Many people approach their exercise routine with the attitude that it must be carried out perfectly to get results. They spend hours calculating the exact number of calories they should be burning and the amount of time and type of exercise needed to achieve this.
They routinely read recommendations for the best ways to achieve the perfect workout and apply this to their daily routine, perhaps at the detriment of other areas of their lives. Others strive to achieve the perfect body through intensive workouts, strict diets and huge amounts of will power, only to fall back to bad habits when this lofty goal never seems to get any closer.
Striving for perfection in your workout or setting unrealistic goals of perfection regarding body weight or shape simply means setting yourself up for disappointment.
There are so many differing perspectives of perfection that chances are, even if you do reach your ideal goal, by this time there will be another standard of perfection to achieve. Aiming for perfection is not a healthy approach to any part of life, including your workout. Instead aim for progress, in the form of attainable goals, and celebrate when you get there.
Why perfection is not achievable or even necessary
The first question to answer is “what is perfection”. In terms of exercise, even experts agree that the same regime is not the most effective for every person, and that we need to find something unique that works for us.
Whilst some may swear by interval training in a gym as the way to reach optimum fitness and burn the most calories, others may find a long steady run or a fun group aerobics class with friends is the most effective for them.
Different people may find different times of day, different intensity or types of exercise or different length workouts the most beneficial. There is no perfect workout or perfect for everybody, and trying to adapt your workout to fit what you may consider perfect can take over your life and start to have negative effects on other aspects.
The perfect workout is also constantly changing, with new research emerging almost weekly as to the best type of regime to follow. The key to getting fitter and losing weight through working out is not about following every fad or incorporating every bit of scientific research available into your workout, it is about finding something you enjoy, that fits into your lifestyle and that you have the time to do regularly without other areas of your life suffering.
The quest for the perfect body is also an unachievable goal that can lead to demoralisation, depression and often eventually leads to giving up on your workout or eating regime.
Unfortunately, we are not all genetically programmed to look like super models, so no matter how long you spend in the gym and how much food you deprive yourself of, for some it will be impossible to have completely satisfactory effects.
It is much better to focus on small improvements in your body such as increased toning or a reduction in dress size and accept that there is no such thing as a perfect body and attractiveness can come in any size and shape.
Aim for progress
Rather than aiming for perfection in your workout, aim for progress instead. This is most easily quantified by setting small, attainable goals that are not overwhelming, but mark a step in the process of getting to where you want to be.
In terms of your workout, this could be aiming to run your first five kilometre race or improve your time for cycling a set distance in the gym. Even setting a goal to go to the gym three times per week instead of two, while not being the optimum amount that would be considered perfection, will have vast effects on your health and fitness.
When you have achieved this goal, set a new more challenging goal. By setting and achieving goals, you are giving yourself positive encouragement that will motivate you to continue and do even better, rather than put you off completely due to a goal that is completely out of reach.
By taking small, slow steps you can also establish what is perfect for you in terms of life balance and health.
The same applies for weight loss. Set reasonable, achievable goals that are healthy and suit your body type. A small weight loss of 0.5 to 1 kg per week, a drop in dress size or even toning up your arms a little are good goals that can be reached.
Remember as well that appearance is not everything and although the results of your workout may not be visible from the outside, you are still improving your state of health.
When you achieve one of these goals or feel you have made progress it is important to acknowledge this and reward yourself. This will motivate you to continue and make you feel that your hard work has paid off. A little shopping trip, massage or new gym outfit may be the perfect motivation to keep going.
Why the same applies for your diet
Aiming for perfection in your diet is also a good way to set yourself up for failure. Nutrition recommendations are constantly being updated and altered and generally vary depending on who you talk to.
What may be considered the perfect diet one week may be discovered to have hugely unhealthy effects on the body the next. For this reason it is important to aim for a balanced diet that provides you with enough calories to perform day to day tasks with ease, but not too many that weight gain creeps up on you.
Progress in your diet, as with your exercise regime, should be tackled in small achievable steps to get the best results. Small changes such as switching from white to whole grain bread, swapping the 3pm chocolate bar for a piece of fruit or cooking with olive oil instead of butter are all easy to achieve and can make a big difference to your health and should be seen as progress on your path to a healthier diet.
Remember you are only human and it is natural to fall short of perfection. If you miss your workout one day, do not beat yourself up, simply move on and get back to it the next day. Similarly if you binge on chocolate in a moment of weakness, don’t despair, but try to eat more healthily the rest of the day to compensate if possible.
Aiming for perfection is a great way to be disappointed, but aiming for progress can see you through to reach your long term goals and maintain them.