There is a theory that finding an excuse to not have to participate in 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?
Besides, is it fair, practical or even advisable to expect a teenager who is anything but the fittest of the fit to expose their bod to their classmates? Couldn't we go so far as to argue that having them do so leaves them vulnerable to body-shaming and self-esteem issues? And what if they're not particularly athletic, to begin with?
No, call it what you will – physical education (PE or Phys Ed), 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.
Standard Excuses to Get You Out of PE
Students have been searching for excuses to get out of physical training for as long as PE has been a part of schools' curricula. Some of the most effective reasons for ditching class have stood the test of time, leaving unwilling students sitting on the bleachers or in study hall.
The best excuses are those that contain a grain of truth; these are the ones we feature now.
The Forged Note
This one is the grand-daddy of all classic gym excuses, made more accessible if your school and/or gym teacher allow parents to submit excuse notes via email or text message. Of course, it doesn't have to be mum or dad sending those notes, does it?
For the pen-and-paper note, you only need a sample of your mum or dad's handwriting and signature to get started. If you don't happen to have those handy, you might ask them to write you a note for gym class that says you have some extracurricular activity taking place at the same time as PE class.
Once you have that in hand, you only need a bit of practice before you can credibly duplicate your parents' handwriting. From there, anytime you don't feel like doing PE, you can draft a note. Your grades won't take a hit for unexcused absences and your parents won't wonder why you need so many notes.
Naturally, you can turn in that initial note once you no longer need it as a template.
The Mental Note
Don't you hate it when your teacher - any teacher says "I'll make a note of that." after a particularly trying exchange with you?
It sounds ominous, as though s/he is putting a black mark next to your name in some imaginary ledger. You just know that retribution will be swift, decisive and severe!
What if you could turn that around; use it to your advantage?
“Well, teacher, it’s like this. Remember last week when I accidentally 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 of hitting you ever since and I really cannot bear the thought of it happening again. Ever.”
Variations of this theme include that you accidentally hit her when you kicked your trainer off, dropped a weight on your spotter's foot (breaking their toes) and injured the school's champion (rower, footballer, gymnast, etc.) when you ploughed into them during the last class.
The key is that you are at risk of suffering from PTSD and you should not be exposed to what caused your trauma in the first place.
No disrespect intended to actual PTSD sufferers, of course.
Technology and Devices
The explosion of personal electronic devices has opened up entire new excuses to explore. From the obvious 'my phone went down the loo' to 'my Fitbit indicates I've already exerted myself today', here are a few scenarios you might put into play.
“My new smartphone went down the loo! All my notes from last week’s class are on that phone and I can't afford to lose them. I will rush home to put it in rice; hopefully, it will be okay. If not, I'll have to take it to the shop to see if they can recover everything..." If your teacher says they have bowls of rice expressly for that purpose, you may resort to "I'm too upset to work out".
Here's another phone reason:
"I had my phone in my pocket, last class. When I sat down, the glass broke and a piece of it embedded in my bum. Now I'm too sore to do squats." You may also say that a piece of the broken case stabbed you and left you bruised. (For the best effect, remember to sit lopsided, otherwise. you'll give yourself away.)
As for your wearable tech... oh, the excuses it can provide! You didn't sleep well, you have a mild fever, your heart rate is up, your blood pressure is down, you've already burned too many calories today... You could even say you forgot to wear it and maintaining your fitness track record without accounting for your activity in gym class is impossible without it.
Good Excuses to Get You Out of PE
The excuses listed so far may or may not work. Your PE teacher didn't just fall out of the teacher tree yesterday; s/he has probably heard/seen these excuses numerous times. They are classics, after all. Well, except for the technology ones; those are relatively new.
While there may be a grain of truth embedded in them, none may be as impactful or effective as the following reasons to not dress out for class.
“I feel too ashamed to wear my leotard/shorts/swimsuit in front of my classmates, who all look so much better than I do."
Body image issues are a hot topic today. For the past few years, the fashion industry has been under fire for the super-skinny models they hire to parade down the catwalk in their creations; indeed, the whole world is undergoing a reckoning about what the ideal female form should be.
Males suffer from body dysmorphia too, but their issues don't get near the publicity and attention that females' struggles do.
Educators are acutely aware of issues that may harm a student's health, mental or physical so, if you use this reason to duck out of gym class, be prepared for a bit of scrutiny. Your gym teacher will likely refer you to the school's counsellor and may even contact your caregivers out of an abundance of concern for you.
Superprof tip: if, indeed, you struggle with such issues, talk to someone - your parents or another trusted adult; you may also talk with a mental health professional.
Unfortunately, bullies are everywhere. Perhaps you’ve been subjected to shameful verbal abuse because you have the body of an Adonis/Venus - or, conversely, a body that falls outside of the ideal form.
If you are indeed an Adonis/Venus clone, the bully might be so green with envy s/he’s started smear campaigns across the school, 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.
By contrast, if the vitriol heaped upon you is due to a less-than-perfect figure - as is so often the case, forget all of the jokes. Let your teacher know about the position you're in. You may even ask if you can transfer into a different class, away from those cruel taunts.
On the other hand, you may just turn a deaf ear on the cruelty, attend PE class religiously and show everyone your best, strongest, most resilient self.
That'll show those bullies!
The Study Option
“I’m never going to be David Beckham or Dame Kelly Holmes but I have a fighting chance of being the next Stephen Hawking or Jocelyn Bell Burnell."
