On the Excuses We Make and What to Do About Them

Getting up and getting out is fun, see??
Amy did it again. She wrote about something I've been ignoring and made me think. She called me out, saying everyone has excuses they use for not working out. And she's right, I sure do. 

After taking a good, hard look in the proverbial mirror, I've got a whopping list of them. But most importantly, Amy's got this crazy idea that having excuses, knowing them and knowing how to deal with them, can actually help us all get motivated. As it turns out, she's right.

So, here are my excuses, out for the world to see. To help me understand where they come from, I've organized them into categories and began trying to figure out what I've done to get rid of them, and what I still need to work on.
  1. I'm really tired from (a) being at work all day (b) staying up too late (c) yesterday's workout(s).
  2. I can't imagine any activity that will actually keep my attention for more than 10 minutes.
  3. I don't want to go by myself.
  4. I don't want to go with other people.
  5. It's going to be really hard and painful.
  6. One day really doesn't make that big of a difference.
  7. It's way too hot/cold/rainy/sunny outside and I'm going to be uncomfortable.
  8. I ate too much and need to digest before I do anything.
  9. I need to eat first, I don't have any energy.
  10. I'm going to feel like I shouldn't be as tired as I am/breathing as hard as I am during the workout.
  11. People will judge me based on how hard it looks like I'm working and they'll think I'm out of shape.
  12. I won't be as good or as strong as everyone else or as strong as I think I should be.
  13. I just don't feel like it.
  14. I deserve a break/rest day.
  15. I need to stop letting workouts take priority over my social life. My friends think I'm insane.
Worrying about what other people think - 4, 10, 11, 12, 15
To some degree, we all care about what other people think, and it's easy to get wrapped up in worrying about how we're perceived. I worry about looking out of shape because I think I'm supposed to be in shape. I worry about how I'll be judged if I'm huffing and puffing up a trail, even if I'm carrying 40 pounds of training weight. I worry I'll lose all of my social opportunities if I keep saying no to booze in favor of sweating for an hour in spin class.

But the reality is, I doubt everyone at the gym is looking at me and deciding whether I'm in shape or not. I doubt people notice whether I'm huffing or puffing up the trails, and even if they do, who cares? And won't I huff and puff less in the future if I train more? I've discovered if I surround myself with people who are passionate about their goals (these amazing ladies), it's easy to stop worrying about everyone else!

Wearing the lazypants
- 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 13
The lazypants. I imagine them as a pair of old, torn, stained sweats. Maybe faded, ripped up, too-short jeans with a hole in the crotch. They're pants you put on when you're out of clean clothes, or when you don't expect to meet another living thing in the world.

The excuses that fall into this category show nothing more than a lack of motivation. If I'm motivated, I'll plan my day, including food, around what will help me get my workouts done. I'm really talented at talking myself out of things, and am working on learning to talk myself into things. I think, "it won't be that bad, and you'll feel SO much better if you just get up and go! It'll make the next session feel easier." And I'm usually right.

Glaring manifestations of fear - all of them, but especially 3, 4, 5, 13
Fear exists in the future and only applies to things that haven't happened yet. So what's the big deal? Fear might be based on past experience, but can also be based on nonsensical visions of what might happen. My list of excuses shows me I'm afraid of a lot, and some of my fears are entirely ungrounded and meaningless. They're also self-defeating; how is being afraid of pain at the gym going to prepare me for something like Rainier?

To cope with my fear of what people think, working out alone or in nonthreatening, familiar environments makes a huge difference. Being alone also gives me time to pay attention to my thoughts and redirect them if necessary. To cope with my fear of pain, I don't give myself time to think about it. To cope with feelings of inadequacy, I remind myself of the things I've accomplished and how hard I worked to get there. I remind myself that it's possible, and to cut myself a break.

Could actually be legit - 1, 14
...and then there are excuses that might actually be real reasons to take a day off. A huge part of training is building in rest and recovery periods. It's about listening to your body. It's about discerning between your muscles telling you they need a break and the lazy talk, or the fear. And those voices will sound different to everyone. I've found learning to know myself, my limits and how they evolve is essential. But if I'm thinking about allowing myself a rest day because I stayed up too late, well, that falls into the Lazypants category.

And as with any decision, I've got to accept the consequences.

* * * * * *

Amy, thank you for continuing to find ways to help me learn about myself! Check her out at http://www.expandoutdoors.com/


Anonymous said…
thank you for this - really. i am on a weight-loss journey, trying to do it the right way by changing my eating habits and working out. i can relate to almost all of these "excuses" to avoid working out and definitely appreciate your advice on turning them around!
Katie said…
thanks so much for the note! glad this was of value to you, and best of luck on your journey.
Katie said…
thanks so much for the note! glad this was of value to you, and best of luck on your journey.