Guest Columnist and Runner, Anjana Mohan talks about how to deal with excuses that prevent you from running.
“I don’t know how”
“I’m too busy”
“I’m not sure my body can take this”
Do you catch yourself finding “reasons” to avoid something challenging? Do you find excuses to resist making the changes in your life that you know you need? Instead of focusing on ways to make things happen we often find ourselves doing the opposite. In each “reason” lies the greatest insight towards becoming the person we ultimately want to be.
James Altucher, an American hedge fund manager, entrepreneur and bestselling author once wrote an interesting article titled, “Ultimate cheat sheet for dealing with excuses”. He points out that the gap between “what I have now” and “what I would like” is exactly all of my excuses. He says that all we need to do is work our way through the excuses. That’s it!
“Either you figure out how to do without it, work around and use alternatives, or simply work to build or create it” – James Altucher.
Here I offer you my learning from Altucher as adapted for the world of running and fitness.
Let’s start with the basics – the four essential steps to beat an excuse:
Step 1: Recognize that your excuse is the limitation that you must work to overcome
Step 2: Ask if you can do without it, or work around it, if not
Step 3: Work incrementally to build or get what you need. If all of that doesn’t work,
Step 4: Ignore the reasons and proceed anyway (the ‘I don’t give a damn’, I’ll do it anyway attitude!).
Now let’s apply these basics to the top 6 fitness excuses we make:
# 1 on the list – I don’t have time (oh come on! Who hasn’t used this one so far? J)
# 2 and a close favourite for the # position is – I’m not a morning person
# 3 and a crowd favourite – the weather isn’t ideal
# 4 I simply can’t afford it at this time (quite a practical issue but there is always an inexpensive alternative)
# 5 I’m too old for this and
# 6 this is one where our inner demons pull us down – I don’t think I am capable of this or my body isn’t cut out for this
Let’s apply the 4-step technique to each and see how that works.
# 1 – I don’t have time
How often do you not have time to take a shower or brush your teeth? Sure, brushing your teeth takes less time than a 30-min run, but there are plenty of 30-min segments that we waste in a day. Can you honestly say that you spend every minute of your day so optimally, that you cannot find a 30-minute segment for a run? Consider that 30 minutes of exercise clears your head and makes the rest of your day more productive than it would have otherwise been
Time is all about perceptions. Being nimble starts in your head. Don’t make a task seem like a huge effort to prepare for. Put on your running shoes and close the front door behind you, that’s it.
Step 1: Recognize that your time is the limitation that you must work to overcome.
Step 2: Can you do without 30 mins of something else you take time for during the day?
Step 3: Can you work in smaller increments ‐ like 5 to 10 mins segments multiple times a day?
How can you work to eke more time out of your day?
It’s never the ideal time to do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, maybe it will be too cold or too wet or too hot. That’s ok. Here’s where you apply Step 4: Ignore your reasons and proceed anyway. Because you learn simply by doing, and the next time you put on your shoes you will automatically adjust yourself to accommodate and improve the experience. But this time around, just leave the house, just go workout and deal with the discomfort. While you work out, you can think about how to improve your next workout experience.
# 2 – I’m not a morning person
Step 1: If this is your reason, your time preference is your limitation to work through.
Step 2: Can you do without? Can you do with less sleep and take naps during the day?
Step 3: Can you carve yourself a different time to work out. If yes, then great, in trying you will find other challenges to work through. If not, the fact that you were not a morning person is now your roadmap to success. Perhaps you need to simply become a morning person for the purpose of fitness alone. If you are successfully working out at other times, and achieving your goals, then not being a morning person is not an issue.
Working to get what you need may mean finding that motivation every morning. Mornings are recommended because the rest of your excuses haven’t been all arranged together by then. By mid‐day or later, many excuses have organized themselves into a mob making the whole effort harder. So, set an alarm clock and just get up when you hear it. No snoozing, no thinking, no leaking energy, you’ve already decided, now just do it.
