Hello friends! As I mentioned earlier, I recently joined From Left to Write, a virtual book club comprised of bloggers who use the books as inspiration for posts that are about our own personal experiences (not just a typical book review). My first review is The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang. Kang doesn’t just offer concrete steps to become more fit, but she shares her ‘no excuses’ philosophy to motivate:
We all know that we should exercise and eat right, so why is it so hard to follow through? We make excuses for why we aren’t taking better care of ourselves, saying things like, “I’m too tired,” “I don’t have time,” or “I’m just not built to look that way.” But Maria Kang, the mother of three behind the viral “What’s Your Excuse?” mom photos, is here to say that the excuses stop now.
While reading the book, there were a few messages that really struck a chord with me, not only with my fitness/running journey, but also in how I live my life. I want to examine some of these messages, beyond the controversial “inspiration to make health & fitness a priority” vs. “fat-shaming fitness freak” debate. I want you to do as I did, and take the words out of the fitness-specific context, and really think about the underlying message and how it may (or may not) affect how you live your daily life.
Excuses validate our choices. They let us off the hook and give us permission to fail. ~pg. ix
It’s so easy to come up with an excuse as to why we aren’t happy, why we did not succeed, why something did not work out as planned. I’m in a bad mood because 1) my boss overlooked me, 2) traffic was horrendous, 3) the waiter got my order wrong. I can’t break this habit because 1) I’ve been doing it since I was a child, 2) it’s the way my family does things, 3) I don’t have time to learn another way. I don’t have to work out today because 1) I ate healthy, 2) I have a headache, 3) I’ll work out extra-hard tomorrow. I didn’t get that promotion because 1) I wanted to have a “work-life” balance, not work myself to death, 2) I don’t have the right connections, 3) I don’t have the right skills. When I think about it this way, more often than not, these excuses become our crutches…they don’t let us push the boundary or grow or even fail gracefully. Every time you use an excuses, you are using that crutch, allowing yourself to accept the choice to NOT TRY to NOT PUSH to NOT FAIL.
When you hit a plateau, increase your duration, change your intensity, or switch your exercise. ~ pg. 84
Reflection is a cornerstone of your constructed new world. Whether you are failing or succeeding in your efforts, it’s important to be aware every step along the journey. Reflection is not about feeling guilty or beating yourself up; it’s just being aware of why you’re not progressing on schedule. Its result is to give yourself permission to consider how to change your course so as to reach that success. ~ pg. 155
This was another eye-opener for me. When I was responding to a blog reader about one of my favorite moments in the running world, I immediately went back to a couple of posts I wrote back in 2011 about 1) breaking my (mental) time barrier and 2) the first time as an adult runner that I ran 4 miles in 36 minutes (9 minutes per mile pace). Reality hit me like a brick in the chest when I realized that here I am, 4 years later, STILL running 9-minute miles. Wait…what?! Until recently, aka – after my last half marathon, I used to ask myself why I was not progressing, not getting faster, not getting stronger after having run EIGHT half marathons. My very insightful husband asked me, “Why don’t you push yourself?” I balked at him…what?! My reply: I push myself every day. *pause* I mean, I run at a comfortable pace. *pause* I mean, I don’t want to get injured. BAM – and there it was – my ultimate excuse, and my ultimate crutch. I was allowing myself to accept maintaining a plateau by remaining in my comfort zone. By choosing to run how I’ve always run: I knew I could get those miles in at that pace; I knew I was less likely to get injured; I knew I wouldn’t have to get upset over not nailing my splits. Since then, I’ve done a bit of reading, and research, and even some trial and error. I’ve incorporated some speed, stair, and strength workouts in my weekly routine, and I’m trying different fitness classes. I’m now, dare I say it, pushing myself.
Focus on Progress, Not Perfection. ~ pg. 192
I feel like this one sentence affects a huge population. How many of you have had to re-read that email “just one last time” to make sure there are no errors, and it says exactly what you are trying to convey? How many times have you put off applying for that next position because you don’t quite have all the necessary skills? Isn’t is said that a majority of your current job skills are learned on-the-job! How many runners get upset immediately after finishing a race because they didn’t nail their time goal? Regardless of weather, course, or other conditions – or the fact that they just finished a race! Too often, opportunities are missed or deadlines are passed because we want the world to see us in our best light, to see us as PERFECT. Sometimes while in a meeting, someone will say something that strikes a chord in me, but I’m too focused on saying “the right words” that someone else often speaks up first and gets recognized. Sometimes while perfecting that “I would like to try this opportunity” email to my boss, someone else has already visited her office or inquired about the opportunity, that they are likely the first one she will think of when making a decision. If I’m being honest in all this, what I’ve come to realize is that people want to see your real life, not a script or fairy tale. Your imperfections, your flaws, make you who you are. If you always strive for perfection, as soon as you “mess up,” you feel like you are a failure. And when you feel like you have failed you usually take one of two paths: the first is to completely give up, and the second is to get stuck in that “start again” routine. I will start again next month, next Monday, next holiday, next birthday...So what does it mean, to me, to strive for progress? It means to make changes, even if they are small ones. It means moving toward a goal. It isn’t necessarily the ultimate fulfillment of the goal, but the steps you take to get there. Kang gives good advice when she writes that if you mess up and eat that piece of chocolate cake, don’t consider your whole diet to have been blown. You just make a healthier choice the very next time you eat. Or if you missed two days of exercise, don’t fall into the “start again” trap. You just pick up where you left off the next day. Ultimately, I believe you should strive to make progress toward the best you can be.
If you desire something greater for yourself, then you have to stop the routine. You have to wake up! You have to get uncomfortable because the only way to grow is to become challenged. ~pg. 208
This principle can apply to anything in life that we desire: travel, the perfect job, a fitness goal, etc. How many times have you heard someone talking about their latest vacation to Africa, and you’ve thought, or said, I wish I could go there? And how many times have you been to a social event, and listened to someone regal the audience with their stories and thought, I wish I had that personality? How many times have you read a blog post about someone crushing their latest Personal Record, and thought, I wish I could run that fast? I believe we all have these thoughts, or similar, on a regular basis. And it makes me wonder…why? Why couldn’t I go on that trip to Africa? Why couldn’t I tell awesome stories? Why couldn’t I run that half marathon in 1:45? I believe the answer is that we forget what it felt like to be “uncomfortable”- to do things outside of our comfort zone or our known boundaries. We all want the good life, but by doing the same things we’ve always done. What is that famous quote by Henry Ford… “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” Gives you something to think about, huh?
A few other passages that I really liked:
This plan doesn’t start and end in three months; this is an attitude that will carry you far – the rest of your life. If you accept the setbacks as part of this process, you will not fail this time. ~ pg. 26
Procrastination and complacency are two big excuses people give for not changing. Many put off what is important for tomorrow because of short-term stresses or momentary satisfactions. ~ pg. 187
When you least want to is when it matters most. ~ pg. 206
This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. Join From Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.