Well excuuuuuse me!

Just saw yet ANOTHER example of a fitness professional talking about how people ‘make excuses’ not to prioritise exercise and I. Just. Cannot. With these people. (#notallPTs — there some amazing ones!*) I had to rant, I’m sorry.

Petition to ban the word ‘excuses’ from all fitness-related settings, anyone?

This time it was a personal trainer talking about how parents use their children as an ‘excuse’ not to train, but the whole ‘excuses’ thing pervades fitness culture.

One of my personal favourites was the time a (male) trainer told a roomful of women taking his HIIT class that he ‘knew all our tricks’. One of these tricks was apparently pretending to adjust our ponytails as a way to get an extra break between exercises. Have you ever heard anything so patronizing?? I told him (silently, in my head), Dude I am literally paying money for the privilege of sweating through my heavy-duty sports bra here. Why would I be looking for excuses *not* to do what I came here to do? Has it occurred to you, (I continued, giving him a quick glare while he had his back to me) that there might be other reasons why women feel the need to pay more attention to our appearances while training in public? And one more thing (I added later, in the shower, as I angrily shampooed my hair), I DON’T NEED AN EXCUSE NOT TO DO BURPEES. NOBODY DOES.

So embarrassing when you can’t make it to the salon and have to style your own hair for a gym session.

Whether it’s taking a walk break during your run or just not getting much exercise for a while, you don’t need an excuse. Dismissing your reasons as mere ‘excuses’ seems counterproductive to me. It’s mean, it’s disempowering, and it’s just going to make you feel less motivated. Yes, you probably would feel better if you were able to push yourself a bit more. Humans are made to move. We evolved to move A LOT. (Think hunting and gathering.)

But there is a catch to this. We are extremely well adapted for movement, but we are also adapted for situations in which movement is inevitable. So we’re adapted to avoid unnecessary movement. When we’re wrapped in a blanket two seasons deep in something mediocre on Netflix, our cave brains are going, “Yes, great stuff, keep resting now because tomorrow we’ll probably have to run 20 miles to hunt for meat!” And incidentally should we also happen to find ourselves bate into a ‘sharing’ (lol) bag of Maltesers, that same inner cave person is thrilled with us! “This is brilliant, sooo much sugar and fat; now we’ll definitely survive that 20 mile run. Keep going!” We get a lot of short-term physiological rewards and reenforcement for NOT moving. That’s not an excuse, that’s biology. If we want to address the reasons we are not moving as much as we’d like, we need to work with that biology, not deny it and give out to ourselves. Self-acceptance, gentleness, starting from where we are — these are all ways to be kind and change things. Beating ourselves up for doing what comes naturally? Well, there’s no excuse for that.

*Off the top of my head: If you’re in Cork, AclaĆ­ is a really inclusive and friendly place which encompasses genuine diversity and works with people of all abilities. Online, I love Emma Green PhD and Jake Gifford to name but two.