Let go of perfection and your fitness will come

Rachel Flanagan Uncategorized


So I was hit with the flu last week, and it was the first time I’ve been sick like that in a long time. I suspect I picked it up from the plane when I went to Palm Springs–those planes are petri dishes!–and it caught me off guard. I thought I could just soldier on with my life and schedule. I was so wrong.

What started on Wednesday as just feeling blah turned into down and out by Friday. Chills. Body aches. Crushing fatigue.

But by Sunday morning I’d come back around a bit. I started getting restless for a good workout back in the gym. So I got dressed and ready to lift.

But I had to let go of any idea of perfection. I was still bouncing back from feeling like crap, and my body wasn’t ready for full tilt. Plus Sunday is PJ’s gym day, so I had to share our one barbell with him, and share the space. Plus, Paige wanted to hang out, so it got a little crowded in our little gym. I couldn’t do the workout I had planned on my schedule since I needed the barbell for most of it. Plus PJ’s idea of workout music is pretty different than mine. Gloria Estefan I can handle, but Anne Murray and Barry Manilow don’t exactly pump me up like Pitbull does. It kinda made me want to lie on the mat and bemoan my fate.

Boo hoo hoo. Poor perfectionist.

But that’s just how it was going to be that morning, and it had to be okay. So I scratched one of my barbell lifts and switched to dumbbells. Tried to focus on how nice it was that we were all together, and everyone was in a good mood.

​But I’ll be honest–all during the workout, I had to quiet that annoying perfectionist in my head saying, “But you missed one of your big lifts. That’s going to mess with your progress.”

So I had to tell that annoying perfectionist to take a hike. Zip it and let me enjoy this workout with my family.

And then today, something similar. My potential pockets of time for working out got booked up with air conditioning guys and guys to come and do the quarterly spraying for bugs. But if I hustled, I could get in about 45 minutes in between dropping the kids off at the bus and an 8am client. But for some reason when I got home, I felt I needed to do the breakfast dishes first. And change my clothes. 50 minutes turned into 40. My perfectly planned barbell workout was slipping through my hands.

But it was my only window, so I had to figure it out. So I decided to prioritize my top exercises, and not waste any more time. Deadlift first, with V ups in between sets. Then a superset of barbell overhead press and dumbbell chest press. I was sad about missing bench press, but there was no time to mope. Just re-focus.

And it turned out to be a good and sweaty workout. When I’m pressed for time, my intensity is usually better, so I get more out of my lifts. I got the major muscle groups in that I wanted to work, and felt good at the end. Not perfect, but pretty darn good.

This has been happening to me a lot lately, and as a perfectionist, sometimes I have an inner struggle. I have to force myself to adapt on the fly and not get upset over things not going as originally planned. Air conditioning guys need to be scheduled. Kids want to come in and ask for things. Windows of time get eaten up.

If I tried to find the perfect window of time to workout, I would never work out at all.

So I have to let go of perfection. As a busy working mom, perfection just can’t be the goal. So the best thing to do is to have plan Bs, Cs, and Ds, and always be ready to change tack. Find peace with the changing tide. Because wasting energy getting upset over not getting the perfect hour to workout is just that–wasted energy.

Want to know my secret weapon? It’s this: I always have a cache of 30 minute dumbbell circuits in my head that I can switch over to if I need to do. They all pack a punch, and deliver a good workout.

But maybe next time I need to work out on a Sunday, I’ll see if I can convince PJ to let me play some Pitbull. A little Fireball never hurt anyone.

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