Shut Up Legs as Life Principle

There are a lot of things to love about Jens Voigt, his famous “Shut up, Legs!” quote notwithstanding. He is a classic hard man, hitting the gas when the tank is empty, boggling minds with his incredible strength and unmatched will power. He’s also quietly modest about the whole thing and endlessly kind, which makes it all the better.

“Shut up, Legs!” stuck with us because of its simplicity. It’s a universally understood sentiment: the verbalization of the mind-over-body tricks we all try to employ when we’re on the rivet. But the other day as I read back through my written journal, I noticed something I’d written in 2009: Shut Up Legs is about so much more than cycling.

I don’t remember writing that (or even thinking it) but reading it scrawled on that page resonated with me in that moment. I’m prone to beating sports-life metaphors virtually to death, but this one is pretty simple: do your work, get your shit done, stop making excuses.

I receive a lot of emails from people wanting to know “how I do it”. That question could mean a lot of things, but usually they are getting at my lifestyle and work: how did I turn writing into a viable source of income? How do I travel so much?

There are a lot of specific boring tactical answers to these questions (I’m obsessively meticulous with budgeting and tracking money, I’ve made a choice not to have children, I wake up at 5am every day to either write or ride, etc.) but the real answer has more to do with the principles presented in Steven Pressfield’s “War of Art”: Wake up, do your work. Do not tolerate excuses. I wrote for eight years before anyone ever paid me to do it. I did it because I loved it and because I was committed to the inherent value of it. Good things came from that, but good things also came as a result of discipline. I got up every morning and did the work – even when I didn’t think it was any good, even when people told me it was shitty, even when I wasn’t exactly sure why I was doing it or what the hell I was even creating. (Pressfield calls this overcoming Resistance)

Jens rides the way he does because he loves it – that’s clear. He rides with a sense of passion, but also a sense of duty. He hurts himself when he’d rather not be hurting. He guts himself in sacrifice for others and sometimes it doesn’t work out. He goes out and does the work. No excuses. No caving to discomfort. Shut Up, Legs!!

We can’t begin to compare ourselves to this incredible man, but we can learn from his approach. I see it around me all the time in people who are much more accessible. Eryn raises a toddler, works a full-time job, trains her face off, races bikes and spends the winters ski patrolling and the summer’s scurrying up rock faces like a badass (she swears by the 5am workout). My teammate Elise raises three kids under the age of 12, works full time, has a husband virtually kidnapped by medical school, and still managed to pedal her way to Cat 2 road status over the last two years (thanks mostly to a crazy commitment to 5am roller workouts while her kids are still asleep).

If you want it, make it happen. If you love it, make the sacrifice.

Hurt a little. Hurt a lot. Do the work.

Shut Up, Legs!!

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7 comments

  1. Kinda reverses the meaning of “Put up or shut up!” Stop putting up with your own excuses and “Shut up legs!”

  2. Whoa. I’m hyperventilating over here. I was mentioned on your website! I’m so excited! (Really. I’m not being sarcastic.)

    You forgot to mention these things: I have a super-rad, awesome, supportive husband. Also, I have a cleaning lady. Or I did, until she quit us, probably because our house is so disgusting. And, lastly, I have a coach who kicks my ass on a weekly basis. No excuses.

    Oh, and I have amazing communities: family, the OBRA racing community, ski patrol…I am indeed blessed.

    • Hey! I mentioned you once before, but it was in reference to crashing you out of a bike race, so I guess it wasn’t very rad. :)
      Good points about support – but still, you get up everyday and get after it! I think about your motivation a lot when mine is lacking. Thanks for that!

  3. Thanks for this. I definitely needed some motivation today, and this post was what I needed to hear. Now, I need to stop reading blogs right now and get back to work! PS- glad to see you are posting more frequently these days.

  4. I got linked to this post today, and the timing was perfect. I needed to read those words “Wake up. Do your work. Do not tolerate excuses.” AND “Shut up, Legs!” ‘Nuff said. Thanks!

  5. well, those years of writing practise certainly pay off… This is really, really beautifully written stuff that matters. Addictive, admirable and motivating. Although need to admit that at 25degC, 4.30am in South Africa it doesn’t take a lot to get moving.

  6. Well said. You appear to have hit all the improtant points and I completely understand the early morning, 5am, workouts. I think part of that is that at that time of the morning there are no distractions. This allows for full focus on the job at hand creating a habitual sequence of events from getting out of bed to the end of your workout. You are able to fully attend to the little things that distractions often let you forget from the sequence of stretches pre and post workout, check your socks for possible burrs, seeds or other things that might be stuck in them even through a wash, the tenshion you put on your shoe laces or velcro tabs on your shoes and to the protein shake or other suporting foods you have as relevent times.
    5am is the best time of the day to achieve your best for all these reasons and the fact the only voice you hear is your own!
    Good post!

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