Monday, November 01, 2010

No Excuses

On Sunday morning, I woke up early for a long run with a friend.

We headed out to Waterfall Glen. The sun was rising into the morning which awoke at a brisk 32 degrees. You forget how cold that is when you haven’t felt it for over a year. The running capri tights come out. Gloves are involved. You wear long sleeves.

I like to warm up into a run, slowly. And I mean slowly. Sue, on the other hand, settles into what feels like a cruising pace from the get go. She comes from a pure running background – she arrives for our long runs with no water, no gels, no watch. She just runs. She has two speeds – pace and faster than pace. And she can do both while talking.

I feel like I’m carrying a bear on my back, the running feels heavy and awkward. I’m heavy. It’s cold. I can’t breathe. I hate running in tights. And then – the ultimate excuse popped into my head – I should just slow down, after all, I just had a baby.

I had been thinking lately about excuses. Everyone has them, don’t they? If you look hard enough, you can find an excuse for just about anything. On any given day, I wake up with a dozen excuses waiting to be used. See above. But the one I find floating around the most is I just had a baby. I hear myself saying it in my head like it means anything. As if it matters. Sometimes I say it to pity myself, as in – I can’t run that pace, I just had a baby. Or, I don’t need to do that yet, I just gave birth 13 weeks ago.

If you give me enough time, I can find an excuse for why I shouldn’t do just about anything. Especially now that things are so uncomfortable. I’ve been forced into this new zone of discomfort. Nothing feels natural. Everything feels like work in a different way. Sometimes things feel so awkward that nearly every workout requires some degree of mental focus and tenacity. Reteaching myself how to not ride a bike but apply pressure to the pedals. Remembering to push off with each step and not just let my running weight sink into the ground. How to hurt in the pool during an interval. Heck, some days just working out in the morning is totally uncomfortable. I was never a morning workout person. Now I find myself on my bike at 5:30 am looking at the prescribed watts thinking – isn’t it too early morning to put out that kind of wattage?

Like I said, give me enough time and I’ll find an excuse for anything. Excuses are our first defense when we are uncomfortable or faced with the unknown. Listen to them loudly enough and excuses become our fears. I shouldn’t becomes I can’t which then becomes I won’t. Or didn’t. Didn’t becomes regret.

Somewhere around mile 5, we hit a long hill. Sue takes off, strong and efficient up the hill. I find myself on the hill thinking – that’s ok, I’m 10 pounds heavier than her. Of course I’m slow on the hills.

Excuses. I’ve almost had enough of them.

We stop to look at a map and maybe it was the momentary break I needed. I told myself to zip it. I had enough excuses floating around in my head so far and didn’t want to hear them anymore. If I didn’t stop them here – who knows how long they would go on. How long can one use the excuse I just had a baby? Three months? Six months?


Somewhere around mile 7, Sue picks up the pace. She gets a little ahead of me and I realize – I have two choices. I can sit back here and watch her run away or try to keep up with her. Her pace was reasonable but certainly not comfortable. I can hear the excuses piling up for me to listen but instead I turn them off. I pick up the pace and go after her. The other girl I passed must have thought I was some psycho-competitve runner chasing down the redhead wearing purple tights.

Yes, I was.

Sue holds the pace for about 3 miles. I’m focusing on one thing – keeping up with her turnover. All I’m watching is her feet. Just do what they’re doing. Turnover, push off. She’s making it look too easy. We hit the one mile marker and she picks it up, giving it a great tempo finish and I couldn’t match that today. One day – I’ll get there (again). When it was all said and done, I ran ittle harder than I thought I could, surprised myself. But only because I decided, at some point, to get over myself and get after it.

No more excuses.

An excuse is a justification for failure to do something. It is a fail. I have to remind myself of that every day or else I find myself becoming yet another person who sets goals but pulls out every reason possible for why I will fail at them. In fact, excuses just give yourself permission to fail. Spend a day listening to the voice in your head and I bet you’ll hear them….”I ate good today, I can have that junk”, “I’m too busy to work out”, “I’m tired so I don’t have to hit those intervals.” Excuses are not reasons but they can become reasons. They allow us to accept less than our best and to pretend I’m ok with it. But are you really ok with it? When you look back and find goals that you didn’t achieve, do you want the reason to be…yourself?

I’ve got a dozen or so workouts each week. The hard ones – well, lately, there are a lot of hard ones. I’m getting to the point where I’m running longer, biking farther. Doesn’t matter how far I’ve run in my life, the first time going 90 minutes in over a year – yeah, those last 10 minutes are hard. Riding into the wind for an hour is hard. Swimming 4000 yards not just for la la I’m just floating along very pregnant but for time – hard. Of course there are easy workouts where I just run a few miles, turn off my mind and relax. There are easy spins and swims where I do mostly drills. But the other stuff – even as fired up as I am to tackle the work, it’s becoming more work. It takes more than motivation, it’s really wanting it, owning it and committing. Anyone can commit to the easy feel-good stuff. But when it gets harder, what do you do? Do you give up. Do you not even start. Do you find an excuse.

