A little while ago, I wrote a blog post about how too often shame is used to dismiss legitimate reasons for not making or taking time for exercise. (You can read that post here.) I wrote about how shame is not empowering and does not motivate anyone to make healthy lifestyle choices or changes.
There are times, however, when reasons take over and become excuses. It’s an easy trap to fall into.
Recently Rob hurt himself while protecting Snowdoll from a dog attack. (I wrote about that here.) Because the pain was in his back, he was unable to do many things. No morning walks with Snowdoll. No exercising with me. Not that he had been anyway. We were on a roll, for a while, exercising together on a regular basis. When I want to visit my family, however, he stopped exercising and, when I returned, he did not join me as I recommitted to my daily workout. He said he would start “on Monday.”
I don’t know about you but I know what “on Monday” typically means. Typically it means that, between then and now, I can do what I want to do, or avoid doing what I am not yet ready to do, until Monday. Eat what I choose. Sit and watch television all day. Whatever.
And then he hurt himself and his excuse actually became a reason for him not to exercise. Of course, one can speculate that he might not have hurt himself had he been exercising still. There is no reason to assume that would be the case. Rob was careful and even went to see a doctor when the pain was prolonged. He eventually, and gradually, joined us for our daily exercises.
I share this story because it’s important to recognize the difference between a valid reason for not doing something and an excuse to avoid doing that same thing. Pain is a reason. But pain or even discomfort can be an excuse as well. When I was stung by a bee, I had just started doing my Plank Challenge and I could not see how I would continue with the challenge. (Yes, I wrote about the bee sting too here.) After all, the bee had stung me on my toe and how does one do a plank without allowing the toe to touch the floor. It didn’t help that the sting was right on the bottom of my toe, precisely where the pad touches the ground. Oy, it hurt. Then Rob suggested I try a reverse plank and I was delighted to have found a way to convert my reason (bee sting) into an excuse. While I had a valid reason for not doing a regular plank, there was no reason I could not do a reverse one.
Now that seems like a rather obvious and uncomplicated paradigm shift, I suppose, but here’s one I hope you will find remarkably inspiring. I know I do. On Leslie Sansone’s Walk, Eat, Lose dvd for the 2 mile walk, everyone in the room has lost 100 lbs using Sansone’s simple walking method (and modifying one’s diet, no doubt). In the group is one man who is in a wheelchair.
Yes, the man in a wheelchair lost 100 lbs “walking” along with Sansone. He moves his body as if he were walking even as he sits in his stationary wheelchair. He raises his arms, pushes them forward, and moves along, albeit in a limited manner, with everything everyone else is doing. He has lost 100 lbs and this is a man who obviously has a reason to not exercise but doesn’t let a wheelchair become an excuse.
As I said in my previous post, most of us have reasons why we can’t make or take time to exercise but the truth is we also owe it to ourselves not to allow those reasons to become excuses. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, try to think of things you can do. Can’t do a full body push-up? Try doing a push-up supported on your knees. Have knee problems? Do a cobra pose as though you were doing push-ups, exhaling as you push up and inhaling as you lower down.
But I get it. Believe me. I get it. Sometimes it’s hard to see what you can do when you know what you can’t. So don’t be shy. Talk with your doctor, if you have a physical limitation, and see what a professional has to say about what you can and cannot do. Keep an open-mind about other ways of doing things. When I could not do a sun salutation, I created a series of asanas that moved my body in a similar manner as a traditional surya namaskar. From a hero’s pose, I would rise to a kneeling position, inhaling as I lifted my arms over my head. Then I would move forward, lowering down before rising up into a cobra from which it’s easy enough to lift up into a downward dog before lowering myself back down to my knees and then back to hero’s pose.
Do you have a reason (or reasons) that may be in danger of becoming an excuse? Have you ever found a way to shift from letting an excuse get in your way so that you had no reason not to do what you needed to do? If you’re struggling with an “excuse” share it in a comment and let’s see if we can’t find a way to redefine things. Or share your successes in shifting an excuse out of your way and maybe you will help someone else find a way to do the same.