I’m going to be completely honest here – I’m guilty of making excuses. I’m guessing that you are too. Even though they may be completely legitimate complaints and 100% true, they are still excuses. We use excuses as a shield (to explain why we may not end up performing the way we want to) and a sword (to justify why we can’t or don’t do something).
Of course, this clarity came to me after
talking complaining to my mom after a run one morning. My hip was in an especially bad flare-up and I was having a pity-party about how it bugged me the entire run and how frustrating it was that I was forced to deal with this chronic injury. While sympathetic to my plight, she responded with a simple truth that made me take pause. She asked me if I thought that most people who were serious endurance athletes didn’t experience some sort of adversity on a daily basis.
As I thought about it, I realized that excuses are based upon a false expectation of reality. We are expecting that everything is supposed to be perfect.
We make excuses about the weather conditions (it was too rainy, too snowy, too windy). We make excuses about injuries (tight hamstrings, achy hip). We make excuses about other conditions (lack of sleep, dehydration). I am not saying that these conditions aren’t real or that they don’t warrant attention – they certainly do. I am also not saying that one shouldn’t be disappointed when they are injured or when race day weather isn’t what they expected.
However, what I am saying is that we need to break the habit of laundry-listing reasons why things didn’t go our way.
Think about it. Is it realistic to expect that every run we are going to feel strong, without any aches or pains, be well hydrated, well rested, during a partly cloudy 50 degree day with no precipitation or wind? Do we really think that just because we trained really hard for something we are entitled to picture perfect conditions when we arrive at the start line? Or that we’re somehow more special or entitled or have been through more than the person we’re standing next too? I have found that in most cases where I have opened my mouth to complain I have been humbled to learn that my seemingly major complaint pales in comparison to what someone else has experienced. Again, it’s okay to be disappointed or frustrated. In fact, I’d be wary of anyone who didn’t feel this way from time to time. But that shouldn’t be what we take away from what we do.
To illustrate… the most recent race I ran I had a really crappy attitude. It was unseasonably cold and very windy. I had signed up for the race hoping to run a personal best. Just hours before the race was to start I complained that there was no point to running it because I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to run to my true potential, it wasn’t PR weather, blah blah blah. Well guess what, I did run a PR. Was it as fast as I was capable of? Could I have run faster on a day where the weather was better? Maybe, maybe not. But I would venture to guess that even if the weather was perfect I could name at least 10 other reasons that would justify my saying the same thing. For each condition I complain about, I’m sure that someone else dealing with the same exact set of circumstances has fared better because they didn’t let whatever it was define them.
So let’s adjust our expectations. Let’s seize these less than perfect conditions and see them for the opportunities that they are. Because maybe, someday, when we get that partly cloudy 50 degree day with no precipitation or wind we will really be able to appreciate it. Or maybe we will realize we didn’t need it and we were tough enough to begin with. Who’s with me?