Tuesday, January 4

No More Excuses

It’s over. Kaput. Finito.

The holiday grind has come to an end and so have my excuses for not hitting the gym.

November and December are unique in that most of humanity understands and even sympathizes with you when you say, “I just don’t have time to workout.”

While mingling at cocktail parties, dining with friends and shopping with family members, everyone I talked to was overwhelmed, and like me, had dropped their normal workout routine. Coconspirators in our boycott of the gym, we toasted our busy-ness at restaurants and parties around town. We certainly had time to eat. I mean, you have to eat, right?

But now, it’s a new day, a new year and no one is going to come to my defense when I say, “I’m too busy.” Nothing happens in winter. No major holidays, no month-long celebrations. And no matter how hard I try, no one sympathizes with me when I say, “You know, I’d workout but with Martin Luther King Day right around the corner, I just don’t have the time.”

No time. That's the most common excuse for not exercising. Sure, I’ve used it. And I’ve also invented a few others. My favorite excuse was concocted during the baby-making years. Specifically, the years after the birth of my second child.

Michael and I debated for two-years about whether or not to have a third child. During this multi-year back-and-forth regarding the optimum size of our family, I didn’t exercise at all. My reason? Why do all that work to get in shape just to get fat again during pregnancy? It was easier to stay fat.

Eventually we decided to have another child and a year after she was born, I was ready to make a change. We were done expanding our family. I had no more excuses.

I joined a gym with a day care center and focused on a simple goal—drop the baby weight, once and for all.

I started slowly, attending yoga and pilates classes, nothing too extreme or demanding. To my surprise I lost five pounds the first month. While I was ecstatic with the weight loss, I gained something I hadn’t anticipated. Me-time.

With a kindergartener, a preschooler and an infant at home, I was consistently putting the needs of my family before mine. Getting back to the gym gave me back a sense of self-importance. I stretched my hour-long class into a two-hour stay at the gym. Bringing my clean clothes and toiletries I’d use the facilities to take a leisurely shower. One where my toddler wasn’t banging on the glass door begging for mommy to please get his truck off the shelf.

For a few hours a week I was focused on me. I worked out for me. I showered alone for me. I put on make-up. I even blow-dried my hair.

That’s when I realized exercise wasn’t just about losing weight. It was about taking care of myself. Making me a priority.

That renewed focus on health and wellness transferred over to my eating habits and changed my life for the better.

If you’ve got your excuses lined up about why you can’t possibly workout, eat better, get fit etc., what you’re really saying is you’re not a priority in your life. Everything else is more important.

I challenge you to change that thinking. Make health a priority this year. Make yourself a priority.

To get started, you need a goal. It doesn’t have to be big. You don’t have to run the New
York Marathon or complete an Iron Man competition. But you need to shoot for something.

Here’s a goal setting methodology I like. It’s called SMART.

SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. It’s a thoughtful and detailed approach to goal setting.

Step One: Be Specific.

Goals like, “lose weight” or “eat better” are too vague to be helpful. Instead a goal should be something like, “Lose 30 pounds by exercising 4 times a week, eliminating sugar from my diet, watching my portion sizes, and increasing my intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.”

For example, my new goal is: “to increase the lean muscle mass in my legs by completing two strength training sessions a week and two cardio sessions a week.”

Step Two: Make Your Goal Measurable

How are you going to measure your progress? How will you know when you’ve been successful?

If your goal is to lose weight then measuring your success will be easy. The scale will tell you how you’re doing. Likewise if your goal is to decrease your cholesterol then a blood test at your next physical will let you know how you’ve done.

My goal, increasing muscle mass, is a bit trickier, but I will be able to tell how I’m doing by measuring the diameter of my legs and of course by looking in the mirror. I’m intimately familiar with the look of my legs. That’s why I don’t like wearing shorts. I’ll know when I’m making progress.

Step Three: Make Sure Your Goal Is Attainable

While goals should be challenging, you shouldn’t set yourself up for failure. Your goal should be a stretch for you, but reachable. If you’re unsure how far to push yourself healthwise, ask your physician for guidance.

Step Four: Make It Relevant

Your goals should be relevant to your current situation. For example, in the past losing weight was my primary goal but now that’s not relevant to my health. I’m already in a healthy weight category so my focus is on overall fitness and muscle tone.

Think about what’s important to your health. Maybe it’s losing weight or maybe you need to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, quit smoking, or reduce your alcohol consumption. Whatever it is, your goal has to be aligned with what you need now.

Step Five: Select a Time Frame

The last component is a deadline. We’re all motivated by them. Just notice the flurry of activity before a big presentation or the jammed parking lots before Christmas. Pressure isn’t always a bad thing.

My deadline is June 1. That gives me five months to get my legs in shape for shorts season. (Yikes. I’m already panicked.)

In the end you should be able to write your SMART goal down in a concise statement or two. For example, here’s mine:

I am going to increase the lean muscle mass in my legs by completing two strength training and two cardio workout sessions a week. I will know I am making progress because the diameter of my legs will shrink and my legs will (finally) look okay while wearing shorts. I will complete my goal by June 1.

Okay people, no more excuses. Make your health a priority this year.

Write down your SMART goals for 2011 and get moving!


  1. T-roy da' baby daddyJanuary 5, 2011 at 5:35 PM

    Alright already, I get the hint! I here ya' on being specific. That is the reason why I haven't gotten past step 1 which was to just ride my friggin' bike. Just saw Tammi yesterday for a sinus infection, got on the scales and I somehow managed to put on 15lbs. since October! Let's see- ride my bike maybe once a week, go on a cruise (drink like a pirate, eat like a king), drink massive amounts of beer (because that's what you do during college football season), and pretty much repeat all that over the Christmas break.

    I'm just going to use the excuse "sympathy weight" cause it's easy and makes my wife feel better when I have a matching belly. Seriously, I'm glad I read this because I've had a bad case of "couchitis" for a few months now and have some goals before Sparty comes along. I know I can use the time excuse then but would like to be lean and fit beforehand.

    Miss you guys and we love you!

  2. T-roy,

    I know! It's so easy to let go of a good habit, like exercising, but SO HARD to break a bad one.

    Michael actually lost weight when I was pregnant. Not because he was trying, but because I ate ALL the food on my plate. He was used to eating half my food and all of his.

    I'll cut you some slack when Sparty comes along, but in the meantime...

    Love you!

  3. My new goal is to train my body to handle whatever gets thrown at it by throwing cheeseburgers at it twice a week.

    Ok - seriously - I have a somewhat lame goal - but it's lameness makes it attainable - To lose the holiday 15 and take care of my lower back by stretching, walking (the dog), and drinking more water every day. And, because I work off lists, I put a reminder in my calendar every day. I will know I am making progress because women will start hitting on me, and I'll have to keep saying things like, "That's flattering, but I'm married." I will complete my goal by April 1.