This is a post that my gym buddy, Nicki wrote. We were sporadic exercisers, but a few years ago we found a way to make fitness a part of our lives. We started with a single day … [Photo of Nicki hamming it up after our workout.]

Excuse, Excuses, and Anchors

By Nicki

We were having coffee, me jealously complaining about a mutual friend’s productivity.  I’d just finished saying “If I sat down and applied myself, I could do it too.” Dorothy smiled. “Do you hear yourself?” she asked. “If I applied myself, I could…  I’ll bet he doesn’t say that.”

She reminded me of our early workout days. We’d started with something doable – easy, in fact. A single session, once a week. Our commitment was that small, that simple. However, it was non-negotiable. No excuses. Fairly soon after, we decided we could manage twice a week. After a while, comfortable in our schedule, we bumped it up to three times weekly.

Schedules can change on a dime. A major work project ate up her days, and sometimes a good part of her evenings. All of a sudden, her available hours were cut back drastically. We both knew this could easily tank all the good work we’d done for our bodies and minds. We both knew staying in shape was a major lifelong goal. Neither of us wanted to end up being one of the frail elderly. How could we fit exercise in to our lives with her sliver of free time?

She suggested we go back to the beginning. We’d commit to one evening. A non-negotiable. We hung on tight to that single night at the gym, making sure nothing took precedence. In the meantime, we didn’t want to lose what we’d gained. We added small things, walking a few blocks during lunch break, whenever possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator. It took a while before we were able to bring our gym schedule back up to two, but we did it, and the small things in between made sure we hadn’t lost ground. Then two evenings became three and we were back on track.

The point she made is valid and simple. We all need that anchor. That small non-negotiable we can hang on to when everything else is falling down around us. Fitness isn’t about heroic effort. It’s about consistency, and that doesn’t happen without effort. It does happen, though. Repetition builds patterns.

If I don’t have time to do a project because it will take hours, I know I need to rethink my strategy. I need to break it down. As Dorothy told me [about keeping up with my writing], “It’s not a big commitment to write 250 words. Make that your non-negotiable. Twice a week – or once, if you think you can’t manage two. If you don’t break the pact you make with yourself, pretty soon, you’ll be up to four times a week and the results will start to show. You’ll also have the pride of accomplishment.

I made the commitment that day. I’m hanging on to the anchor, and I’m not going to let go. I’ve also passed the 55,000-word mark on the book I’m writing. Small, doable steps can finish the biggest project. A single effort can change a lifestyle, a body size, an eating habit.

I’ll find a way to thank her properly. But, as she always says: “don’t forget to thank yourself.” I did. I do. I thank myself for my anchor, for starting small and keeping it up. I thank my lucky stars to have a great mentor. I also realize I’m the one who has to make the effort. After all, if I change the way I do things, the success that follows belongs to me.


Make time to exercise. This is your gift to yourself.