The Myth of Perfect Conditions: 9 Common Excuses Used to Delay Exercise

It’s the Goldilocks Syndrome…. It’s too hot to exercise. It’s too cold. It’s too early. It’s too late. I’m too tired or busy or overweight or overwhelmed. When x, y, or z changes, things will be better, easier. That’s not long to wait, right? And, so, we talk ourselves into waiting and out of working toward fitness. All the while, we’re fully convinced we have the world’s most pragmatic mindset. What else could we do in such a situation? It’s just the way it has to be. Exercise just can’t happen under these circumstances. And so we give away our chance at vitality because we’re married to a set of conditions, which become – like it or not – our excuses.

Conditions…think about what conditions you put on your fitness. What gear do you feel you need to have before you’re going to take yourself seriously? What amount (and arrangement) of time are you convinced you have to have before you can commit to regular exercise? What do other people need to do or not do before you’re comfortable heading to the gym or just out for a long walk? What cosmic alignments need to perfectly synchronize for you to actually devote the better part of a weekend day to hitting the trails for an extended bike ride?

Maybe you used to be this way before the switch flipped and you claimed your vitality without having the practice of it be contingent upon the day’s mood, office culture and everyone else’s business. Maybe you realized the insanity of this approach but haven’t exactly gotten the hang out of making it happen anyway. Or perhaps you’re reading the screen with a sinking feeling that you’ve been outed, the curtain flung to the side revealing your choices aren’t as inevitable as you’d invested yourself in believing.

We’re a clever species – and sometimes never at our most impeccable when we’re trying to justify our way through the most self-sabotaging choices. The fact is, we could be waiting for the perfect conditions from now until the sun’s implosion. Or, maybe we’ll get lucky and what we hope will happen will actually happen. Then what?

If we haven’t cultivated the habit and self-control to stick with a routine (and sometimes a fitness routine can challenge even the most otherwise-regimen-focused individual), it won’t be as easy and simple as we think it will be. A rule of thumb I’ve discovered in the fitness business: Conditions don’t matter for success. Discipline does. Period. Aren’t we lucky that discipline thrives off of difficult conditions….

What are some of these ideal conditions, these unconscious expectations we have of ourselves, others and our environment that will finally “let” us move forward toward fitness goals? Let’s take a look.

1. One day I’ll have my own garage/home gym, and I’ll be able to work out every day.

This is where Primal thinking – as in caveman/cavewoman conditions – offers unmatched perspective. It’s a totally modern (and insane) notion that you need special equipment to move your body in a useful way. What, no one was fit before Bowflex/Nautilus/StairMaster was invented?

A lot of companies make a lot of money selling you this idea – that you require machines and props, and the more the better (or the more expensive, the better). It’s the myth of the perfect equipment – that somehow it can’t or won’t happen without gadgets and gear.

Sure, I love treadmill desks, rowing machines, the Versaclimber (more on that in a future post), and kettlebells (among a few other items) as much as the next person, but I could take them or leave them. I’ve been fit without them before and would be again. They’re convenient, but they’re unnecessary.

I’ll tell you the only two things you need to get fit: a body and some time – not nearly as much as you think. Which leads me to the next excuse…

2. One day I’ll have more time – e.g. when work slows down, when I find a new job, when I get a promotion, when the kids get out of diapers, when the kids start school, when the kids can drive themselves, when I don’t have x, y or z responsibility.

Can we all just agree that there will always – always, always, always – be something to fill your time. Stop telling yourself this will change or it will get easier. It won’t. Perfect timing? A mirage in the freaking desert. Decide right now to be done with that illusion once and for all. Your life will be better for it.

If you stand any chance of getting fit (or doing anything else of visionary importance to you), you must schedule it first.

Let’s break that down. Schedule it. That means set an actual time. First. That means it gets prioritized before anything else in your day. If this requires that you do it first thing in the morning, then do it. Carve this time into a marble calendar large enough to impress Nero.

If your exercise time comes and something comes up, change the exercise as needed, but don’t postpone. If you have to limit your routine to some body weight exercises and stair runs at the office on your way to a last minute meeting, do it. If you have to do kiddie yoga instead of your 30-minute CrossFit WOD because your child won’t go to sleep, do that. But keep your commitment.

