The difference between real reasons and excuses

Today I'm going to teach you the difference between these three things: 

  1. Excuses
  2. Valid Reasons
  3. Permission Giving Thoughts (PGT's) 

Why?  Well, because I love it when I hear the words "I've got a valid reason".... or "This isn't an excuse but..." When I hear those words I know an excuse is coming.  If I can help you see what a reason is and what an excuse is, then you might make a different choice.   You might not, we'll see.

Let's start with valid reasons.

Don't be fooled here, many times we state it is a valid reason, when in fact, it's just a convenient way for you to get out of something.  Here's a good one.  "I couldn't workout today because I was helping my friend move house".  Great reason, you can't be in two places at once, but you could have worked out BEFORE helping your friend or after.  Your friend is not holding you hostage, you're a big girl now, and if you REALLY wanted to keep working towards your goal and work out like you said you were going to, then you really could have.  This is an example of a "reason", that went all excuse like.

"I broke my ankle".  Yes, this is a valid reason for not exercising.  But it's not a valid reason for shoving shit food down your face.  If you had a broken esophagus, then sure, I can accept that as a valid reason for nothing being able to swallow fibrous and protein rich foods. 

What is a valid reason?  A valid reason would be a reason that puts yourself in harms way if you continued.  You, hanging out at the beach all weekend is not putting you in harms way of eating well and exercising.  So while many of you call this a reason, I call it an excuse.   The school holidays is an excuse not a reason.

A valid reason would also be something that we all typically associate poor eating/drinking or inactivity with - such as, having the flu, Christmas Day, Graduation Day etc.

I'm sorry that you work for a booze company and feel like its your obligation to drink every night with clients.  You might believe this is a valid reason, but it's just a dirty ol' excuse for you drink every night.  Manage your obligations AND your personal goals better. 

We often think that because we have a crazy social life, that this just means we have to roll with eating and drinking and not eercising, we see this as a valid reason.  It's not, you just quite simply, have some lifestyle decisions to make and a few habits to change.  Did you know that you can actually socialise without pigging out and drinking?  It's called socialising and we do it with people.

It's your birthday, and 5 people made you cakes.  This is a valid reason that could blur into excuse.  You deserve cake on your birthday, this is a valid reason to eat cake.  But if you eat all 5 cakes in the week following your birthday, because "they were made for you" - then you are making excuses.

You pull a hamstring, and you decide to keep exercising.  This could double your recovery time or you could damage it even more.  So to stop mid-way through a workout due to this, would be a valid reason.  Stopping half way through because you're puffed, is an excuse.  Stopping half way through because you are out of breath due to poorly managed asthma, is a valid reason.  Failure to manage your asthma for subsequent sessions, when you know better - would be an excuse, or just plain ol' not caring for your body's needs.

My client Rebecca raced off to her Tech gym, with half an hour to spare between classes.  She got changed, and the gym was closed, yet she still did her workout - in the changing rooms.  She could have legitimately used this as a valid reason - working out in changing rooms is dangerous (wrong floor surfaces, wet areas etc, and hygiene of course).  But instead, she viewed it as an excuse and trained anyway.

I'm not telling you to exercise in your changing rooms - but I am asking you to think more honestly about your reasons for doing stuff that doesn't meet your goal. 

Even your mum insisting on you eating 2 slices of cake is not a valid reason.  Yeah, hey, mum might get upset - but it's your goal dude, YOU need to explain to mum what your needs are.  Keeping mum happy is an excuse not a reason.   If mum was going to beat you to death over the cake, then yes - you NOW have a valid reason to shovel that down.  Eat 3, just in case - but make no excuses about working out tomorrow.


Ok, well what's an excuse then?

An excuse is just a way of you getting out of something, or a thing that you tell someone to cover up the fact that you just "didn't want to".  An excuse is also one of those things that you call a valid reason, that you haven't yet realised is an excuse in disguise.

"I was all set to go to the gym this morning, but my car wouldn't start" or "My alarm didn't go off, and by the time I woke up I was 15 minutes late".

This alarm clock one - you guys seem to think us trainers are a bit dumb.  We have heard this excuse so many times, and you still think that we believe it.  We don't.  There's no denying it happens, gosh it happened to me on the morning of a bootcamp.  But guess what!?  I still got my ass there, and my bootcamp were warming themselves up!  They didn't make an excuse did they "Oh our trainers not here"... I didn't make an excuse "Oh we'll have to cancel the session I can't get there in time".  No, we got on with it.  We got on with our obligations.  My obligation to my team and their obligation to their goals. 


If you really don't want to do something, don't BLOODY WELL DO IT!!!  Yes I am yelling!   Why on earth are you making up excuses when you don't want to do something.  Be brave, admit it - "I just don't want to do it".  Don't make up excuses and then try and disguise them as valid reasons.  You are just creating layers of lies.

 "I worked in the garden all day, so I decided not to work out" .  This is a popular one.  If you gardened with the same intensity as you would in a gym workout, then ok, let's call it a valid reason (only just, because I find this hard to believe).  If you did not work out with the same intensity, then no, you are just making an excuse.  If you strained your back gardening, then this is a valid reason.  Same with walking around the shops and then not doing your workout.  Please, this is an excuse for EVERYONE, and will never ever be a valid reason.  Unless we all end up like Jabba the Hutt.

