Stop making excuses, says Steve Trew, and you’ll find that your training goes a lot more smoothly

Stop making excuses and you’ll be a better athlete says Steve Trew (Illustration: Peter Greenwood)

There are always reasons why or why not. Always things that happened or didn’t happen. It’s always someone else’s fault – allegedly. It’s always: “I could’ve, but…”. Why do athletes do this? Why is there always that “but”?

Frequently, we refuse to recognise that faults are of our own making – that would be too painful. It’s far better to blame someone else, or something else – it’s easier that way. This is crazy. If and when something does go wrong, we need to look at it, analyse it and work out what we have to do to change things.

Perhaps we do it (and I say ‘we’ because I was just as bad) without really realising we’re doing it. So, can we recognise when we’re starting to slip into excuse – make that ‘dysfunctional’ – mode? Here are some of the signs to look out for.


“I tried to change my swim stroke like my coach told me, but it was too difficult, I’m just not a swimmer.” 

Yes, you are a swimmer, but maybe not quite as good as you’d like to be and potentially will be – if you listen to your coach and work on that aspect of technique.


“My hamstring was a tiny bit sore when I started to warm up. It just wasn’t working for me so I packed up that session.” 

Get over it! Nobody’s perfect. Face what you have or don’t have, and deal with it.

‘Once started, no use stopping’

“Once I’d eaten a few extra chips the harm had been done, so I carried on eating all of them. And the chocolate. And the sweets. And the doughnuts. And…” 

It’s a classic situation, particularly for new athletes and those intending to commit to a harder training regime. Don’t overeat –
take what you need, when you need it. You’re not in starvation mode, so don’t eat as if you are.


“I need to do an extra run session each week to make a difference, but I just don’t have the time. I can’t cope. I might as well pack
it all in.”

D’oh! Change your schedule, juggle, adjust, move things around. Every single age-group athlete has other commitments, yet they just get on with it. If you want to, you can and will.

‘I deserve it’

“Boy, that was a long run – I need to load up with carbs. And I’m training early tomorrow morning too, so I need to really load up!” 

Just like the ‘… no use stopping’ excuse, don’t overeat , because you don’t need to. Eat little and often – maybe just what your body will require in the next three hours or so of exercise. Then immediately after your training, eat something light.


“If I can’t find the time in the week for the long run, then there’s no point training at all.”

This is also known as ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. There’s always time – just slot specific training into the time available and when you need a couple of hours, prioritise.


“I’m still racing occasionally, so my training must be OK.”

Yeah… and are you happy with that, or would you like to be racing and winning? A no-brainer.

Anticipating the worst

“Even if I improved a lot, I still wouldn’t be able to keep up with the best riders in our club. I just know it.” 

In a month’s time, the first improvement could be there, and after six months, six lots of improvement might just put you up there with the best bikies.


“I only turned up 10 minutes late and everyone was having a go at me. It’s not worth the hassle.” 

Turned up late? Not your fault then? D’oh! Apologise. Say it won’t happen again and stick to your words. Poo happens – it’s how you deal with it that counts. is the online home of Triathlon Plus – the best source of triathlon training advice, triathlon gear reviews and triathlon news.

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