Why Perfect Is Not The Goal
Let’s get one thing straight: labels are lame. Unless it’s a ‘best before’ date on my hummus, I don’t want a bar of it — especially when it comes to health and fitness.
As a personal trainer, I’m constantly wading through pools of labels, and while I understand the necessity of some, there are others I want to take a black Sharpie to. The idea that anything can be ‘perfect’ is number one on my hit list, and I will explain why.
Why you shouldn’t aim for perfection
By definition, perfect is ‘having everything that is necessary, complete without faults or weaknesses’. Therefore, this word should rarely apply in the health and fitness world. We all know this, yet we continue to use it.
I used to be in a love/hate relationship with ‘perfect’ when it came to the way I wanted to look, train, eat, feel and be.
I loved the drive the concept of perfection gave me — to be the best version of myself — but hated the pain it brought when I could never quite be the true definition of the word.
It wasn’t until I realised I didn’t actually want perfection, that I came to terms with the fact we shouldn’t associate it with the way we look, train or eat — or anything about ourselves.
Quite honestly, it sounds boring. And if you’ve done a FIERCE workout, you’ll know I don’t do boring!
Real nutrition goals
When it comes to diet and nutrition, having a strict regimen is great when you’re working towards a specific goal, but never allowing yourself to enjoy a bowl of ice cream with your kids on movie night, or dinner out with friends, will deprive you of the best things in life.
We need those little things that make our hearts happy! Often I get asked ‘how do you stick to a perfect eating plan all the time?’ and I can’t help but laugh.
Sure, I eat healthy most of the time, and I genuinely love healthy food, but I’m not one to decline a cheese platter for the sake of maintaining ‘perfection’. I’m also not having a wheel of brie every day, so let’s bring up the old ‘M’ word while we’re here — moderation. This is what it’s all about when it comes to food.
Stick to the good stuff that fuels your body for the most-part, and allow those little pleasures every now and then. Not only will you enjoy them more, but you’ll find yourself craving them less and less, making the time between those occasional indulgences easier.
Real training goals
So what about perfect training? I’ll allow it in one instance only: technique. Having perfect technique when you’re doing a lift or plyometric exercise is awesome, and necessary when you start hitting advanced weights and maneuvers.
Once you start comparing your ability to others who, to you, seem ‘perfect’, or beating yourself up for missing one session, you’re misusing the word.
We’re all built differently, we all lead very different lives and have different priorities, which means we’re not comparable.
You may see someone in the gym who you think has zero flaws, zero weaknesses and is just the epitome of perfection, and what a compliment! Go and tell them you think they’re doing a kickass job in the gym. Chances are, they’ve got a few things they’re not 100 per cent happy with about themselves.
Perfection is subjective and we are always our own worst critic. You might hit the gym five times a week for 12 weeks, and then need a week off because work and life needs your focus for a while, and that’s totally fine. As long as you get back on track, you’re still smashing it.
Keeping things real
This is what I love about my FIERCE challenges and training plans — they give you the structure you need to reach your goals and see results, and you have a visible timeline.
You can see the light at the end of the program, where you will take that ‘after’ photo and see how far you’ve come. Seeing your progress will re-energise you to do another round, or continue with the parts you loved most, or make the program part of your everyday routine, so you can keep on that motivation train.
Keeping yourself accountable, braving the cold mornings, making time to prepare healthy food, and having a clear vision of where you want to go is key to making training part of your lifestyle, and staying motivated.
And sometimes, motivation means giving yourself a big pat on the back and a well-earned treat to celebrate.
Real planning goals
When it comes to training routines, I’m not a morning person, ask anyone. But I don’t give in to my innate desire to sleep until 10am (plus, I have two babies who would never stand for that!).
I drag my sleepy butt out of bed to hit the gym. I set alarms, write my to-do list the night before, lay everything I need out on the bench ready for me in the morning, even sleep in my gym clothes.
Some days are easier than others, and some days I have to have a stern talking to myself before I can pull my head off the pillow.
Through forming healthy habits, I make it happen. There’s nothing perfect about it, I just use discipline, knowing how much better I feel when I’ve done my workout and put my health first.
More terms to ban...
Another word I don’t like hearing is ‘toned’, specifically the phrase “I want to be toned”. It’s something I crossed out of my vocabulary book years ago when I realised it has about as much density as styrofoam.
What we should be saying instead, is “I want to be strong. I want to be fierce. I want to be a warrior.”
We need to shift our thinking away from words that are boxed into rigid containers and move towards words that actually mean something.
Feeling like a warrior could mean hitting a new PB in an AMRAP workout, or it could mean waking up with a percentage less anxiety each month as you regain your self-confidence.
It might be nailing a job interview because you feel on top of the world after crushing a tough workout that morning.
Becoming a warrior is about finding the moments that matter, the feelings that truly fuel us mentally, physically and emotionally, and making them our focus and our reason to work out.
We’re not always going to be good at everything. When I was at school, I made it to state finals for high jump. I was the only competitor who didn’t know how to do a Fosbury Flop, but I was great at the scissor jump.
So instead of trying to force myself to do the flop, because that’s what you’re supposed to do when the bar gets raised, I stuck to what I was good at. Fuelled by self-belief and my competitive streak, I ended up breaking the record for the high jump using the scissor style and even won second place.
If I had tried to fit the mould and follow the ‘rules’, I would never had made it as far as I did. That label would have squashed me and pulled me down — it wasn’t the right fit for me.
Even though I knew the scissor jump was physically limiting in how high it would allow me to go, I didn’t let that stop me. I was fierce. I was hungry. I was ready to show the world I didn’t need to be like everyone else to succeed.
Being fierce is standing your ground when the going gets tough, and when you don’t fit the 10-point criteria, it makes the victory sweeter.
You do you
If we all played by the rules and squeezed ourselves into round holes when we’re quite obviously unique square, diamond and hexagonal pegs, then we’d be headed for an incredibly ill-fitting and boring time!
So do yourself a favour: ditch the labels, break the rules and let your fierceness define who you are. How will you shift your mindset today?
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.