An excuse is just you making yourself more comfortable.  Instead of an excuse, why not turn it into a challenge to be overcome.  Here's one. 

"I didn't exercise this morning, it was too cold".  This is an excuse if you leave it there.  This is a challenge if you desire to overcome it.  Let's look at some solutions: 

  1. Don't train in the morning.  If you keep missing the morning sessions, then this is a stupid time for you to train.   Train at lunchtime or in the evenings...or even at home under your heat pump.  None of those ideas appeal?  Well, you're now stuck in excuse land - good luck with achieving your goals.
  2. Wear warmer clothes.  I remember when I was getting at 4am to squeeze cardio in before work at 6am.  I went to bed wearing my long johns, the ones that then stayed on while I shoved my wet weather gear over top (I was cycling to work).  The change in temperature never got to my bones.  Hey, I'm not saying it was fun and I sure as hell aint doing it ever again - but at the time, if I had made excuses about the cold, I would never have got it done, and never had won the silver medal I won that year in my Figure comp. 
  3. Set a timer on your heater to go off at 5am or whatever, so that when you get out of bed and dressed, its not cold.  By the time you get out to your car and feel the cold, it's too late!  You're on your way! 
  4. Just be HONEST and don't exercise.  Don't make excuses, just say "I don't want to exercise" - use some honesty.  FYI, as a PT I 100% respect a client more if they were honest and just told me they hate exercise, than one who kept making excuses. 
  5. Work out the real reason.  Is it really the cold?  Or is the fact that you're trying to motivate yourself at 5am to go and do a Jump-O-Matic Aerobics Allstars Fit-Plus Class, when you would rather be doing the Spin-Ya-Face-Off session 15 minutes later.  Once you really know why you're avoiding those sessions instead of the excuse/lie you just told yourself, then you can rocket forwards!

And on the note of types of workouts etc.  If a client comes to me complaining of aches, poor sleep or whatever, I change the workout to reflect the person.  My clients know that - and that's why I don't get handed many excuses, they know that we'll probably hit the Lake for a walk and a chat about other health things if they're not "exercise ready" on any given day.  Those with excuses would miss out.

What about these Permission Giving Thoughts (PGT's)


These can come from you or they can come from other people.  These are things like: "Go one, just one won't hurt you".... "You've been so good all week, you deserve it" ... "When I was losing weight I could have 2 pig out should be able to also" ... "That guy said we can improve our metabolism with only 1 minute of exercise 3x a week". 

I've got only one thing to say to you.  How are you going with your goal?  Are you letting someone else give you permission to NOT ACHIEVE your goal?  Because if you go and have 2 pig out days every week, that's exactly what you are letting them do.  You are literally handing your control to someone else.

PGT's make us, and those around us feel comfortable.  But it's not your job to make your friend, who is pigging out on KFC feel comfortable.  Yeah, they'll tell you things like "Oh don't let me eat this all on my own", and you'll feel so bad that you help them.  You become the fool, because you know better.  You become the fool twice when you get your results tracked and they haven't moved.  And as for your friend, they don't care that your results were crap, they're just happy that you're still one step closer to them. 

We offer PGT's to ourselves also.  These are excuses, but they are typically made BEFORE the event, like this one: 

"I won't have time to exercise tomorrow morning before work as I have to take Johnny to the Doctor and get myself to work earlier to make up the time".  Well, aren't you lucky, you already KNOW what tomorrow is bringing.  So instead of giving yourself permission to ignore your goals - here are some options: 

  1. Go and do your workout as planned, but cut it short by half an hour.  No biggie.
  2. Plan your workout for AFTER work.  Gotta pick Johnny up from School?  Cool, do your workout at home once you're both safe n sound through the door.  Gotta cook dinner?  Cool, do that - after you've done 20 minutes of exercise.  But that's not fair?  Gosh, neither is you complaining in my colleagues' offices that you can't achieve your goals either.  It's not fair to the people trying to help you.  Good grief, life hasn't just taken your legs, it's only asking that you carry out what you already planned to do at a different time.
  3. Do you workout as planned, take Johnny to the Doctor as planned, and then work through your lunch break instead. 
  4. Do your morning workout at home - cut out the travel time. 

PGT's tend to give us an "out" before the event, whereas excuses provide the "out" after the event.  Both of them are not providing valid reasons. 

In Summary


Start learning the difference between real, honest to god reasons why you should ignore your goal and the actions of getting to your goal, vs dumb excuses that are just designed to give you an out.  If you need an out, just take it. 

I do it all the time.  If I don't want to do something, I just say "I don't want to do that", I don't need to sugar it all up with a reason or an excuse.  Or I'll offer myself an alternative - "I can't do that today, but I'll this instead".  I ran into a client yesterday and I had 2 custard squares in my hand.  I didn't use any excuses to hide behind like "I was a bit too busy to make food" I was honest, and I stared in the eyes of my client and said I felt like custard squares.

Never, ever be afraid to admit that things are difficult, demotivating or that you don't want to do them.  If you can be honest with yourself, then you will have more understanding of why you do or don't like, or do certain things.  Then you can move forwards with the right strategies instead of the wrong ones.

Eat the cake, don't make up an excuse for it. 

Get the body or health outcome you want, don't make up an excuse not to have it.