“I’m too tired.”
“I’ve got a bad back/shoulder/knee/ankle.”
“I’m not a morning person.”
“I’m not athletic.”
“I don’t have enough time.”
“I don’t know where to begin.”
“It’s just too hard.”
“If only I had the right training.”
“I’ll do it tomorrow...”
“I’m too old.”
“It’s useless -- my genetics are working against me.”
I think I’m at my most creative when coming up with excuses for not doing something I know I need to do. The funny thing is many of us devote so much time and energy to coming up with excuses to avoid exercise or getting in shape (and then feeling guilty about it) that it probably would be easier to just do it. So what motivates us to keep investing so much time into creating excuses - and how can we funnel all of this energy into something more active?
The first step is to examine why we want to exercise. Do we want to be healthier? More attractive? Only after being honest with ourselves can we find the motivation that we need to reach our goals. “We make excuses to avoid doing something because we have not developed intrinsic motivations for what we want to change,” says Sally White, Ph.D., dean and professor at the College of Education at Lehigh University. “People make excuses because they are not fully committed to what they want to change, and are therefore relying on external cues for motivation -- this allows for competing environmental influences to overrule a decision to complete the intended goal.”
Imagine this familiar scenario: You decide to join a gym to get in shape as a New Year’s Resolution. You’ve picked a facility that is near your office; you pack your workout clothes in the car; but as you approach the gym, you find yourself faced with opposing thoughts such as: “Do I really want to workout? Or is going home to my family more important? I haven’t seen them all day -- I really should spend more time with them.”
So how can you conquer these opposing thoughts or excuses and reach those elusive goals that you set for yourself? Why not try Excuse Busting? Here’s how:
1. Identify and write down your fitness goals, or more specifically, exactly what type of exercise you want to do to get in shape. Which ones do you end up avoiding because of your creative excuses?
2. Pinpoint the excuses you use to justify your inaction. Brainstorm and write down all the reasons you can think of for NOT working toward your fitness goals. Remember to include your self-doubts, fears and insecurities -- these are excuses too! Experts advise to be honest: “Knowing your excuses gives you the power to fight against them,” says New York City nutritionist and personal trainer Carey Clifford, MS, RD.
3. Next, punch holes in your excuses until they are no longer airtight. Do this by coming up with counterarguments for every single excuse that you may have for NOT exercising -- this is called Excuse Busting. “Remember -- excuses can be really convincing, so make each Excuse Buster powerful and persuasive,” adds Clifford. So if tough and inventive excuses keep you from being more fit, you need your toughest, most inventive Excuse Busters to get over them for good.
Here are a few examples of typical excuses and their Excuse Busters:
EXCUSE: It’s raining outside, I can’t go for my morning run.
EXCUSE BUSTER: First of all, I’m not made of sugar, so I won’t melt. Second, I have a gym membership, so I can certainly head down there and run on the treadmill. Third, if I’m going to be lazy and not drive to the gym, I have an extensive library of fitness tapes here. The rain isn’t going to stop me!
EXCUSE: I’m too tired...
EXCUSE BUSTER: I may feel lethargic now, but I will feel refreshed and energized after my workout. Plus, by working out regularly, I will have more energy and feel less lethargic in the long run.
EXCUSE: I can’t make it to the gym because I have to work late to finish this project tonight.
EXCUSE BUSTER: I’ve heard this one before! OK, so I’ll make sure not to overeat since I’m skipping a workout today, and I will get up extra early tomorrow morning to go to the gym. But from now on, I will pay closer attention to my work schedule to make sure I’m not slacking off just to avoid exercising, and I will be proactive in the future and make sure I come in early on days that I plan to exercise after work. Maybe I should also start going to the gym in the mornings from now on so that nothing will interfere with my workout plans...
EXCUSE: Joanie wants to go to the movies -- I’ll skip my exercise just this one time.
EXCUSE BUSTER: Life is made up of many “one times.” I have to take a stand for what I want in life -- although both the movie and the gym will be there at other times, my health and self-confidence are my top priority. I’m going to the gym now and will schedule another day to see the movie with Joanie...or maybe she can meet for a later show after my workout?