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Sunday
May152011

Reasons versus Excuses

Last week, we introduced you to Kara Thom in her article, “For Parents, Exercise isn’t ‘Me Time.’ It’s Mentor Me Time!" This week, she shares some insight from her book Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom about the mental battles that can keep us from staying consistent with our fitness goals. Enjoy!

Tom Nikkola – Director of Nutrition & Weight Management

by Kara Douglass Thom

There are no good excuses to skip a workout. That’s right. None. However, there are plenty of good reasons that might interfere with exercise. Excuses take on many forms, but 99.8 percent of them are a variation of “I don't have time,” or “I’m too tired.” We’ve all been there.

If you’ve ever missed a workout but knew deep down you could have made it happen, an excuse was in play. It’s like telling yourself a little white lie. Another sign: when explaining your decision, you sound like you’re trying to convince yourself—not just other people—that you did the right thing by skipping. As if repeating the story might make it true.

Once you’re able to catch yourself using an excuse, can you find a way around it? Consider alternative times, options, an abbreviated workout (because 10 minutes is still better than nothing) or a different workout situation altogether. For instance if you hit the snooze button and missed the 5:30 a.m. cycling class, can you make it to a 6:00 a.m. class instead? What about a lunchtime walk or run? Maybe it’s a strength workout in your backyard, mixing squats and pushups with piggyback rides for your kids.

Does that mean you should never use an excuse to skip a workout? Nah! We all need our indulgences. Like dessert, a spa treatment, or time on Facebook, we deserve a mental or physical break every now and then. But only if you can be clear about what you’re doing: you are choosing not to workout. You’re not the victim of your excuse. By taking control of the decision, you know you can change course tomorrow. And that’s important because, for some people, getting off track just once puts them on a slippery slope that ends in a field of couch potatoes. One missed workout can turn into a week, a month, possibly even a year, of skipped workouts.

As for good reasons to miss a workout, those are always clear and definitive; they are often out of your control and don’t require any convincing on your part. You have a fever; your child vomited in the back seat on the way to the gym; your boss asked you to stay late to finish a project. You might have access to a Plan B workout option, but if you don’t, no need to feel guilt. This is especially important for those who tend to err on the side of exercising at all costs — and don’t recognize a good reason to skip a workout when they should.

Just like an excuse, a reason not to exercise one day shouldn’t be the end of all future workouts. Tomorrow’s a new day.

Sometimes we need to make trade-offs in life. In the book, Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom (Andrews McMeel 2011), we share what we call a “Sweaty Decision Tree” that can guide readers to answer the question, “Should I work out or not?” Variables include whether or not the workout will leave you more or less stressed, what your workout plans were the day before, and if you think a workout is possible the following day.

What may be a good reason one day might be an excuse on another. An excuse for some people might be a good reason for someone else. In order to know the difference on this case-by-case basis, you have to be in tune with your body and mind so you can be true to your needs and goals. And if you do miss a workout—whether because of an excuse or a reason—know that it doesn’t have to end your commitment to fitness.

Kara Douglass Thom is a triathlete, freelance writer and mother of four. She and Laurie Kocanda are the co-authors of Hot (Sweaty) Mamas: Five Secrets to Life as a Fit Mom. Her blog, Mama Sweat, chronicles her pursuit to find fitness in the chaos of motherhood.

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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