Best as I can tell, most humans struggle at one point or another with motivation and the insidious excuses that come with the sometimes chore of practicing. Whether the practice is a flow tool, a musical instrument, finding yourself at the gym, running, yoga or something else, it’s really easy to find excuses and allow yourself to let the discipline of your practice slip. I was recently asked how, as a coach supporting people in their health and fitness goals, I would aid client’s who are struggling to do get past their excuses and actually complete their physical practice. As someone who has maintained my daily practice for just under 2 years and still going, I thought I’d share some of the excuses and excuse-stopping reasons that I’ve used to help keep me and my clients on track in hopes that it also supports you.
Excuse: I ate healthy today.
Excuse-stopper: Health is not only about the input to your body but also about the output from your body. Movement changes you on a cellular level, allowing the blood to flow through your system more fully and as a result, encouraging the healthy nutrients you put into your body to actually find their way to the places they are needed to provide the fuel for your system. Sure, put the good stuff in your body!! But why stop there? At the least, daily stretching allows your muscles to stay loose, reduces the risk of injury caused by tightness of the muscles and fascia, opens your body and reduces stress. When you also add muscle building and aerobic activities to your healthy eating, you increase (or at least maintain) muscle tone and the calories you burn which then allows you to eat more healthy food too. Or maybe even cheat a little guilt free. 😉
Excuse: I’ll get back to the practice tomorrow.
Excuse-stopper: Studies have shown that slacking off on your practice schedule is actually detrimental and those who take time off using this excuse are less likely to get back on the wagon than those who simply stay in the practice. It’s all about inertia and if you’re already moving, it’s easier to stay moving than to stop and start again. (You can go out and try this with a bicycle as a really easy example of how this works if you want to feel the difference.) There is always a tomorrow (we hope) and when people fall into the mindset of “why do today what I can put off till tomorrow?” they often find that the tomorrow where they practice never comes. Even if you only do a little, do something to support your workout and maintain your healthy practice schedule, whatever it is.
Excuse: I’m too tired
Excuse-stopper: There are a couple of ways to address this particular point. First, if you find tiredness to be a chronic issue, add more sleep to your healthy habits. On a related note, if weight loss is part of your measure, I’ve read more than one study that says people who sleep less than 6 hours a night are less likely to lose weight than those who sleep from 6-9 hours, so adding more sleep may really help you in more than one way. Next, consider changing when you do your workout from a low energy part of your day (like the end of your day) to a higher energy part of your natural cycle, like morning or lunch time. Third, if you can’t do the first two things and find you really are too tired to go all out and do a really strenuous workout, try doing something requiring a lower energy output. Instead of jogging, try some yoga. Instead of hooping to fast music, lower the BPM to something more reflective of your current energy level. Finally, remember that in the long run, people with a regular workout practice often report an increase in energy caused by their increased metabolism from their workout practice. While this is a long term gain and does’t exactly help you in the moment when you feel tired, sometimes focusing on that long term gain can push you through the short term pain.
Excuse: Work/school/life was too stressful today.
Excuse-stopper: What better way to de-stress from your crazy day than to allow your body to increase oxygenation through working out that will then allow you to push the stress through and out of your body? Stress can impact sleep and cause insomnia which then feeds the cycle of creating more stress/less sleep. Working out gets your body moving and breaks the cycle, allowing the stuck, stressful feelings an outlet for escape from the body.
Excuse: <Activity X> sounds so much better.
Excuse-stopper: Consider what <Activity X> might be. For some, it might be happy hour. For other’s it might be going home and sleeping. In either case, you can use <Activity X> as a reward for completion of your workout/practice. Which means if you are going to hip up happy hour, you can burn off the calories you might be tempted to intake while you’re there and still feel good that you’ve done both. Remember that some amount of both the happy hour and practice is better than all indulgence and not enough self care.
Excuse: The weather isn’t good.
Excuse-stopper: We advocate you embrace an all-season practice that can be done regardless of the weather. Ideally, your exercise practice is something you can take with you wherever you go so there’s no reason you won’t be able to maintain these healthy self-care rituals. The habit of practicing helps the practice become/remain a habit, not a passing phase, and this, in turn, allows you to shape the results you want with your body.
Excuse: I just don’t feel like it.
Excuse-stopper: It’s true. Sometimes you just don’t feel like it. We have a couple of techniques for getting through this resistance:
- instead of thinking about whether you feel like doing the actual workout, think about how you will feel after the workout is complete. People report in large percentages that they feel better after working out even if they are tired and sore. Some people even report feeling energized. By focusing on the results of the workout rather than the feelings during the workout, you can psych yourself into doing something good for you rather than psyching yourself out.
- acknowledge that you don’t feel like it, allow yourself to really feel that for a few minutes (set a timer!) and when the timer rings, politely thank the part of you that doesn’t feel like working out and continue to do it anyway. Really, Nike said it best: Just do it.
- Commit for a limited time. For some people, having a time limited commitment makes it easier to show up for all the practices. One technique might be to work your body for 15 minutes a day 5 days a week to start and increase it by 5 minutes per workout until you reach the desired number. One technique might be to do something every day and increase the amount as you get more comfortable. One option might be to make a commitment for 30, 60, 90, 100 or some other quantity of days that you can count down, at the end of which you can renegotiate your commitment with yourself. I started out with something super simple: the one song challenge where every day, I practiced to a single song. Duration was irrelevant so I could use a 30 second song or a 10 minute track. From there, I build the muscle of daily practice which led to a series of openings that helped me move toward my current daily practice.
Excuse: My practice buddy bailed.
Excuse-stopper: As with the development of an all-season indoor practice that you can take on the road with you, we recommend you develop a workout practice that doesn’t require a buddy so that you can maintain your practice in full independence. The reality is you’re the one who does the work and you’re the one who reaps the reward. How necessary is it to have a workout buddy? If you’re lifting and need a spotter, use a machine and/or lower your weights so that you can perform without your buddy effectively. Or, just play with poi like a ninja or dance up a storm with your poi — either will make you sweat.
If you’re ready for fire safety lessons via private instruction, want to try Zero to Fire in 4 Hours!, want to join our next beginner class or have other questions, contact GlitterGirl directly or subscribe to our newsletter for mailbox delivery of this and other articles written by Temple of Poi founder and visionary, GlitterGirl, who has been a full time flow arts coach and instructor since 2002. If you seek professional guidance associated with creating a safe performance, obtaining a permit in San Francisco or other personalized coaching, contact GlitterGirl directly for a free consultation (GlitterGirl <that pretty little ‘at’ symbol> TempleOfPoi <daaaaaaaught> com).