The Role Of Excuses In Our Fitness Demise… Acknowledge And Conquer.

We all need a rest or a break that is no secret. However, when does a few days R and R digress into the realms of laziness and bad habits? When do we start to make excuses and invent reasons as to why we are not exercising? How do we get off this slippery slope into obesity?

OK, maybe I am exaggerating on the obesity front after all that takes months to years of neglecting your body. However, it is easy to feel like you have gained masses of weight after a few weeks of no exercise and that in itself can be demoralizing. You begin to think “what is the point I’ve not been to the gym for a few weeks now, I’m already fat and unhealthy I might as well wait until such and such a date to try again” THIS is the slope. The date never arrives.

The past 7 weeks I have been falling towards this slope rather quickly and am having a bit of a tricky time stopping myself snowballing towards sofa life featuring Jaffa Cakes and pizza. So, what causes it? What are the signs? What are the excuses? How do we get out of this excuse rut? How do we refocus our mind? Let us explore the past few weeks…

Causes of falling off the exercise wagon:

There are many reasons for falling off the exercise wagon or having a bit of a longer break than necessary.

  • Work commitments
  • New relationship
  • Relocation
  • New hobbies
  • Family problems
  • Other problems in life that raise their head and need attention
  • A new found love of alcohol and fast food
  • Holiday
  • Falling out with your PT or someone in your gym/club
  • General feelings of depression through not seeing results and thinking “what is the   bloody point”
  • Summer pub evenings
  • Winter sofa snuggles
  • Buying a new pet
  • Having children
  • Ageing and slow metabolisms
  • Minor Injury
  • Major Injury
  • Headaches, periods, general colds

The list of excuses really is endless, if people do not want to do something there will be an excuse.

The lead up to Christmas. The biggest excuse of all. The time of year when it is deemed acceptable to put on some weight. “Chub up for winter” and “winter bulking” are all common themes from October onwards in the fitness world and indeed I have used them in the past as a humorous way of comforting friends if they gain any weight.

“Ah I’ve gained a bit of weight I need to lose it” says a friend

“Oh, don’t worry its chub up for winter now we all gain a few pounds to keep warm!” I reply

*friend feels comforted and doesn’t spiral into depression. *

We justify weight gain during winter and to an extent this is OK, but maybe it gives us an unhealthy outlook on weight gain and paints excessive weight gain in a positive light. Indeed, it did with me this winter and I am now suffering the consequences of being blasé and jovial with “chub up for winter”.

My excuses 2017:

I have had a few minor injuries over the past half a year as previously mentioned. Being advised to “rest” I did just that and did nothing. Alas, rest does not always mean do nothing! You can find alternative exercises, stretch, roll, do rehab work. However, being unfamiliar with injuries and rest days I took “rest” literally. This led to huge falls in fitness and as a result demotivation, which is the biggest killer of exercising I find.

After breaking a finger at the end of November I slightly lost the plot, I could not pole, kickbox, lift weights or swim. Cycling and running were of course still doable. But in the negative mindset of focusing on all the things I could not do I forgot to think about the disciplines I could and just stopped everything.

“My finger is broken so I won’t be able to go hard so what is the point, it is also Christmas so I need to focus on friends and seeing people. Exercise can wait until holiday when I can concentrate and my finger is not so sore”

The excuses came thick and fast. Therefore, December was a month of fun, alcohol, late nights and rubbish foods. The reality was I could have gone for a half an hour jog a day or sat on the bike in the gym for a bit despite the above, but subconsciously I just did not want to. It was no longer a priority.

An example of not giving into excuses:

I have a friend Monika (many people reading this from my Facebook profile will know her) in 2015 Monika fell off an obstacle smashing her knee in half. She was uncertain if she would ever run or walk again. However, she did not make excuses, she kept on exercising sensibly, went to rehab and did not stop. She fought on, she WANTED to exercise and carry on being awesome. Now she is back to running as the elite athlete she was previous to her accident. To an extent, this marks any excuse from anyone for not exercising now as a cop out now in my eyes. “Oh, I have children” Monika could not walk. “Oh, I have a headache” Monika could not walk. It puts everything into perspective and demonstrates that if humans want to do something they will.

