I’m in the best shape of my life. (I’m not bragging, I’m just saying.) The happiest moment going into 2018 was realizing that I no longer have to set a goal to get into shape because I’ve already made a habit of training consistently. I even opened the year with a strong half marathon PR of 1:54:46 at the Fred Lebow Manhattan Half 2018. But it wasn’t always this way. I made many excuses but along the way, I figured out how to overcome them.
Excuse #1: “I don’t have the time.”
This is the easiest to verbalize, yet the hardest to overcome. When I started running again, I was working full-time and making a major career transition into UX . I was overwhelmed with my online courses and going to industry events was exhausting so I kept putting off running. I was convinced that I truly did not have any time to devote to fitness and running. My schedule already looked like a Tetris nightmare.
Solution: If it’s a priority, there is always time. The first step for me was to stop saying this and make an effort to find time. Visualizing my weekly schedule with Google Calendar helped me block out time to run. Rather than do my online classes and UX projects in the evening, I moved it to my lunch hour so I can run after work instead. Sometimes, I run home from work so the commuting time doesn’t go to waste either.
Excuse #2: “Gyms are expensive.”
I thought that in order to stay in shape, I would need to invest in an expensive gym membership. I’m against the idea of getting in a contract with a gym because if I wanted to leave, it would be a hassle. In general, gyms are not really fun for me anyway because I don’t have a workout plan in mind. I didn’t see the point of investing in something that I dread so I kept blaming the cost of gyms to avoid getting back into shape.
Solution: There are resources like Meetup and Eventbrite that make it easy to find fun and complimentary fitness classes. Even if some have fees, they’re still better than going to a gym. Plus, I live in New York City so Central Park is basically an open gym in my back yard. To be fair, classes get expensive if I take them often but I’d still rather opt for those and get a great full body workout rather than spend money on a gym that I will never go to.
Excuse #3: “Gear is expensive too.”
Nowadays, retailers are taking advantage of the fitness boom by charging premium prices for workout gear. Some people say that having expensive gear encourages them to stay fit but to me, it’s just another unnecessary wallet drainer. I didn’t see the point of buying something that I’d sweat in. For a long time, I was discouraged by these high prices and never did the research to find economical alternatives.
Solution: I started out small. In the beginning, I only had two outfits in rotation. The only upfront investment was a pair of good running shoes but other than that, my workout clothes were mostly from the clearance section. As I continued to pursue running, I bought more gear to stay committed. Now, I have to buy a new pair of shoes every couple of months because I build up the mileage so quickly!
Excuse #4: “I’m always tired.”
This excuse is almost like a catch 22. I was always tired because I didn’t exercise often. I didn’t exercise because I was always tired. Reflecting back, I realized that a lot my perceived fatigue was mental rather than physical. I often thought about how tough it is to get through a good workout and that was enough for me to convince myself I was too tired to get out there and try.
Solution: What do I even say? I just had to suck it up and go for it. Lucky for me, I did athletics as an undergraduate student so my body remembers that even when I’m tired, I’m still capable of completing a workout. The best part is how good it feels afterwards and it’s amazing to chase that even while tired. The funny thing is that nowadays, I’m always too tired because I exercise a lot, which is a good thing.
Excuse #5: “I don’t have any motivation.”
This excuse held me back for years. My biggest goal was to complete the NYC Marathon but never got around because it was too scary. The logical thing was to start small and look for shorter and more accessible races but I wasn’t even motivated for that. The incident that set off my fitness journey was seeing someone not taking care of their body end up in the hospital. Watching that made me suffer and I didn’t want to end up like that.
Solution: When I think about how incredible my life could be as an active runner, I am instantly motivated to go out for a run. Sometimes, I get consumed by my dark thoughts about how exhausting it is to stay in shape but I always feel great after, even if I went into it with a pessimistic attitude. The mind can be a powerful barrier in getting things done so I try to beat it by putting on my running clothes and not thinking hard about it.
Excuse #6: “I’m embarrassed at how out-of-shape I am.”
I used to be able to run a 5K in 24 minutes. It was devastatingly sad to me that it didn’t take long for me to lose my fitness and it got to a point where I was embarrassed about how out-of-shape I was. I was terrified about stepping into a gym or going out for a run. I didn’t want to be judged and I hate the feeling of finishing slower than everyone else. I feared feeling humiliated.
Solution: Everyone started somewhere and sometimes, we have to go back to that starting line. My first run back into the sport lasted a pathetic 15 minutes and I nearly vomited. The days following that run was painful because I was sore beyond imagination. But I persisted. If I wanted to feel fit and strong, I had to work for it. In fitness, there are no shortcuts. It’s embarrassing to be out of shape but each run made me stronger and more confident.
Excuse #7: “I’m young, I’ll eventually get back into shape.”
I’m only young for so long. Looking back, as someone who is close to 30, I realized how quickly my youthful years have passed. When I was in my early 20’s, life felt slower and more carefree and I understand why I used my youth as an excuse to delay my personal goals. But, it will be harder to get habits to stick as I get older so being active and running often again was really important to me.
Solution: I remember a quote about how life is short but running makes it feel longer. It’s a good framework to approach running (and life) because as painful as it is, running makes every moment in life count. There are so many things I want to accomplish like running the Boston Marathon and that will take years of work. I have so much untapped personal potential to accomplishing big things and nothing will happen if I don’t start now!
Excuse #8: “It’s just not the right time for me.”
It’s never the right time. I have put off running the marathon for so long because I’ve always felt like completing one was out of my reach. I used to be the type of person who would “wait” for the right moment to start but the truth is, that moment doesn’t exist. I had to get comfortable with the uncomfortable truth of doing something while not being ready. It was about being courageous to take the first step, rather than waiting for the opportunity.
Solution: To hold myself accountable, I signed up for my first NYRR race (Retro 4-Miler) in 2016 and got myself membership while I was at it. If I didn’t have a non-refundable event to train towards, I would have never gotten myself out of my fitness rut. I signed up for more races to complete my 9+1 qualifier towards the marathon. I stopped waiting for the right time and proactively opened doors for myself.
In the beginning, it started out with nostalgia. I thought about my four years as a student-athlete and started to miss the camaraderie and the challenge. I missed who I was when I was aggressively training for my Track & Field PRs. I missed feeling strong and wanted to reclaim a part of my identity that I temporarily lost. Now, I constantly challenge myself to be a better athlete than I was the day before.