“If you really want to do something, you'll find a way. If you don't, you'll find an excuse."
I stumbled upon that quote recently and it certainly rang true. As both a coach and an athlete, I can say that it is nearing “that” time of year. This is the time of year when winners are made and the rest just fall into the trap of indifference, lack of commitment and distraction. I’ve said it before – winners do not necessarily win races, they are champions of their own goals and desires. They do what they set out to do not because they are gifted but because they make the commitment to themselves to do what it takes to get it done.
What are the winners doing? Simply put, they’re getting it done. They’re managing life, time and energy to be sure they get the training done. They set goals, they understand the work it takes to get there and then commit to doing it. They make that commitment every day and through that consistency they gain fitness and make progress. Whether it’s cold, dark, or I just plain don’t want to – they do. Day in, day out, they get it done.
What about everyone else? I think it’s safe to say that at some point, we’ve all been “everyone else”. Even the most successful athlete does not wake up every single day looking forward to 100 percent of their workouts. Energy and motivation ebbs and flows. At times you just want to bottle up your motivation so you can pull from a reserve on those days you see a long run when its 10 degrees, a 2 hour easy trainer ride at 5:30 am or something like 10 x 400 on your schedule, including 1200 yards with band.
One word for that: oy.
It’s easy during those times to find an excuse. I’ve talked before about excuses, and having spent many years working with adults, let me tell you – adults are master excuse makers. Adults will spend all sorts of wasted time giving you excuses rather than take that time to improve the situation or – simply – get done what they are trying to excuse. I once worked with an athlete who sent drawn out emails about why they couldn’t get a workout done. Everything from work to having to take out the dog. We all work. And a lot of us have dogs. We get things done! The 20 minutes it probably took to write that email could have been 20 minutes spinning on their trainer. Something is better than nothing. Point is, you're either busy making excuses or busy making it happen each day.
Which do you choose?
I’ve been thinking excuses a lot lately because now that I have a child – the excuses are everywhere. It becomes very attractive to take the easy way out or to not start something at all because I’m ________(fill in the blank; tired, busy, house work to do, real work to do, etc., etc). I find that when we walk around tired or frustrated, excusing ourselves or blaming others becomes more likely. We find reasons it is ok to feel sorry for ourselves, to blame our lack of action on something/someone else or to give less than our best.
On Saturday morning, I woke up late for masters. I had every excuse to stay home – not enough time to get there, didn’t eat breakfast, the baby (always a great excuse!) but then I thought about my season goals. Sure, I could miss one swim but I find that once you let yourself get away with something it becomes a slippery slope. Indifference adds up quickly. I got my act together quickly and made it to the pool just in time. The mainset was 10 x 200 on an interval that on some days is what it takes me to swim a 200. For a split second, I thought about giving myself permission to pull some of them, or put on fins, or demote myself a lane because I was tired, missed breakfast, I have a baby (SEE!). So many excuses...
But then I realized something else. I stood on the edge of opportunity. I knew with the right determination and pacing, I could make the interval. When faced with a challenge, some athletes either breakthrough or breakdown. If I completed this set today, it would be a huge breakthrough. As I got further into the set, the excuses peeled away. Pulling, paddles, fins – none of that needs to be my fire escape. If I want to do this, I’ll find a way. If I don’t, I’ll find myself at #6 with a pull buoy.
When you accept an excuse, you deny yourself an opportunity. Making a new interval, pushing a set of watts you didn’t think you could do – you only get there if you give yourself a chance. The worst thing that happens – you blow up and end up going easy the rest of the time. The best thing that happens – you find a new limit, you breakthrough. Is it worth it? Opportunity versus excuse, you decide.
The excuse is always the easy way out. I’m tired, I’m busy, I don’t feel like it, it’s only January, did I mention I have a 6-month old? Bucking up and getting the work done - that's the hard stuff. Our world is so easy-here-now in as little work as possbile that I find some adults-turned-athletes don't realize the importance and undeniability of this equation: work + time = progress. You cannot get anything unless you do the work over time. No excuses, no short cuts.
Spend a week looking back at your life or workout schedule. Look at all the things you did and did not do. For the things you did not do – why. What’s your excuse? Be careful, it’s a fine line between excuses and reasons. Reasons come up (sick child, car broke down, situations beyond our control). Excuses are brought up. Separate those “whys” into things you have control over and things you don’t have control over. For things you have control over, do something about it. Chances are next week, you’ll find yourself with a lot less excuses and a lot more action.
Time management is the biggest defense an adult has to excuses. I know you’re busy. We all are. Even the busiest people find time to get it done – if they want to. There are a lot of little things you can do to improve time management. Laying out your bike clothes before you go to bed, having everything you need next to the trainer, keeping your swim bag packed in the car, communicating with your spouse about the time you need to get things done. All of these little things are defenses against what gets most of us – I don’t have the time or I have too much time to think while getting ready that I lose my motivation before getting it done. If everything is ready for you, there is no time to think. You wake up, you get on the bike, you do. Before you know it, you’re done.
I coach a lot of busy people – from lawyers to surgeons to people with kids to full-time students. Rightfully, each one of them has an excuse for why they can’t do something. The difference is that the athletes who achieve don’t use it. They don’t need to. Because they get up every day making the commitment to get it done. It’s not easy – it requires planning, communication and giving up some of the unnecessaries but if you want to get to your goal, you sacrifice. You get up early, you make it a priority, you don’t even give the excuses time to show up. You beat them to the punch.
I write about excuses as a constant reminder to myself. Each day with a 6-month old is an adventure in fatigue, balance and learning that I cannot leave anything within his turning radius unless I want that thing dumped all over the ground (mug of Kefir on living room rug ---> lesson learned). Some days I wake up tired, some days he doesn’t nap, other days I think to myself it’s hard enough to find time to eat let alone get in two workouts. I have every opportunity to give up on myself and accept defeat on the couch. But something drives me from within. Whether it’s the opportunity of what lies ahead or just every day striving to be better than the day before – it pushes me to get it done. When I look back on what I’ve accomplished this year, I want a list of successes. Not a list of excuses that got in the way.
This week it’s your call. Maybe you want to eat better, get in 100 percent of your workouts, get more sleep, whatever – if you truly want it, you’ll make a plan, take action and find a way. Go find it. No excuses, now.