However, Monika is an exceptional person and most of the human population are not born with the same grit and determination. Therefore, maybe it is unrealistic to expect people to rise above excuses, maybe most are born to succumb to excuses every now and again.

Things in life happen, balance is a fine art, excuses will crop up. Whether we chose to use them is up to us…

What are the signs of falling off the wagon?

So how do you denote if you are falling/have come off the exercise wagon? Is there a day you will wake up and go “oh no I am no longer an exercise mad human”? Unfortunately, not, it is little habits that build up over time and you begin to notice you are changing rather than a huge epiphany one morning.

  • Excuses: You will find yourself making more and more of them. Write a list out of things to do each day, if exercise appears at the bottom all the time you are making excuses not to do it! It is no longer deemed a priority in your eyes.
  • Weight gain: An inevitable result of not exercising. You will begin to notice after a few weeks that your jeans are tight, not around the butt cheeks from having a pert behind but rather around the new-found muffin top you are sporting.
  • Tiredness: You will no longer bounce out of bed in the mornings. Afternoons will drag out. You will want to lay around on the sofa in the evenings. You will become sluggish and resemble a sloth (minus the algae and hair)
  • Comments: People will begin to comment on your appearance. Yes, some folk are brave and some have your best interests at heart. Cruel to be kind is a thing!
  • Mocking people being active: You may begin to mock people out running out of a jealous spite. Trying to convince yourself you are better off being sat in the pub… you know you are not.
  • Happiness with sudden guilt: You will be happy whilst doing things with friends but will be met with a stab of guilt when you realise you have bailed yet again on exercise in favour of laying around in their bedroom listening to music all day.
  • Plans not actions: you get very excited about the thought of exercise, you make plans, you do not follow them through.

How do we get out of this rut?

Sometimes it is a simple nasty comment from someone to shock us out of a rut. Other times it takes a long time and self-realisation.

In December, I went on holiday with my family on a cruise. In my mind, my December gluttony did not matter as the cruise ship had all you can eat 24/7 buffets of fish and salad and a gym. I could eat healthy for 3 weeks and exercise every day. It was here I decided I would get back on track. Three weeks of boot camp. This did not pan out quite as I had planned…

There was a lot going on, silent discos, bars, shows, clubs, the destinations and the spa. The gym got a slight look in but not much. It was a classic showboating gym. All the latest treadmills and leg press machines with air weights, padded seating and a man who would come around and squirt you with a water bottle of mist. I was not impressed. I asked where the free weights were, he pointed to a set of dumb bells, not quite what I meant. I asked for flat plate weights there were none. Pull up bar, no. Skipping ropes, no. Ski erg, no. Wall ladder, no. GHD or incline sit up bench, no. It was a gym equipped for people wanting to do a bit of minor exercise to keep mobile on holiday, I missed my weight lifting meathead, Bob Prowse.

However, despite the lack of useful equipment I made the best of a bad situation where I could. This was maybe once every other day and I began to feel a bit better. However, the food buffets were a nightmare. Yes, there was fish and salad, but there was also unlimited pizza all night. Ice cream, cakes, macaroons, profiteroles, curries, pies, hamburgers, hot dogs, kebabs…. every food under the sun 24/7. I am a pig, I eat a lot at home and I was not doing the exercises I usually do when at Bob’s so, of course, gained weight. “I am on holiday I can treat myself”…another excuse.

It was on the plane home when I noticed the damage I had done. I got out of breath walking up some stairs…this has not happened since I was about 12. I also have ample rolls when I sit down and my big jeans are no longer big and spacious. I have indeed put on rather a lot of weight and become rather unfit. Just what you need 6 months before Iron Man!

