Shutting Off The Excuse Machine

Laguna Beach

Huffing and puffing around the hairpin switchback, I was intimately aware of how mushy and weak my thighs felt in relation to how many more vertical feet of mountain biking we had ahead of us. “Man, I’m sorry, I feel super slow,” I called back to my friend, who was granny-gearing along just behind me. “It’s just been so long since I’ve ridden very much. I’m super out of shape.”

“You say that every time we ride,” he pointed out. And—he was right.

“Well, that’s because I haven’t been riding that much—so every time I get out, I feel slow and out of shape compared to how fit and fast I’ve felt at other times in my life.” Before he even replied, I knew I’d been called out.

Do you ever catch yourself doing this? Apologizing-slash-whining about how slow/weak/out of shape you feel while you’re out on the trail or at the crag? Maybe we do it to make ourselves feel a little better about not being at the head of the pack. By pointing out that we are “so out of shape,” we’re implying that our real self is actually a super-fit gnar machine that would obviously be crushing it, if only we had been able to sneak a few more workouts in the last couple of weeks.

Whatever our inner motivations, those excuses come out sounding quite a lot like complaints. And, really, if we’re out enjoying nature, exercising and recreating with our friends, we probably don’t have that much to complain about. Maybe we’d all have more joyful experiences if we learned to mute our inner excuse maker.

One of my friends is a mother of two young kiddos, and doesn’t get out to climb nearly as often as she used to. I know she was stronger in years past, and that she probably has only been out climbing a couple of times in the past few months. But when we strolled through the gym recently, scoping out a route to start on, she simply found one she thought looked fun and we went at it. There was no, “Wow—I’m so weak, I used to climb 5.whatever…,” or, “Sorry, I’m really out of shape!” She simply dived into the moment, worked hard on every route she tried and enjoyed the gift of an afternoon of toproping with friends.

If we all had that attitude, don’t you think we’d feel a little happier, and get more out of our outdoor experiences? Instead of apologizing for how out of breath we are, we could feel grateful to simply be breathing in the crisp mountain air. Instead of getting mad that we can’t send as hard as we did last summer, we could be relishing in the feel of rock under our hands and sun on our faces.

5 Responses to Shutting Off The Excuse Machine

  1. Jane Elizabeth says:

    “Maybe we’d all have more joyful experiences if we learned to mute our inner excuse maker.” This is so applicable to many life situations – very thought-provoking. AND I’ll keep it in mind next week!!

  2. Kelsey says:

    Wow, this article really hit me hard. Definitely guilty of making a lot of excuses to massage my ego. This made me rethink a lot of things. Fantastic, profound read.

  3. Brittany says:

    Oh my god, you are so right. I know that I do this sometimes and I always have that little twinge of “I know that what I’m saying isn’t 100% true but I want this person to think I’m better at X than I actually am or think I am.” It’s one of those things that I hear myself blurt out sometimes and then I think about it. Having read this, I am going to try and be more conscious of it and not say it. Because I know that I’ve been busier lately and I am not out playing as much as I’d like or used to do and whomever I’m with doesn’t actually care if I’m huffing and puffing along, because they’re probably also doing it, too.

  4. Eric O'Rafferty says:

    Well said! Thanks!

  5. Kathy Leonard says:

    Well said. It applies to everything!