The Perfect Trap

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it.”
― Anne Lamott

A common phrase uttered in the world of sport is: practice makes perfect… or, better yet, perfect practice makes perfect. In relation to competition, this may be the very thing that is holding many of you back from peak performance.

Competition in sport has a way of exposing your weaknesses. Maybe you train to your strengths, or obsessively compare one workout to the last, judging your performance in the present moment. These tendencies, over time, become hindrances to progress. You improve by encountering failure, embracing the unknown and using experience to move your forward. This is the antithesis of perfection.

In the above quote, Ms. Lamott is speaking of writing, and obsessing over perfection. How will this look? How will this be perceived? How does this make me feel? Is it (am I) ready? Its application is directly relevant to sports and competition. In endurance sports, you are your main rival. The other competitors are their own rivals on race day. It is your body of work that is represented when the gun goes off. All dreams of perfection must be released and the importance of acting and reacting must be prioritized.

So, how do you avoid the perfect trap? Here are a few examples:

  1. Ditch the watch: run by feel and emotion. Biofeedback is fun to track, but it can hinder the mind if the numbers aren’t where they “should” be.
  2. Train with a group: training partners, friends, and teams can provide the necessary stimulus to lift you into a new training experience. *Communicate with the group members and understand the goals of the workout before beginning.
  3. Go off road: nature is calling. Hitting the trails is a great way to add new and dynamic stimulus to your training. The mind works harder to engage with the environment. The body reacts to sudden terrain changes. Pace and speed go out the window when the terrain dictates movement. Also, proprioception, coordination, mobility, and strength are enhanced by training off road.
  4. Remind yourself that your finishing time matters to no one else. Nobody cares, but you. Nobody remembers, but you. Release the social pressure of achievement and be happy to be able to participate.

As the great Stoic Marcus Aurelius wrote:

“The things you think about determine the quality of your mind. Your soul takes on the color of your thoughts.”

We take on these difficult challenges, because they bring out the best in us, on that given day. Be happy in the moment and embrace the beauty that competition and sport bring to life.

Onward and Upward!

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Managing and Recognizing Stress

Stress. A general term with a broad application.

Signs:

  • Fatigue. General fatigue is often a sign of stress. No energy for movement is a clear indication that the mind and body are worn down.
  • Decreased self-regulation. Are you indulging and grabbing sweets to snack on or an extra glass or wine at night?
  • Looking for ways to feel better? Bad habits rear their ugly heads here as escapism infiltrates our path to change.

All stress is cumulative.

Simply put, it adds up. Adding more stress via excessively difficult training sessions or group fitness classes will not make it better. Remember this: it doesn’t need to be painful. Do you want more stress in your life? Is stress associated with progress and rewards? Discard those thoughts when working out.

The other side of stress.

Adaptations arise from bouts of stress and recovery. This may represent itself at your job, working on a project deadline or sales goal. If met there is often awards and incentives. Positive right? Maybe not… subconsciously you may be seeking out stress or stressful situations to improve your health. Chronic conditions arise when we fall out of balance. Work / Life. Training / Recovery. Hard / Easy. Polarity is a good thing!

Step 1: recognize stress.

Step 2: manage the cause of stress.

Step 3: eliminate the stress if you can.

Step 4: begin your day with mindfulness.

Step 5: end your day with physical activity and mindful nutrition that brings peace back to yourself.

Step 6: review your day and plan for tomorrow.

Personalization

“Any other path leads to someone else’s dream.” -Lyn Christian

I came across this quote earlier this morning and it sparked something in me. You see, this past weekend I was lucky enough to spend a significant amount of time with my father-in-law, Jan. We both have a high interest in fitness, health and running, but with a strong emphasis on “being”. To give a little background, Jan was one of the first athletes to complete the ironman triathlon in Hawaii, as well as the western states 100 in California. With numerous other “experiences” of endurance in his CV it’s clear that there is a strong connection between fitness, athletics and experience. It’s the personal journey that makes the doing worthwhile. Back to this past weekend, we spent a part of each day doing some calisthenics and going for a run. The importance of this is that it made the day “complete”. We weren’t training as much as we were experiencing, living, and bonding. This brings up a strong point of emphasis when helping others find a place for fitness and health in their lives. That place is personalization. The quote above from Lyn is a strong message to live by when discerning if a certain path will be the path you take. We all love to hear testimonials and look at photos of transformation. What is missing from these messages though is our own dream. Knowing ourselves completely and honestly.

When thinking of your pursuit… your point “B”… your future… focus on your personalization. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, but find solace in what you can do each day to make it complete. Incorporating fitness, exercise and health is a very powerful thing, but it’s different for everyone.

Our paths will differ in some way. Be truthful on your path. Live your dream through your actions.

Simplify. Focus. Flow. Be.

Expressing who we are and what we stand for is a difficult thing to do in the information age we live in. Finding satisfaction in our days and our decisions carries a greater importance in our lives now, more than ever. Taking care and investing in ourselves is part of this glorious gift of life we have received.

As my father-in-law says, “enjoy the journey”…