Every Tuesday and Thursday I go to the gym and lift weights. I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from each session. I like the routine of it, even if sometimes it’s uninspiring.
I used to go at 5:30 p.m., which gave me plenty of time to develop obstacles that would prevent me from getting to the gym. I was mostly motivated not to miss sessions because every missed day is my hard-earned money wasted. But 2 ½ hours of time and mom errands between work and the gym incubated excuses on the days I just really wasn’t feeling it.
So, I switched to 3:30 p.m. and that whittled all my excuses down to sick or a work meeting. I don’t have my trainer’s number. The only way I can contact him is through Messenger. But I have to let him know by 2 p.m. if I’m not coming. I can’t have my phone out at work and I have a bad memory, so I often don’t remember to contact him in time. Still, sometimes having that window of opportunity, coupled with my lack of motivation, created real-life circumstances that keep me from going.
For the most part, I don’t let myself miss days. At the very least I get dressed, I get in my car and I show up. One of the ways I get myself there when I’m not feeling it is to tell myself that I don’t have to do everything. Maybe I’ll call it five or 10 minutes early. Maybe I’ll start off at a lower weight. I can always find a way to give myself an out, I think.
So, even if I don’t want to be there, I get started. I go through the warmup routine. It’s not a breeze, but it is the easiest part of my workout. And it’s at least 10 minutes long. So I tell myself, just do this, tell him you have to leave early, do 10 minutes and go.
But I don’t tell him. It’s my trick. I think it. But I don’t say it. I’m not a big fan of personal confrontation, and me telling him I have to go is a face-to-face confrontation with my laziness that I just don’t want to have.
So, even if I don’t think I can do it, I start lifting. It takes about two minutes to go through a rep cycle. So I take a quick glance at the clock and quickly calculate how many cycles I have to do before I can go. I tell myself to just make it through half the reps and then tell him I need to hold up on adding weight.
But I don’t tell him. It’s my trick. Instead, I just keep telling myself, one more set. One more plate. I start to really focus on my form and get very deliberate with my movements. I slow down a bit, but I don’t stop.
When I enter the window of the last 10 minutes of our session, I start framing in my mind ways to tell him I’m done. Maybe I’ll slam the bar down with a loud grunt to emphasize I have reached my limit. I form the words on my lips.
But I don’t say it. Instead, I just focus on each moment. Walk and catch your breath, I tell myself. Step on the pad and get set. One more set. You can do anything one more time. One more and you’re walking to the car.
Soon my workout is done, I’m in the car and I didn’t give in to my attitude. I’m sore. I’m sweaty. But I’m done and I didn’t let myself quit. Maybe it wasn’t my best workout. Maybe I could have worked harder. But I did it. I made a step forward, however small.
Sometimes life is like that. You have things that you know if you do them, it will make your life better. You have things to which you are committed. You have goals you want to reach or habits you want to break. You also have times when you want it, but you don’t want to do what it’s going to take to get it. Sometimes you just want a reason or a way, any reason or way, to get out of it.
Sometimes we let ourselves off the hook. None of us is perfect. But we can’t let that be a habit if we are going to live the life we want to live. So we have to find ways to trick ourselves into showing up, following through and taking the steps forward we said we were going to take.
Sometimes you just have to mentally bite your tongue. You can think it but don’t say it. Don’t let yourself speak it into existence. Hold it in and tell yourself to just baby-step it. Take the first step. Do the one thing. Squelch the excuse not to and just do.
If you want it, whatever “it” is, some days you have to dig deep, find a way to put your excuses to the side and go get it.
— Mariel Blake is a Daily News columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.