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Perfectionism Is the Enemy of Success

Five days a week, I have time blocked out on my calendar for a workout, plus the time I need to shower and eat afterward. I don't let anything get in the way of that workout. I schedule around it, or in cases when I absolutely can't, I move that full block to a different place in my day. I have a strong daily workout plan based on my goals, and I love the way my workouts make me feel: strong, calm, and confident. This is my time and I guard it closely.

Last week, I received an email reminder for a Friday appointment that wasn't in my calendar. I opened my Friday schedule to see a jammed-packed day. I tried to move different appointments, but rescheduling options weren't working out. I was frustrated to find I had only a couple of 30 minute windows between appointments. There was no way I could fit my typical workout in plus a shower and food. I was flat-out irritated. It was looking like I'd have to scrap the whole thing.

Many of us have clearly defined exercise goals, or at the very least, an image in our mind of our perfect workout for the day. We also have incredibly busy lives that involve a lot of moving pieces. We set aside time to workout, only to have someone corner us at work on our way out to talk about a project, a kid who needs extra homework help, a traffic jam, a dog who pees all over the rug right as we're stepping out the door for a run. Before we know it, the time we set aside for our perfect workout has been eroded. Ugh. Why even bother?

The problem with this type of all-or-nothing thinking is that for those of us that are the busiest, "nothing" happens more often than not. Life is messy, and it's not uncommon to continually to give up our workouts in the midst of that mess because we won't be able to do them the exact way we want to. And yet, something is ALWAYS better than nothing.

A 30 minute workout is better than no workout at all. Heck, a 15 minute workout is better than no workout at all. But instead of taking the imperfect option, we tend to think, "I'll just miss this one." Of course one or two missed workouts won't derail you. But when we're chasing perfection, fall short, and then scrap the whole plan day after day after day after day, it adds up. And when we accept imperfection and make something happen day after day after day anyway, it adds up.

That fateful Friday, when it became abundantly clear my originally planned hour-long workout wasn't going to happen, I paused and considered my alternatives (only after my initial reaction of irritation). My first appointment was with a guy who was going to sand a small portion of our wood floors and paint various stain samples on them (we're gearing up for a remodel). I looked at the time he was supposed to arrive and decided to hop on the stationary bike just after my children left for school, knowing 10 minutes may be all I got until later in the day. I answered the door when he came--10 minutes later, as expected--talked to him for a few minutes, determined when I needed to be available again, and then jumped back on the bike. I managed to get another 20 minutes in. In between picking stain samples, I made and drank my after-workout shake. After the flooring guy left, I jumped in the shower and was out the door within 7 minutes for my next appointment.

Don't let perfectionism derail you. When life gets in the way, pause and brainstorm possible alternatives. Could you shorten your workout? Split up your workout? Walk for 10 min at 3 different points in your day? Sprint up a flight of stairs a few times during the day? Go for a jog during your kiddo's practice? Walk or ride bikes with your family after dinner? Pick the alternative that best aligns with your goals and sits well with you. (If an alternative brings you nothing but dread, it's time to pick a new one.) You will reap the benefits of your imperfect perfect workouts as they add up over time.

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