The hardest workout, I’ve said this before, is the strength workout with Kate. I went there last week and wanted to curl up to nap on the mat. I had a challenging run earlier in the day. And to my delight, yet again, she seemed to have put together 60 minutes of everything I was really bad at doing. Then I realized – that’s the point. I was in the middle of some painful circuit that involved the TRX and my hamstrings when I said I’m tired. The excuses started piling up in my head – I have a baby! I wake up twice a night! I haven’t slept straight for 13 weeks! Blah blah blah…

I paused. Replayed that in my head. Then got over myself. Really. She sees me for 60 minutes a week and the last thing she cares to hear is that I’m tired. If I can’t find 60 minutes of the week to buck up and not be tired – or at least pretend I’m not tired – then what am I doing here (and, trust me, there is tired and there is fatigued; tired is whiny, fatigue is drained, if you’re whining that you’re tired…yeah, you can get over it). The rest of the session I just gritted my teeth when it got hard. And worked even harder at the things I was really, REALLY bad at in spite of myself.

If I’m not careful, I’ll spend the entire winter telling myself it’s ok to _____ because I just had a baby. But I’ve found that excuse wore out with me long ago. Not because I didn’t have a baby but because I don’t want to become that person who has an excuse for everything. Know those people? The pool is too cold, the trainer is too boring, using a heart rate monitor makes me run too slow. If you spent less time excusing yourself from being a success, you might find that success you keep searching for.

Simple as that.

When it comes to success, it hurts, it’s uncomfortable, it means doing what you’re really bad at and working at it. Over and over again. Doing the work. No excuses. If you took one day, and every time you heard an excuse, you made yourself do what you were trying to get out of doing, where would you go?

Find out.


My Life and Running said...

Great post. And timely for me. I "postponed" my run this morning when I saw the 34*. My excuse is the cold (...first winter in 10 years, no proper clothes, it's too cold, it's uncomfortable & it hurts...). Excuses no more!! (that said, any suggestions on good winter gear? :))

Kris said...

Good post Liz...and timely for me too. One of the things I continue to struggle with in training is teasing out the difference between tired (and excuses) and fatigue (the body needs a break). Just determining when I'm bailing on something or when my body is just *done*.

E.L.F. said...

Winter gear: balaclava, fleece-lined tights, gloves that come with detachable mitten covers, fleece lined vest, base layer. is a great place to start. Use EFEDO-S for 10% off. If you can't find it there, try REI.

Kim said...

So freakin true. You didn't get where you are-were-will be with them, and you are so much stronger than excuses! Excited to see your progress!!!

ali said...

Love this post! We all need to hear this over and over again. Thx:))

Keith said...

Timely, yes. But my problem is not cold weather; I ran in below zero C weather recently. My problem is balancing recovering from IMC - my brain thinks everything should be recovered, my body isn't so sure. said...

Would I be able to get this post, on audio-file, as read by ELF herself...all set to play as my alarm at 4:30 so I can get be hit w/ the reality of "I'm getting my ass up so I can not only not-fail, I can pass this early AM workout test w/ flying colors?"
Thanks. :-)

Ryan said...

I was going to write the EXACT same thing... minus the squirting a human from my loins just weeks ago part.

Terri said...

I love the idea of a podcast - Liz have you ever thought about doing that? Next, call me an enabler, but I think you do get some passes for just having a baby and YES, I'm that person who always can find an excuse - some days they get packed away, others they win. I just have to pack away more than win to stay ahead of the game - but hey, it's hard (oh yeah, another excuse). :-)

Laura Wheatley said...

a-freakin-mazing post!!!! THANK YOU for TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!!

Jarrett @ "PaddlePedalPlod" said...

Great post... I seem to have a lot of excuses this time of year, this year has been pretty good so far!! We all have excuses at some point!!

ADC said...

Great post.

trish said...

I love this! I told my friend and trainer (she's like your Kate) to read this and she read it to one of her body blast classes.

Sarah Giacomarra Schrader said...

I feel like a lazy shit now. **sigh**
I guess I need to get to the gym and find out if my back can handle a workout or whether my injury has turned into an excuse. I may not be able to run & bike yet, but there is always the elliptical, weights and yoga.
Thanks for the kick in the ass.

Susan said...

OMG, I am just now reading this. As I recall, YOU are the one who did an extra couple of miles at the end of the run while I stretched and watched weirdos in the parking lot. That was such an energizing run because I never would have done it alone, and because I never dare slack off on a run with you!

Great post - excuses seem to get easier the older I get!