I Still Struggle with Excuses after 30 Years of Exercising

Here I am working out in my messy bedroom.

It’s true. I’ve never been a natural-born exerciser. Until age 8, I suffered with chronic nosebleeds, so I was discouraged from engaging in any activity that was too strenuous, and was unable to participate in gym class. My siblings and I were also anemic (a hereditary condition) so I didn’t have a whole lot of energy. I spent free time reading, drawing, writing, and crafting.

At 12, I began learning about health and fitness and decided I needed an exercise routine. With birthday and Christmas money, I purchased a few workout videotapes (this was 1988!) and worked out every day in our living room. With my low energy levels, it was a challenge each morning to follow through on my exercise plan. I tried running during this time as well, but had trouble breathing, so I didn’t run often; I didn’t learn until I was 38 that I had asthma!

All through my teens, I lifted light weights, walked and hiked, and did cardio and interval training workouts at home. Whenever I’d feel bored, which was every few months, I’d buy a new workout video or try a workout from a fitness magazine. I did all of this on my own steam: no family member or friend encouraged me, supported me, or worked out with me. That would have been great, but it wasn’t my story. The ways I encouraged myself, were reading books and magazines on health and fitness as well as reminding myself how good I felt after working out each day.

Enter my twenties and raising two kids: working out was still my normal. I had a treadmill and walked or run/walked as well as working out in my living room. The infant phase was rough because I would often be on the treadmill with a baby in a bouncy seat wailing while I walked, which was no fun. But they eventually got used to entertaining themselves for an hour a day while I worked out. And since we homeschooled, when they were school aged, I would feed them breakfast, do a couple of subjects with them and then assign them a few things to do on their own (like their spelling list or math page).

My thirties were a bit smoother because I didn’t have to deal with babies, but I had a full schedule with homeschooling, church responsibilities, and family expectations, so it was imperative to keep exercising to avoid going completely crazy. Although my energy remained low, often with me taking short naps in the afternoons, I continued exercising.

Let me just say that each and every morning it is the same. I wake up with the intention to exercise. I am tired, always tired, so the excuses start in.

Here are some of the best of the best:

(You might recognize a few!)

“You don’t have energy to exercise today.”

“If you exercise, how are you going to do everything else you need to do today.”

“You have so much to do today: you really don’t have time for this now.”

“It’s so unfair that so-and-so is naturally slim and has never exercised a day in her life! And you exercise all the time and what good does it do? You might as well give up.”

“No matter what you do, you’ll never look good. What’s the point of trying?”

“You’ve been wanting to lose this same ten pounds for two years. This isn’t doing anything.”

“What if you injure yourself again? Doesn’t your back feel tight already? If you throw your back out again, you’ll be back to square one. Maybe you should just stretch and call it a day.”

After I go through the litany of excuses each morning, I remind myself why I need to work out:

I will have more energy afterward.

My mood will get a boost.

My heart and whole body will be stronger.

I don’t want to be an out-of-shape middle-aged woman whose body is always breaking down.

The act of doing something I don’t want to do that’s good for me will help me follow through in other areas the rest of the day.

This is the only earth suit I have and I need to take care of it.

The most successful and busy people in the world work out every day, so you can too.

Then I choose to put on my workout clothes and either head to the gym to walk/run on the treadmill, I do a Barre3 class or Glo yoga class in my bedroom, or do a cardio interval training video in the living room, just like the old days.

My favorite video workout can be found for free on Youtube. It’s from the 90s and features Elle Macpherson and Karen Voight. It was filmed in Hawaii and is one of those not-too-hard and not-too-easy workout that works every major muscle group, has three cardio and three strength sections and a great stretching segment at the end. If you’d like to do a retro workout, give it a try!

So readers, after you go through your morning excuses, I hope you’ll throw on your workout clothes, lace up your sneakers and go for a walk, run, work out with a video online, or just dance around your kitchen. The most important thing? Just move your body every day!!!

Evening Poetry, April 20

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass (This poem is in seven sections, so I’ve spread it out through the week.)

7.

What I loved in the beginning, I think, was mostly myself.

Never mind that I had to, since somebody had to.

That was many years ago.

Since then I have gone out from my confinements,

though with difficulty.

I mean the ones that thought to rule my heart.

I cast them out, I put them on the mush pile.

They will be nourishment somehow (everything is nourishment somehow or other).

And I have become the child of the clouds, and of hope.

I have become the friend of the enemy, whoever that is.

I have become older and, cherishing what I have learned,

I have become younger.

And what do I risk to tell you this, which is all I know?

Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.

This poem can be found in the collection Felicity.

Evening Poetry, April 17

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

To Begin With, the Sweet Grass (I am spreading this poem, which is in seven sections, throughout the week.)

4.

Someday I am going to ask my friend Paulus,

the dancer, the potter,

to make me a begging bowl

which I believe

my soul needs.

And if I come to you,

to the door of your comfortable house

with unwashed clothes and unclean fingernails,

will you put something into it?

I would like to take this chance,

I would like to give you this chance.

This poem can be found in the collection Evidence.

Evening Poetry, April 16

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

To Begin, With the Sweet Grass ( This poem is in seven sections, so I am going to include one section each evening during the week.)

3.

The witchery of living

is my whole conversation

with you, my darlings.

All I can tell you is what I know.

Look, and look again.

This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.

It’s more than bones.

It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.

It’s more than the beating of a single heart.

It’s praising.

It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.

You have a life–just imagine that!

You have this day, and maybe another, and maybe

still another.

This poem can be found in the collection Evidence.

Evening Poetry, April 15

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

To Begin, With the Sweet Grass (This poem is in seven sections, so I am going to spread it out through the week.)

2.

Eat bread and understand comfort.

Drink water, and understand delight.

Visit the garden where the scarlet trumpets

are opening their bodies for the hummingbirds

who are drinking the sweetness, who are

thrilling gluttonous.

For one thing leads to another.

Soon you will notice how stones shine underfoot.

Eventually tides will be the only calendar you believe in.

And someone’s face, whom you love, will be as a star

both intimate and ultimate,

and you will be both heart-shaken and respectful.

And you will hear the air itself, like a beloved, whisper:

oh, let me, for a while longer, enter the two

beautiful bodies of your lungs.

This poem can be found in the collection Evidence.

Evening Poetry, April 14

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

To Begin With the Sweet Grass ( I am going to spread this poem, which is in seven sections, over this whole week.)

1.

Will the hungry ox stand in the field and not eat

of the sweet grass?

Will the owl bite off its own wings?

Will the lark forget to lift its body in the air or

forget to sing?

Will the rivers run upstream?

Behold, I say–behold

the reliability and the finery and the teachings

of this gritty earth gift.

This poem can be found in the collection Evidence.

Evening Poetry, April 13

In honor of National Poetry Month, and Mary Oliver, our beloved national poet who passed away in January, I will be posting one of her poems each evening in April. I am hoping to follow in the footsteps of Sarah Clarkson and read a poem on Instagram Live in the evenings as well…Follow me on Instagram to tune in.

Mindful

Every day

I see or hear

something

that more or less

kills me

with delight,

that leaves me

like a needle

in the haystack

of light.

It is what I was born for–

to look, to listen,

to lose myself

inside this soft world–

to instruct myself

over and over

in joy,

and acclamation.

Nor am I talking

about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,

the very extravagant–

but of the ordinary,

the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.

Oh, good scholar,

I say to myself,

how can you help

but grow wise

with such teachings

as these–

the untrimmable light

of the world,

the ocean’s shine,

the prayers that are made

out of grass?

This poem can be found in the collection Why I Wake Early.