Not everyone is endowed with athletic prowess; some of us don't even like to walk from the sofa to the refrigerator and back again. Still, for this excuse to fly, you will have to have a backup argument/strategy. Simply saying you're far more cerebral than your years allow for won't cut the mustard.
You might say that your parents have invested in private physics and maths tutoring to help you with those more pragmatic aspirations and indicate that that supplemental help will happen at exactly the same time as your gym class. Even more effective: you've joined the school's science/maths clubs and they will meet during your gym session.
It will be hard (but not impossible) for your athletics teacher to resist roping you into callisthenics so use this excuse judiciously, lest your request meets with rejection.
“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." You could also flip it around: "I will spend so much time on my WII Fit this evening that I can't possibly spare an ounce of energy for gym class right now."
You might even go on to say that your WII gives you a far superior workout. The only trouble with that line of reasoning is that WII doesn't give out marks for attendance and participation.
If you're going to city exhaustion, you should probably make the cause of it school-related: you stayed up too late to study for an exam, you had to run all the way to school this morning, you overslept and forgot to pack your kit...
"Last night after I’d finished all my homework I played five sets of tennis, ran 15 miles uphill and still had time for 12 rounds with a champion boxer. Sorry, but I’m just too pooped.” is worth a try but will likely not fly.
Still, should you want to give it a go but you don't have a WII, you might consider these alternate activities as reasons for not dressing out for gym class: you're too sore from riding your bike, jogging/running/power walking/Nordic walking, pumping iron, dancing...
Funny Excuses to Get Out of PE
People often say that the teen years are supposed to be the most fun. That rather flies in the face of having to go to school every day, doesn't it?
Still, teens are well-known for outrageous pranks and wild turns of logic; maybe one of these excuses will be so implausible that you'll actually get props for inventiveness. Whether you'll still have to dress out for gym is debatable...
The Dog Ate My Kit
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 plausible. Dogs are known for their love of chewing on shoes; who says your trainers were spared his munching? Or maybe you left kit on the floor by the washing machine and, because they smelled so strongly of you, they were quickly chewed to shreds.
If you really wanted to gross your teacher out, you could offer to prove it by bringing in the results, once the gastric experiment has taken its natural course (your earnest offer will be likely be declined).
If you only have a very small dog or even no dog at all, you can still use this reason to ditch class. Simply blame the bullmastiff next door; you can earn yourself an extra eye-roll if you say its name is Fluffy or something else similarly adorable.
Would the same work for cats? Oh, but of course! The cat spit up a hairball on your kit. The cat shredded it with its claws. The cat peed on it, pooped on it... dragged it under the stairs and gave birth on it.
If you've ever hoped to be voted class clown, any of these excuses should help you gain votes.
We’ve heard of divine intervention and benign intervention, either of which are hit-and-miss propositions. Now it's time to try an 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.
Be aware that the more you make it sound like a scene from The Princess Bride, the less likely your reason for not participating will be believed. Also, if there typically are no dandy highwaymen or horses in your immediate vicinity - say, you live in the heart of London, you might have a harder time pulling this one off.
However, if you live in the countryside, you could also try a ‘bovine intervention’ – you were being chased by a stampeding bull and you dropped your kit so you could run faster or a mooing cow so startled you that you dropped your kit into the ditch and the water swept it away.
If you're going with bovine intervention, you will have to drop the highwayman bit as Teacher will never believe that a robber was riding a getaway cow.
We all know how partial postmen (and postwomen) are to wearing shorts all year round, whatever the weather, right?
You could claim you’d outgrown your kit and chucked out your old gym shorts/football shorts/running shorts and had ordered some new ones, only you haven’t received them yet, and it's been three months since you ordered them.
You suspect the postie has commandeered your clothes 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?
In a related claim, you might say that your freshly-washed gym kit was hanging on the clothesline and someone came by and stole it. You've ordered new but it hasn't arrived yet... which, incidentally, sets you up perfectly for using the postman excuse the next week.
Bonus Excuses to Absolve You of Having to Dress Out for Gym
On reflection, it's rather odd that a website dedicated to promoting education and achievement would publish an article instructing students how to avoid education and achievement.
Still, we just can't resist. Our imagination, collective experience (as gym-averse former students ourselves) and creative vibe lead us to list a few more quasi-believable reasons you might give for skipping gym class:
- You can't breathe through your face mask (relevant during the pandemic)
- You don't want to touch gym equipment that maybe hasn't been wiped down (also a COVID-related excuse)
- Your trainers are too small (and you've yet to buy new ones)
- You're suffering from a flareup of your rare medical condition (you may need to provide proof of that condition)
- Make a paper mache cast and claim your arm is broken.
- You hate your gym teacher and can't stand to be anywhere near them (this works best if the feeling is mutual)
- Participating in gym class violates your right to exercise free will
- You're currently fasting
- You abstain on religious grounds
- Simply don't turn up to PE class; no excuse given
If you've never been fond of sports and don't aim to start being mad for them now, you have a handy list to draw from when your own reason generator fails. You no longer have any grounds to login to The Student Room to ask others how they weasel out of gym class.
You may use these excuses on their own, in combination with one another or in conjunction with some of your best excuses. The main thing is to make the reason you don't want to participate plausible. Teachers are getting wise to these types of shenanigans so you're going to have to put on an Oscar-worthy (or BAFTA-worthy) performance.
Or you may just conclude that participating in gym class is probably for the best.