No Excuses

My clients know that I am the farthest thing from a drill sergeant there is. They never have a fear of me smacking them in the side of the head because they moved their right foot instead of the requested left foot. And to date I have never used the knife hand. They also know I’m pretty sympathetic to honest issues that may cause them to skip a workout. However, I do know how to identify an excuse and here are some of the better ones I’ve heard over the years:

“My body can’t do that.”

There are exceptional cases where some 6′ 13″ giant with T-Rex arms and giraffe legs may not be able to deadlift…or drive a car for that matter. For everyone else, please understand that you are not special when it comes to anatomy. Sorry that all those inspiration posters lied to you but thems-da-breaks. Do your elbows bend the other way? Do you have a foot where your hand should be? No? Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought.

You’re just different enough to be interesting, but not different enough to matter anatomically. Do adjustments have to be made regarding certain exercises? Of course! Any good trainer will take time to see why you’re having trouble with a particular movement. If they’re really good they will have done a medical history review to find out if you have any outstanding conditions that may contribute to the situation. And they will make the necessary corrections to ensure you can do the movement without pain. Which leads me to the next excuse.

“No. No. No. This hurts. I can’t do this. I have to stop.”

Pain is an automatic stop in my book. It’s like the big red emergency brake handle in passenger trains. However about 7 times out of 10, the “pain” is actually the muscles doing work*. These people were so used to the soft gooey center of the envelope, any displacement out of their tiny comfort zone triggered an alert system in their body to go off. Many times these were the people who didn’t want to be at a gym anyway, but a medical mandate from their doctor forced their hand (to grab a dumbell haha).

I can kind of sympathize since they really had no urge to improve themselves other than their doctor’s standing orders. The ones I never understood were the ones who wanted radical changes but with zero effort. As in, “I want to look like a bodybuilder/bikini model but I really don’t want to sweat or exert myself”. I bet they’re the same people who say “I want to travel the world but I really don’t like leaving my house.” Have fun watching Amazing Race ya hermit.

 *Working muscles produce anywhere from a mild to intense burning sensation. Anything else like sharp pain, and especially any popping or tearing sensation is an immediate reason to stop. Often being out of alignment can cause joint discomfort, which promptly goes away once proper alignment is established. Chances are if it hurts, you’re doing it wrong.

“I don’t do ________ exercises. They’re bad for you.”

This is what happens when our education system makes health class all about anti-drugs, peer pressure and sex education. Nobody knows how their own body is designed to work or what its limitations are. As a result there are a lot of very smart people who through no fault of their own think that squats make your kneecaps explode, bench press makes your shoulders explode, and that the Smith Machine is the safest invention since the seat belt. Do you really think I could sleep at night if I gave people exercises that I knew would destroy their bodies?

If you or people you know are or were injured doing a particular lift, use the common sense test. Is it possible that a natural movement that has been around since humans started picking things up and putting them down is at fault? Or maybe it’s your interpretation of how it should be done? Find a good trainer to check your form. Have someone film you doing the exercise. You’d be surprised how different your perception of how you’re set up is from reality.

“I need to lose weight, but I have to do this on my own.”

Please grow up and leave the teenage self-discovery angst in the cheesy 80s movie that you got it from.

  1. You need help, or you’d already be doing it.
  2. You want help or you wouldn’t be talking about it.

But you’re also nervous, scared or intimidated by the prospect of actually doing it. That’s fine, but just admit it. Fear can be useful if channelled properly. It can also destroy you if left to its own insidious devices. Using independence as a reason to put off working out is convenient as it allows you to constantly delay action, but it is also very,very lame.

If you truly do not want to workout and you are not at risk of imminent demise, don’t workout. Learn to be happy with who you are and who you will not be. There is nothing wrong with a personal choice such as that. But you have to also stop complaining about your body. And looking at models and celebs as comparison. And being upset that you used to look better/thinner/stronger/etc. You want to be independent? Either go do it, or stop talking about it.

“Nobody is encouraging me.”

So what? Most great achievements on this planet were generated with notable opposition, in secret or with very little fanfare. Albert Einstien didn’t write on Niels Bohr’s wall and say “OMG these quanta are errrrrywhere!” Henry Ford didn’t start tweeting about going bankrupt and how unfair it was. Joe Montana didn’t have someone pat him on the back each time he went to practice. Your success comes from within. Anything external is just icing on the cake.

Nobody is going to hand you a trophy for showing up to the gym. Go anyway. Someone else may look “better” than you and workout far less intensely than you have to. Unfair? Maybe, but who cares. You may lose friends because as you start making progress, they feel left behind. Sad? Not really, that is their problem, not yours. If they are not mature enough to accept your positive changes, you have to be mature enough to move on. You will make new friends who are willing to help and support the new you. But nobody can take the steps for you. That part is up to you.

“Isn’t there an easier way?”

There are always easy ways out. I happen to be a fan of the path of least resistance. My whole workout mantra is to lift smarter so I can lift heavier. And heavy weights no matter what anyone says give you the foundation necessary to do 90% of the things that most humans want or need to do. I use laziness as a prompt to not waste energy so that my workouts are efficient. This is far different from trying to outsmart nature and physics.

To be clear, a shortcut may be a useful tool to someone else at a different point in their training, usually an advanced athlete who has to pass a certain plateau or make weight for a contest. But to wish upon some magic shake, workout video, Martin Lawrence rubber suit, thermogenic pill or some cleverly marketed marital aid to turn you into a superhero overnight is wasted wishing. Progress is a process. Don’t try to rush it.

Resistance to challenge, corrections and change is what makes you struggle. The day you stop fighting against yourself is the day that transformation begins.

Go forth and lift.

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