I have a theory that finding an excuse not to have to join in with physical education at school is one of the oldest tricks in the book. After all, who wants the wind whipping up their games skirt or their football shorts in the cold months, making them all nippy around the giblets? And show me a teenager other than the fittest of the fit who wants to expose their bod to their classmates?

No, call it what you will – physical education (PE), physical training (PT), games, athletics, swimming, cross-country, netball, football or any other sort of ball – it’s always wise to have an excuse up your short sleeve for those times when you just can’t face it.

1. The dog

A variation on ‘the dog ate my homework’, this one is worth a try even if teacher thinks you’re barking mad. “The dog ate my gym kit” is reasonably plausible. You could even offer to prove it by bringing in the results, once the gastric experiment has taken its natural course (your kind offer will be likely to be declined!) If you only have a very small dog, or none at all, blame next door’s bull mastiff, Fluffy.

2. The comparison

“I feel too ashamed to wear my leotard/shorts/tennis skirt when you, dear teacher, have such a wonderful body in comparison with mine. I just feel so inadequate. I’m sure you’ll understand that, until you’ve put on at least two stone and developed cellulite, I cannot possibly be put in this dreadful situation.”

3. The postman

This is also a good one to try out. We all know how partial postmen (and postwomen) are to wearing shorts all year round, whatever the weather. So you could claim you’d outgrown and chucked out your old gym shorts/football shorts/running shorts and had ordered some new ones, only to find that you haven’t received them. You suspect the postie has commandeered them in transit, but are waiting for a suitable photo opportunity to prove it. Meanwhile, you can’t be expected to do PE in your underpants, can you?

4. The bully

Unfortunately, many school years have a bully and you’ve been subjected to shameful verbal abuse because you have the body of an Adonis. The bully – let’s call him Billy, as you can’t possibly reveal his real name – is so green with envy he’s started smear campaigns across the playground, claiming all sorts of things about your gorgeous physique. You can’t possibly wear your PE kit again until this spiteful loony is taken to task.

5. The study option

“I’m never going to be the next David Beckham or Dame Kelly Holmes but I might have a fighting chance of being a good runner-up to Stephen Hawking. My parents have invested in private physics and maths tutoring to help me with these more practical aspirations and we all consider it’s a better use of my time.”

6. The exhaustion

“I spend so much time working out on my WII Fit that I simply don’t have the energy to do any more physical exercise during the school day. Last night after I’d finished all my homework I played five sets of tennis, ran 15 miles up hill and still had time for 12 rounds with a champion boxer. Sorry, but I’m just too pooped.”

7. The technology

“My smart phone! My smart phone! There it was, in my pocket, and next thing I knew it was down the loo. All my notes from last week’s class are on that phone – how to make a winning tackle against the class swot, how to dig the hockey stick into goal attack’s shins without anyone noticing – and I don’t want to regress. I will simply have to spend this week’s PE lesson drying out the phone in that nice sunny spot in the common room…”

8. The mental note

“Well, teacher, it’s like this. Remember last week when I accidently hit the ball straight at your head? You said you’d make a ‘mental note’ of it. I know you said it as a joke but actually I’ve been in mortal fear ever since and I really cannot bear the thought of it happening again. Ever.”

9. The protest

“Look, really, if God had intended me to touch my toes She’d have put them on my knees.” You simply can’t argue with this one. It’s particularly useful if the PE lesson follows the RE one.

10. Equine intervention

We’ve heard of divine intervention, benign intervention, well you can always try equine intervention. There you were, merrily making your way to school with your shoes polished, your books neatly stacked and your PE kit pressed and ready for action … when all of a sudden, without warning, a dandy highwayman on his black shiny steed galloped up behind you and snaffled your school bag. You could also try ‘bovine intervention’ – but you might have to drop the highwayman bit as teacher will never believe you that a robber was riding a getaway cow.



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Joseph is a French and Spanish to English translator, language enthusiast, and blogger.