Out There: No Excuses Before Making An Attempt

Do you have an excuse not to go out and run? Photo: www.shutterstock.com

Susan Lacke writes about excuses—and how they only need to be proven wrong to lose their power.

“Are you high? You’re high.” I pointed an accusing finger at Coach Dude.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Tomorrow’s workout. I can’t run that pace for mile repeats. I couldn’t even run it for a minute last week!”

“You can do it.”

“I can’t, and I think you’re punishing me for last week’s failure.”

Coach Dude sighed. “That didn’t even cross my mind when I wrote the workout, Lacke. Shut the brain off. No making excuses before making an attempt.”

That night, while setting out my shoes for the next day’s run, I re-read the interval workout I was to do in the morning. “This is stupid,” I said out loud to my empty house, “I can’t do this.”

After a fitful night of sleep, I stirred to sunlight streaming through a crack in the curtains. Confused, I groggily fumbled around on my nightstand for my clock.

7:30. I must have forgotten to set my alarm. I was supposed to have started my run at 5.

“Oh, well,” I sighed. “I guess I’ll do it later.” I stumbled into the kitchen, made a pot of coffee, and opened my laptop. My shoes remained at their perch next to the front door.

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At 9:30, I was too besieged with e-mails to get away for my run.

At 11:30, I was too hungry.

At noon, I was too full.

At 1:00, it was too hot outside.

At 2:00, I had to finish an article right this second.

At 2:30, I couldn’t find a clean tech shirt to wear.

At 3:00, I needed a snack.

At 4:30, I didn’t want to deal with crossing streets during rush hour.

At 5:30, Neil came home, bearing takeout from our favorite Thai restaurant.

At 6:00, I finally put on my damn running shoes.

At 7:00, I went outside.

14 hours after I had intended to start, I did my interval workout—and I nailed it. In spite of my predictions of doom and gloom, it wound up being one of the best runs I’d had in a long time. Huh. Imagine that.

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I wish I could say that workout had revealed some secret about breaking through a training plateau or formulating a great run. But the only thing I learned is that I’m no longer able to tell Coach Dude “I can’t run that pace.” That feels pretty good, actually. Sometimes the simplest lessons are the most rewarding ones.

As I look at the list of excuses above, I’m faced with the brutal truth: I’m a Grade-A whiny asshat. The only reason I put off that run for 14 hours was because I wanted an out. When I couldn’t find an out, I created one (OK, more than one).

You see, after trying and failing to hit the goal pace once before, I reached the logical conclusion that if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t fail. If I couldn’t do it perfectly, I wasn’t going to do it at all. But lest I come off looking like a … well, a Grade-A whiny asshat, I formed an alternate reality, one where it was too late/busy/hot/unsafe/fill-in-the-blank.

We’re all guilty of this at some point. “I’ll do it later,” we’ve all told ourselves, “I can’t right now.” When later comes, there’s something wrong then, too. We believe it with a passion, because it’s far more comfortable than admitting the truth.

But that’s the funny thing about excuses—for all the time and energy we put into creating and maintaining them, they only need to be proven wrong one time for them to lose their power.

You can choose comfort, or you can choose progress. If you allowed yourself the opportunity to be proven wrong, to be uncomfortable just one time, I bet you’d be surprised, too. Just try it.

No making excuses before making an attempt.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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