Hi, my name is Erin and I'm a recovering perfectionist. My athletic journey has been a key part of my "recovery" as it teaches me lessons that have finally begun to sink in and shape how I face each day, not just my workouts. I will write this post in sections, beginning today with how my fit life came to be. I bet you'll get a kick out of it.
And by the time I didn't have to choose gym class as an option, I was more than happy to find another class to fill its gap. We weren't taught about progress, we were expected to perform perfectly - naturally. I felt awkward and out of place. But, as I entered adulthood a new spark of interest was ignited and I felt a desire to be active and fit. Unfortunately, I took an all or nothing approach with me to my first aerobics class at University, busting a move until I was hunched over in cramps. I expected that I'd just be fit. I'd go to aerobics and that'd be that. I continued my bursts of activity followed by longer periods of inactivity all through University when I had decided, upon arriving in a new city in my first teaching position, that I'd become a runner. I tied up my cross trainers and bolted out the door - and guess what happened? I walked home defeated, clutching my cramped up sides and feeling rather nauseous.
Perfection, not progress. Get it right from the get-go, or don't bother.
A number of years later, in another new community, a big career shift and now a husband by my side, I made another attempt at entertaining this fitness bug, yet again. I had been working out at home for years, using videos for all sorts of things (dance, Tae-Bo, aerobics, yoga, etc), trying to motivate myself to be consistently active. And then along came the Wii Fit. I have to laugh now when I realize that a video gaming system was what finally got the ball seriously rolling for me. True story. I'd select a workout and sweat in the comfort of my basement, working hard to make my avatar do whatever the Wii told Mii I needed to do! And the big lightbulb revelation of progress over perfection came when I had to run around a "track" in these workouts. The game forced me to pace myself and I was finally succeeding at running. I wasn't being rewarded for running as fast as I could. Sure, I was running in one place in front of a large screen, looking at a cartoon digital version of myself but the silly Wii approached fitness in a way that I had not previously encountered. Hilarious, but revolutionary.
I had also been walking outdoors and making that time for myself was huge. I found myself wanting to test my indoor Wii running skills in the "real" world. I realized that I had never paced myself and felt like if I could keep myself in check, like the Wii did with my avatar, maybe I could finally become a runner. It was at that point that I asked my friend Jess to teach me to run. She nearly fell over (as she has known me for many years: I had long professed that running was stupid and pointless and I've never do it based on my previous experiences.) But after she picked her chin up off the ground she told me that we'd start the next day. She arrived at my house with a couch to 10K program and I was petrified. How, on Earth, would I ever run 10 kilometres? Would I fail, yet again? Could I handle this failure? But, now I was in a world of progress not perfection. She was often telling me to slow down (not because I'm a fast runner, but because I was pushing too hard out of the gate) and that pacing is what brought me from a lifetime of athletic bursts and inconsistency into a consistent lifestyle of fitness.
It is good for me to look back and remember where I started because, as much as I desired it, my previous experiences told me I'd never be able to do it. With this program I ran 1 minute and walked 1. I ran 2 minutes and wanted to lie down - seriously. And now, I've ran 2 half marathons, numerous other 8k's, 10k's, 5k's, 2 mini-tri's, a sprint triathlon, 2 obstacle races and continue to run for fun and fitness, setting new goals as desired. I am not the fastest (and I admit I find myself feeling self-conscious when I see my name far down the list of runners in a race), but I choose to be pleased with my times because I know how far I've come and how hard I've worked to get to a place where I could run 1 kilometre let alone 21 in an organized race with other runners. There's a lot of fear that has to be conquered and perhaps only those who aren't naturally skilled athletes can truly understand. With every new goal set and challenge I enter, a tremendous internal battle begins. I have to fight to embrace progress over perfection, being content in where I am and setting goals that make sense for me. I cannot compare myself to anyone else (but it's tough, especially in races/competitions).
Last year I created an art piece for the community gallery's "About Sports" exhibit entitled, "You vs. You: The Sport of Fitness". I have realized that, for me; for my life and my goals, I only have myself to compete with. I push myself to improve because I want to, not because of any standard I feel I have to achieve. And the more I embrace this way of thinking in my athletic endeavours, the more it begins to take shape in the rest of my life... stay tuned for part two. : )