Thursday, February 13, 2014

Words I hate: "lazy" and "excuses"

I was in the weight room at the YMCA one day where a woman was lifting the lightest weights possible. No, I wasn’t monitoring her workout -- just following her on the machines and adjusting the weights for myself to the nearly-lightest ones.

Although her workout was none of my concern, she suddenly began talking to me about why she didn’t lift more weight. She seemed almost apologetic, as if she feared I were judging her. She had survived an auto accident that nearly killed her and left her paralyzed at the time. She had battled back from fucking paralysis, and 10 pounds on a machine was a victory for her. And she felt the need to explain herself to me, a total stranger.

I think I stumbled through some reassurance like, “we all do what we can.” I wondered why she felt the need to tell me this. Whether she thought I might have thought she was lazy, or just making excuses.

Lazy. Excuses. Two words I despise when they’re bandied about in the context of fitness. Words that disrespect others’ real limitations, barriers and even just their own damn priorities.

That’s why I bristled at this post over on Obesity Panacea that initially had a reference to "Lazy Susans" as annoying creatures at the gym. Yay, Peter for taking that part of it down!* Sure, screamers and lounge lizards at a gym interfere with others’ enjoyment of it, but how does someone doing a light workout hurt anyone? Is there a sign on the door saying “Crossfit enthusiasts only?” Do they issue heart monitors at the front desk so they can kick out anyone at less than maximum aerobic intensity?

Is it so important to judge those not working to full potential that you are willing to denigrate those with barriers you can't imagine?

I think Carrie Patrick said it better than I can, but you never know what someone else’s story is. I’ve been to the gym with neck pain so severe that I was nauseous and dizzy. From the outside I looked fine. You might have thought I was “lazy.”

Yes, sometimes I’m lazy and sometimes I make excuses. I know when this is the case. I also know when I’m tired or hurt or when life’s just getting in the way of my workout. You can’t tell any of those things by looking at me.

Two words I'd like to see banished. They hurt, and there are better ways to motivate people.

*Epilogue: As noted above, after feedback from myself and one other person, Dr. Peter Janiszewski responded to our comments and deleted the offending portion of the post. Kudos and thanks to him for that. 


  1. You got it precisely: we don't know what anybody else's story is. And the thing is, we don't need to know, if we keep in mind that somebody else's workout, hair style, lifestyle, choice of career or hobby is NOMB: None of My Business. It's that simple.

  2. And they wonder why some people don't go to the gym! Obnoxious. And blessings on that woman for fighting back from such debilitating injuries.

  3. If the sign on the door says Crossfit, then it's Crossfit enthusiasts only :P

    Seriously though, I hate it too. "Lazy" and "excuse" are not helpful words, they only hurt. People talk about 'motivation', but these words do not enable.

    Saw a photo the other day of Patrick Stewart "doing a one-arm push-up at age 73". Thought to myself, good work Patrick! Then the caption continued with "your argument is invalid", and I thought to myself, fuck you, small-minded caption-guy.