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Perfectionism and Fitness

Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am not a perfectionist. My husband may disagree when I’m nagging him to pick up his socks, and because I’m organized, people assume I am, but the truth is I’m not a detail person.

I fold the laundry every week, but there are always creases. I make content for my website, but Kenton makes sure everything is aligned. I prefer to play piano by ear rather than read the notes. I forgot to vacuum under the couch for 2 years. I love cooking but I don’t always measure and I never, ever include the fresh herb garnishes. I work out regularly, but I’ve learned that not every workout is going to be perfect.

When it comes to fitness there is a time and place to expect perfection. Mostly, one should aim for perfect form in an exercise before progressing to harder exercises. Perfect form equals perfectly safe and that’s what we want.

Other than that, perfection isn’t required in order to benefit from and enjoy fitness. In fact, if you expect perfection, you’ll likely end up disappointed.

A perfectionist might expect themselves to workout 5x per week without fail, 52 weeks per year. They might plan to complete every workout with 110% effort and continually make improvements in their abilities and appearance. They might beat themselves up for “cheating” on their strict diet. They might overlook the fact that they feel more energetic, more confident and less lethargic, and focus on the 5lbs they are sure they still need to lose.

When you expect perfection, and inevitably fail (because we are human) it’s easy to give up completely. Not worth the effort, you might think. I’ll never be perfect, so why bother trying?

What if your husband or child or best friend said that to you? “I’ll never be perfect at ________ so why bother trying?”

If you don’t expect perfection from anyone else, why should you be so hard on yourself?

I’m not saying you can’t have goals. Goals are great motivators and are certainly important. But just make sure you don’t get bogged down in the details. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t live up to your high expectations of yourself. Try to keep the bigger picture in mind, like the fact that you created your goal to workout 5x per week this month because you wanted to feel more confident and be able to keep up with your energetic kids. Even if you only got an average of 3 workouts in per week, I bet your body is feeling pretty good!

Speaking of goals, I know you can dream bigger than a “perfect” body. Think about the kind of person you want to be, what you want to do, and how exercise can help you achieve that. Maybe you want to set a healthy example for your children, or be around to play with your great grandchildren. Maybe you want to climb a mountain, or run in a race. Maybe you want to be a good steward of the body God gave you, or have the energy and mental clarity to run a business.

Well guess what? All of those dreams don’t require perfection in fitness. They do require effort and consistency, but even 70% consistency in a good program can produce results.

Don’t give up before you’ve even started just because you’re afraid of failing.

Get your workouts in, but don’t beat yourself up if you had to cut one short because your kids needed you.

Eat your vegetables, but don’t be afraid to dip them in ranch if that’s what you need to do to enjoy them.

Count your steps, but please don’t miss a family dinner so you can get to 10,000.

In all your pursuits aim for balance, a well-rounded approach. Life is not black and white.

The great thing about not expecting perfection from yourself is that you get to do more things. You can be fit, cook healthy meals, have great relationships, fun hobbies and experience life richly.

There are certainly people out there that benefit from perfectionism (pro athletes, artists, etc) but for some of us it just adds stress and hinders our ability to enjoy life.

It's common to expect perfection in your fitness: 100% adherence to a workout or nutrition plan, 110% effort given to each workout, or a perfect body. Personally, unless you're a professional athlete, I don't think you need to expect perfection from yourself when it comes to fitness.

Instead, you need to find the line between having the discipline to do what you know you need to do, and the grace to accept your own shortcomings.

It has been my absolute pleasure over the last few years to help people see that fitness doesn’t have to be scary, and that it can significantly enhance your life.

If you’re interested in signing up for fitness or nutrition coaching, feel free to send me an email to


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