How to refocus the mind:

So, after 4 weeks of excuses leading up to Christmas and 3 weeks of excuses on holiday I am very much in a bit of a mess fitness wise. The rolls and stairs have shocked me back to reality and out of excuses. I have thus come up with a list of ways to refocus if struggling with getting off the sofa after Christmas, or any other time of year that has resulted in personal gluttony and sloth antics.

  1. Get so fat that you shock yourself into action (not the best idea but it worked for me, avoid if possible!)
  2. Give yourself a time frame of working your way back into it all over three days (max). Use the first day to clear your head and make a to-do list. The second day to make a plan of action/talk to a PT or trainer re fitness strategies, or make your own if you are up to speed. The third day get everything sorted, eat healthy, prep meals, get your gym gear out ready for the next day, get an early night. You can do this all in one day really so if you can, do.
  3. Plan your weeks. Make a plan every Sunday evening about what you want to achieve each week with a big tick box underneath for when you do achieve it. Do not make goals too hard! Make them simple like: drink more water, stretch for half an hour every other night or take a class twice a week. Little steps!
  4. Reward yourself within reason with little treats. Have a day you eat bread if you have given it up. Go on a night out on a Friday. But do not overdo it! We all need downtime.
  5. Do not wait for a Monday to make changes: Just do not.
  6. Support system: Explain to friends and family your intentions and how they can help. I have mentioned to friends that I will be dropping off the radar for a while and have sent them a race schedule so they can see me around races and training. If they are true friends they will support your goals.
  7. Put up pictures of your goals around the house. If you want to look like J Lo, pin her on your fridge, hell Photoshop your face onto her body if it helps! Out of sight is out of mind, make your goals the forefront of every day.
  8. Tick diary: If you go a day completing your goal of exercising every day, or not eating sweets then put a big happy tick in a calendar box on your wall. The more ticks you have the more it will spur you on. Do not put negative red crosses on days you do not achieve what you wanted this will not promote positive mindset and will make you think you are failing, which you are not. It is just a slight set back, we all have off days!
  9. Instagram: Motivational posts and quotes if that sort of thing works for you.
  10. Force yourself to make habits: Force yourself to get into a routine and tell people about it for support. Humans are creatures of habit. Once we have a set routine we find it easier to stick to. You can get others to encourage these new habits. This eliminates the potential for excuses. I have my Mum currently telling me to ignore bread and chocolate if I am gazing into the fridge longingly. Yes, I can eat it anyway but this will be met with disapproving looks and judgment which makes excuses a hassle. They no longer are easy self-contained escape goats. They become drawn out justifications of our actions to another, which for the most part I cannot be bothered with. As a result, I force myself to eat something else to avoid having to explain myself. Over time going to the fridge for a chicken wrap rather than a KitKat should become a habit. Equally with morning workouts before work. I have to force myself out of bed currently, with help from Mum, but over time it will become the norm. Force is temporary until a habit is formed.

Finally, the notion of priorities. Everything in life is ordered into our life in a hierarchy of importance. It is how we decide what to spend our time on and what to address first. Asking yourself if your goal is a priority might just make you realise how far down the ladder it has fallen and refocus the mind.

So now I stand the day before recapturing my old exercise obsessed self. My morning gym kit is laid out, my food all bought and all other areas of my life sorted that can be. In theory, I am ready. So, we will see if any of the above actually work.

Ultimately the past few months may be a warning from my body that it needed a rest, after all, I have been running around like a woman possessed for 3 years now without any extensive time off. This may well be the cause of falling off the wagon full stop… we need a rest from it all. However, if the lag in motivation is going on for weeks or months then it may be that we are making new habits that need to be broken. We are getting into a lull and becoming comfy, forgetting how we used to feel and how much energy we used to have.

So, are excuses the reason we may fall off the wagon? Yes, I believe so. Life gets hectic and we fall back into these safety nets of socially acceptable reassurances. We all use them, just some more than others. Acknowledging that you are using them too much and overcoming the addiction to flippantly throwing one out is the challenge. I have been using them every day for the past 2 months. Now it is time for a slight mental rejig and excuse rehab!