3. One day I’ll have more energy for exercise.

Seriously. This is the perfect case of a dog chasing its tail. Waiting for more energy to do something that will give you more energy? Your vitality is waiting, but it’s not going to do the work for you.

Let me say I get it. Sometimes there are situations that knock us flat, and the fact of the matter is exercise feels like a remote possibility. Whether we’re bouncing back from serious injury or health/personal crisis, our energy or even abilities may be a fraction of what they’ve been.

That said, there is always something we can do. For those recovering from serious injury and illness, trained physical therapists and related specialists can give you an appropriate protocol. For those making their way through loss and other major transition/crisis, find new outlets, new routines, but keep moving. Maybe it means dropping your gym membership for a while and instead walking through area parks and reserves for the dual therapy of outdoor time and regular movement (not to mention the escape from noise and T.V. screens).

Do some kind of activity that hits the right pitch in terms of intensity and that doesn’t overwhelm the senses.

4. As soon as I lose a little weight/get a medical condition under control and movement gets easier, I’ll start exercising.

On a similar note, don’t put off beginning exercising because you’re waiting for it to get easier. Start where you’re at, and get some guidance from a knowledgeable and experienced fitness professional as well as your doctor about what’s appropriate and safe.

Again, adjust your perception of what exactly you’ll do for exercise, but don’t adjust your commitment to move.

5. As soon as I get my diet on track, I’ll work on fitness.

I totally get that people become overwhelmed when they make several changes simultaneously. So, here’s my suggestion.

Let yourself begin a few key changes simultaneously – changes that will actually support each other, but only focus on “mastering” one at a time if that helps. Hone a great Primal Blueprint diet with new recipes, new foods, new routines – knock yourself out cooking every meal in all the PB cookbooks, but also add some hiking time three days a week or some daily body weight exercises. One positive health change will actually help you adhere to other new behaviors/choices.

6. When I get enough money to afford a gym membership, that will be a good time to pick up a fitness routine. 

Don’t let money determine your health. Fitness requires pretty much no amount of money if you really look at it. Time and willingness, yes. Money, no.

If you just want to work out around other people, run, walk or bike around popular lakes or parks. If you want to to work out with other people, organize a group for yoga, CrossFit, or whatever activity interests you.

Some of the fittest people I know haven’t been in a gym for years – home, corporate or otherwise.

7. When winter/summer is over, I’ll have the motivation to get moving again.

How many people say this over the course of how many winters? Winter is like children and work – they never go away. Learn to work around it this year (those of you in the Southern Hemisphere right now), and you’ll never have to see this excuse again.

Take up a winter activity or two to keep the cabin fever at a manageable level, but be realistic if you realize you are an indoor person for a few months of the year. Be outside enough to get some sun, fresh air and mental break. The rest you can do inside. Gyms, climbing walls, indoor rinks, indoor tracks, your living room. It makes no difference.

I know this same experience applies to those who live in extremely hot areas. Again, if you need to live indoors for the most part during a few months of the year, accept it and make a plan with lots of options you can cycle through to prevent boredom.

8. I want to get my sleep under control before I take on anything else.

I sympathize with this one. It’s actually one I would say is legitimate. BUT – (You sensed that coming, right?) it’s a similar concept as waiting for energy.

Generally speaking, people with sleep issues are experiencing hormonal disruption and/or general health problems. You body desperately wants to return to homeostasis.

Lack of sleep will leave you crazier, more desperate and more run down than probably any deficiency – including inadequate movement and exercise.

That said, the faster you move as many elements back toward the body’s regular expectation (long-term fatigue or serious issues taken into account), the better chance you’ll have at sleeping longer and deeper.

See your decision to exercise as a complement and aid to your other sleep goal.

9. One day I’ll leave the city and will be able to run the trails or climb to my heart’s content.

That would be great, wouldn’t it? How about prepping for it now? You know, so you’ll be able to enjoy it when it happens.

Build up to it. Discern what you enjoy the most about that image and start working toward it today. Infuse your routine with elements of that ideal. Put it into practice now – in small steps. Find trails near you. Climb indoors and organize vacations and even weekends around those interests.

Have your dreams. Have your ideal, pie-in-the-sky visions for where (literally or figuratively) you want your fitness to go, but resist putting your fitness or your life on hold for that to happen.

What perfect conditions have you waited for, and what line of excuses begin to line up behind that expectation? Share your thoughts, and have a great week, everyone.

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About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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