Successful people don’t usually have the luxury to be morning, night or afternoon people. They simply do whatever it takes, whenever the opportunity is available.
# 3 – The weather isn’t ideal – it’s too cold or too hot or oh my! Looks like rain
Step 1: The weather is hardly ever optimal, so this is a recurring limitation.
Step 2: Can you do without? This may mean forgoing a hair wash after a sweaty workout, the extra time to dry out wet clothes, or the need to feel clean for your afternoon meeting. Perhaps simply doing without the sense of comfort that comes from perfect weather.
Step 3: Can you avoid the weather-related consequences by breaking down your workout –something indoors? Get creative about addressing your reason head-on and conquer it.
Step 4: Forget about the weather and face the consequences. Maybe the outcome is not as you feared after all.
Any time you find yourself using a reason, see if you can recognize a pattern. Have you skipped a workout at least three (3) times before because you found a “reason”? Three times is enough for you to both recognize the pattern (if you’re being objective), and simultaneously invent a creative way to make “this time” seems unique.
Be objective, if this is the third time, regardless of why you missed the last two chances, use
Step 4: the ‘I don’t give a damn’, I’ll do it anyway attitude.
Just 30 mins and take it cautiously if you need. Your body will remember how to adjust to your “reason”. The extra reward is the feeling of being hardcore, finally working at being who you want to be.
# 4 – I can’t afford it
Step 1: If this is a real limitation, consider how people with very little stay fit.
Step 2: Ask what you can do without or work around not having. Unlike scuba diving, skiing or even biking, which legitimately require some gear, one advantage of running is that you just need shoes. Barefoot advocates preach that even that is optional, with appropriate training. So, the idea that you need to buy tech gear or expensive event registrations is the most permeable and least robust of excuses. You don’t need to “look” like a runner or “dress” like someone who goes to the gym. You simply need to be that person. If that means going out in your scrubs around your house, so be it. There are those who train in combat gear and those who run in sarees. Gear can be an enhancement to convenience and performance, not an excuse for inaction. Sure, if you need to get a prosthetic leg to run, then
Step 3: Work to obtain one or
Step 4: “Don’t give a damn and proceed” anyway, because that’s the best way to develop the motivation to get what you need.
# 5 – I’m too old
Sikh superman Fauja Singh began running at age 89 and is still running today at age 107.
Stanislaw Kowalski only started running (for fun) 16 years ago at age 92, broke records at age 104 and is still running at age 108. No matter how athletic or genetically inclined these men may have been, the ages they began could have easily kept them from running.
Step 1: Recognize that you are as young as you are ever going to be
Step 2: Work around your age, and better yet, use your life wisdom to be a better athlete
Step 3 & Step 4: Work to build your energy, or simply not worry about your age and give it a shot
# 6 – I’m not capable / My body isn’t meant for this
You can only find what you are capable of by trying it. Humans have the capacity to adapt to situations, survive and thrive through extremes. Casting doubt on your capability, or what your body can or cannot do without even trying is offensive and disrespectful to yourself.
Negativity and positivity are both self-fulfilling prophecies. People redefine their capabilities daily simply by doing.
Step 1: Work to overcome either your capability or your self‐perception
Step 2: Ask if you can do without the sense of physical comfort at all times
Step 3: Work in small increments to build your capability or decrease your need for comfort
Step 4: Forget your perceived capability and just get up and go work out the best you can
People who run with bad form have long given running a bad name. Many use their knees or back as excuses rather than legitimate reasons. If you don’t like running, that’s ok, as long as you have something else that offers the benefits of sustained exercise. If you already have another form of fitness that works for you, then examine what exactly you may be looking for before you begin to apply the steps.
All excuses, whether for fitness or otherwise, map well to this technique. The formula works because it makes us recognize that we are (consciously or unconsciously) choosing our excuses. Once we own these choices, we can opt to engage with our excuses to overcome them.
I conclude with the words of George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic, polemicist, and political activist:
“The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, Make them!”.