Excuses | Jim Steel

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Excuses are everywhere, and of course we are all guilty of using them
in many aspects of life. Even me.

What is inexcusable,
in my opinion, is making excuses about why you can’t get your
training in.

I come from a world
where excuses aren’t tolerated. One of the good things about
coaching football or being a strength coach in college is that you
either win, or you can lose your job. It’s not like in some jobs
where you can sit in your cubicle and run PTS reports and it really
doesn’t matter if you do a great job or a so-so job. Nobody really
notices and you can do that job forever and nobody gives a shit. You
take a sick day, nobody cares, you get another job, nobody cares.

It may seem like a
not-so-good thing that you can lose your job if you don’t produce
as a coach, but I always took comfort in that, and one of the reasons
was because excuses don’t matter. Did you win? No? Don’t win for
long enough and you are fired. Doesn’t matter if someone died or the
sky fell in, it’s cut and dried, black and white, which is unusual
in the world today. They hired you to win, not participate. Did you
win? Yes or no. That’s clarity.

I hate excuses about
training especially. Most of them, if not all of them, are bullshit.
When someone starts a sentence and says, “The reason why I
didn’t/couldn’t get my training done is…” I cringe, and I
immediately think less of that person.

I know I learned this
attitude about excuses because of my father’s example. My father
was a professor at the University of Maryland for 40 something years,
and although he loved teaching, what he really loved was noon-time
basketball. This was back in the days when Physical Educators
actually physically exercised and didn’t just publish papers for
professional and personal prestige.

Every afternoon at
12pm, he and whomever he could gather together would meet in the gym
in the kinesiology building and play basketball. My father would
appoint a “Noon-Time Czar,” one of his graduate assistants, whose
job it was to recruit enough professors and/or graduate assistants to
have a game. If he couldn’t find enough players, he would tell my dad
and my dad would ask, “Who can’t play?” The czar would reply,
“Well, Dr. Tate says he has to go get his wife flowers.” My dad,
after questioning if that was really the excuse given, told the
graduate assistant to march right into the office and tell Dr. Tate,
whom I believe was the Dean at the time, to “Get his priorities

Another time, the
graduate assistant reported back, “Dr. Smith says he doesn’t
have enough time.” That never sat well with my father. He’d call
the professor on the phone. Typically, the conversation went like

“What’s this about
you not having time for noon-time ball?” My dad would ask.

“I’m running short on
time. I have a lot to do.”

“Are you eating lunch


“Okay, skip lunch,
you don’t need lunch. I just found you a half hour of time. Are you
calling your wife today?”


“Don’t call her.
There’s another 10 minutes I just found for you.”

And the conversation
would continue along those lines until the professor on the other
line would get so frustrated that he would agree to play basketball
at noon.

I used to do something
similar with football players when I was a strength coach. They would
use the “I-don’t-have-time” excuse, and I would say, “Write
down everything you are going to do today – everything – and I
guarantee that I will find you enough time to come down and train.”
After doing that a few times with players, the word would spread and
they would usually say, “Never mind, I’ll be there.”

“See you then,” I’d

Don’t ever say that you
don’t have time to train. I’d rather you just tell me that you
don’t want to train, that you don’t care about getting stronger, that
you are satisfied at being inadequate as a human. If you say that to
me, what can I say? It’s so much easier that way: just say it and I
will respect you more than saying that you don’t have time to

However, if you are
someone that actually professes to enjoy training and uses the “I
don’t have time” excuse, I’m gonna ask you if you have 5 minutes.
No? How about 2 minutes? Okay, good. Go put the bar on your back with
75% of your body weight. Squat for one minute straight. Then you have
a minute to lie on the ground to recover. Done. That’s obviously an
extreme example, but it does illustrate the fact that excuses are
bullshit when it comes to training. Everyone has 2 minutes.

I have always believed
that people find time for what they want to have time for, especially
these days with technology constantly vying for your attention. Don’t
look at your email, don’t text, don’t go onto social media until
you train. Then you can waste your time in any manner you choose.

Before you’d get fired
for saying things like this, a player would use an excuse with me,
and I’d say, “If the last woman on earth was on the other side of
that wall, I’d bet you’d find a way to get to her. Even if you’d
have to dig under that wall to get to her, wouldn’t you? I guess
it’s just how bad you really want it.”

If you have an injury,
you can still do something. Train what is trainable. Leg injury? Set
a new PR in an upper body lift. I’m training a soldier now who
broke his leg and he is doing everything seated and he’s not
bitching at all, because making excuses is foreign to him.

You are definitely not
allowed to use a girlfriend or boyfriend as an excuse for not
training. Or a family gathering. I’ve had an athlete say that he
couldn’t train because his mom was in town and wanted to go to
dinner. Besides the fact that his time management sucked, I asked
him, “Your mom doesn’t want you to be strong?”

As I said, I am guilty
of making excuses about a bunch of stuff. For instance, I hate
talking on the phone – I actually despise hearing that damn thing
ring. I’ll look at the phone ringing, and unless it’s family, and
sometimes even then, I’m not picking it up. I’ll always ask, “Who
the hell is calling me?” Then when I eventually do talk to the
person, I’ll use the excuse that the ringer was off, I couldn’t
find my phone, etc. I’ll turn down an invitation to a social event
because of my dislike for most people, and instead of telling them
it’s because everyone at the place is soft and doesn’t deadlift,
I’ll say I forgot or something came up.

But I’m not making
excuses about not getting training in. That’s sacrilegious, and
should make you question your reason for living, make you question
why you are really here on earth. If not to lift weights, then for

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