbohydrate loading” over Christmas was not as effective as I thought it might be. Apparently, champagne and Christmas cake do not count as sustainable fuels for exercise. Secondly, the instructor did not seem to care it was straight after a break, and set us off on a grueling session that left me dizzy at the end. At one point, I thought I might pass out from the exertion. And that was just in the warm up.

Now, I have never been that good at riding “out of the saddle” (standing up). It feels unstable and a part of my brain seems to think I might fly over the (stationary) handlebars. I have never been that fast out of the saddle either. I “sprint” at 50-60 revolutions per minute (RPM). Yes, that is quite slow. So, when the instructor suggested (read: yelled) we do an 80RPM sprint out of the saddle, I knew that was impossible for me. My legs just DON’T GO THAT FAST OUT OF THE SADDLE!! In my hazy state I remembered that my mantra is not to accept the limit. I often remind myself and my clients that they are more capable than they realise. Emma, time to listen to yourself…

How capable have you decided to be?

The stubborn part of my brain – the one that had decided it was done with learning – reminded me I’ve never been able to go that fast. The other part of my brain said “hey, let’s give it a go – the instructor surely has first aid training – how bad could it possibly be?” Fortunately, the guy in front of me seemed to be doing it, so I watched his leg action and copied. It felt weird at first. Really un-natural and clunky. Not to mention tiring. As my legs sped up and the numbers on the display rose above 65RPM I started to wonder if this might be possible after all. At some point, for a brief second, I found a rhythm. I looked at the dial. 79RPM. I was (almost) doing it! A last ditch, clunky effort pushed the dial over 80RPM. Admittedly, it was only for a few seconds before it dropped into the 70’s, but I was elated! I had NEVER done this before! I had never tried. I had already decided how capable I was in this particular situation and had inadvertently placed a limit on myself. A limit that was busted through in 30 seconds.

The instructor, sensing my new found awareness, suggested we do another (yay!), and the next time around I reached 80 quickly and even made it to 85. I have now formed a new belief about my cycling skills.

What does this mean?

Well, if I can break through my (self imposed) limit of xRPM to something I thought impossible, what else is possible? Well known psychologist Albert Bandura speaks much of this concept known as “self efficacy”. The theory being a person’s ability to break through and do something new very much depends upon their perceived capability to do that task. Like a muscle, it can be worked and stretched. So, while increasing the RPM while standing up in a spin class doesn’t exactly qualify me for the Australian cycling team, it increases my self-efficacy in cycling. I am more likely to have increased confidence in my cycling – indoor and out.

More importantly, this transfers across to other areas of life. If you can increase your skills in one thing, you can do it in another. For example, trying a new recipe is a great way of increasing your belief in your overall capability. Running an extra km in your regular morning outing, or sprinting home for the last 100 metres. It also forces you to question any and ALL limits you may have placed upon yourself. And as soon as you ask those questions of yourself, you are opening up new avenues for learning. And it doesn’t have to be major – even a few RPM can make all the difference.

What is something you can challenge yourself with today and realise the limit you may have placed on yourself is not true? Go ahead and do it, and share using your favourite button!


  1. […] created in our minds and we should challenge ourselves daily in order to grow – we are indeed more capable than we think. And I’m sure you get that. We don’t always test our limits. Sometimes, we seek comfort […]