Excuses are Like Booties

“Excuses are like booties.  Everybody’s got one, and they all stink.”

This is what the teacher of a songwriting course I took in college used to tell us.  If the phrase is trite, then I need to get out more, because it was new to me then and I’ve never heard it since.  It struck me as funny at the time, though I wondered what the original word was that “booties” replaced.  But it didn’t mean anything to me on any level deeper than the surface.

I decided not to go for my scheduled 15-mile run this morning.  In the 12 or so hours since I made the decision not to do it, the following excuses have all spent some time in my brain:

  • My blister still hurts me every time I run and could use the time to heal.
  • I just ran 11 miles on Sunday; 15 miles two days later is too much.
  • I’m a few days behind on my training schedule and skipping this will help me get back on track.
  • The bottle of wine (a Valpolicella) that I opened last night to celebrate seeing my baby’s heartbeat was a little too delicious.
  • I could use the time to prepare for a meeting with my thesis adviser today.

But none of these is The Truth.  They’re all a little bit true, but none is The Truth.  The Truth is that I wanted the time to do a few things this morning, to not have to rush around from home to trail to home to school and back again like I did last week.

Not nearly as noble-sounding as many of the excuses, and that’s why it’s so much fun to make them.

But this morning, as soon as I admitted to myself the real reason, the one that I built this fortress of excuses to protect myself from, I felt so much better about the decision to skip the run.  Liberated, even.  Facing “you chose to do something else instead of run because it would make you happier” was much easier than you might expect.  Rational, logical, Truthful.

Very recently, I noticed something interesting about the stories I was telling myself during workouts, especially the long runs.  On the days when my body wouldn’t carry me as fast as I had hoped, a million reasons flooded my mind to explain the slowness.  The heat, my blister, my lack of water stops.  But on the days when the miles just seemed to fly by, it was all me.  No credit given to the nice weather or anything else but me.

This self-serving bias is actually very common, perhaps universal.  It’s thought that we have it in order to protect our self-esteem.  But here’s the thing.  When something we do isn’t good enough, not up to our personal standards, we experience pain.  This pain serves a purpose, to drive us to work hard to make things the way we know they should be.  Pain can and should be one of the most powerful motivating forces in our lives.

But so many people choose not to use pain this way.  They deal with pain by doing whatever it takes to make it go away as quickly as possible.  In many cases this involves putting something into their bodies, like food or alcohol.  For me, the excuses serve this purpose.

It’s very easy, especially in writing about my runs on this blog, to explain away my bad days with excuses.  But you might have noticed that it stopped recently, when I wrote “No excuses” in reference to my 20-miler last week.  No more softeners.  Taking responsibility; facing The Truth.  And it feels great.

The Truth, as they say, will set you free.  I still like “excuses are like booties.”

What’s your excuse du jour?



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  1. i def get caught up in different excuses too when i decide to skip a run. just this past sunday for example i didnt go out for my run because of a headache, but in reality running probably woulda helped! but hey i made up for it, and my decision not go to was probably the best i’ve ever made!
    .-= Lizzy´s last blog ..the littlest things are the best things =-.

  2. haha- that saying cracks me up. Glad you admitted the truth to yourself! I’m not much for an excuse person, but I do have a lot of poor me moments that I need to get over.

    Still so thrilled about your baby! The wine was deserved (although I bet Erin was jealous ;)).

  3. Sometimes I talk myself out of running because I have washed my hair the night before and I don’t want to have to wash it again after the run. So ridiculous! Like the world will crumble if I wash my hair twice in 24 hours.
    .-= J.´s last blog ..Cashew Date Bars =-.

  4. “No Excuses”, facing “The Truth”, you are going to be a great father!
    .-= meatlessmama´s last blog ..Cauliflower Pie =-.

  5. I definitely fall victim to the excuse monster. My latest was this morning when I rationalized not exercising before work. When it came down to it, I just want to do some writing and take my time. Admitting that was so liberating! Just like admitting that I’d rather sit outside at lunch and eat my sandwich rather than sweat through a cardio class b/c I want sunshine and relaxation is liberating.
    .-= katherine´s last blog ..Hey There, Chick (Pea)! =-.

  6. That is one of my favorite sayings, except I have heard it used with “a-hole.”
    A big congrats on the baby!
    .-= Angie´s last blog ..Addressing the Struggles =-.

  7. I can completely relate to this. I keep tryin gto tell myeslf “No excuses” but they always find their way back.

    Great post!

  8. Georgiana says:

    Thanks for this post! I trying to qualify for Boston this fall, too. I’m running the Nike Women’s Marathon as my first marathon/easy training run then trying to qualify at CIM six weeks later. I can definitely relate to the liberating feeling of “sometimes I just want some me time instead of being late to everything/rushing because of running.” I can also relate to the week-to-week up’s and downs of a non-spectacular run versus a perfect one. Case in point, I ran a perfect 16.75 mile run two weeks back. This Saturday, I ran a little under 18 and felt the cement legs thing that I couldn’t quantify.

    Sometimes life happens. I’m learning to fit in the liberating me time and letting go of the runner’s guilt. It’s a lifelong sport!

  9. Ha! Love this post. It’s so easy to make excuses isn’t it? Many a times I have been driving home for work making the excuses in my head. Then when I walk through the front door and am greeted by my running shoes I know what I have to do. Run! And if I don’t run, I don’t run. I won’t feel guilty or make up a reason why. Ok ok…I honestly actually have to work on that “no-excuses” part a little harder! 🙂 Thanks for a great post.

  10. excuses…i am queen of them! most of the time, i just have admit to myself i am not feeling up to it and let the guilt go. it is not the end of the world to miss a run 🙂

  11. My excuse today is if the NMA can take a day off, then so can I.

  12. Mike Ferry, the real estate motivational speaker, used to say… “Is it a REASON, or an EXCUSE?” And you usually know the difference inside.

  13. Another grand post. The self serving bias is interesting isn’t it? I’d like to think I’m not guilty of it but we all are in truth. I always think I am radical when I complete a good run but if my run sucks then likely, the food I ate, my mood and the weather were all to blame! I try and let my assessments fall somewhere in between being honest about my excuses and not having a full-on pity party!

    Excuse du jour?
    My body probably needs an hour more sleep more than it needs a six mile run. Most often, I feel way better if I choose the run.

  14. We presented some mock-lesson plans today during my GTA orientation and one of my classmates spoken extensively about self-serving bias! However, in your thesis’ defense, if you really needed time to do that, it’s very important! I too made an excuse for my planned 6-miler at 6am this morning… my knees hurting from biking. I really should have just rolled out of bed and laced up my sneakers, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned… c’est la vie, no?
    .-= Sarah´s last blog ..Les volets (the shutters) =-.

  15. Wow, this post fits right in with my new running mantra. I’ve been looking for one for awhile and found it the other day on a trail run where–not going as fast as I would have hoped–I was the queen of excuses: “It’s supposed to be a rest day.” “I worked my legs in weight training yesterday.” “It’s humid…”

    My new mantra? ” RUN ANYWAY.” Any excuse I throw at myself, I say fine, so be it… but run anyway.

    (But of course if it’s a a good run, it’s all me!) =)

  16. i am terrific at making excuses… then i start to feel guilty like “maybe i am being too easy on myself”. i can’t win. i do need to just suck it up though. i’ve been in a funk this week 🙁
    .-= lindsay´s last blog ..churning out miles =-.

  17. Appreciate it for helping out, amazing information.

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