in Running Perfectionism

I have already accepted that my interest in running is like a roller coaster.  I have periods of great ascending motivation and low points of absolute inactivity. Accepting that has allowed me to seize upon the up days and to ease myself back to running during the funks.

I find it really hard to squeeze in running in my working schedule. I always find myself planning to run on a weekend. And when it’s already Saturday, I always see myself waking up on my alarm but always going back to bed anyway. That’s the scenario for the past few weeks.

I think running is a sport that attracts perfectionists.

There are the non-lazy perfectionists who faithfully follow training plans over long periods, focus on improving their times at each race, and log 20+ miles a week on a regular basis. If they don’t achieve that PR (personal record) during their race they beat themselves up, promising to work harder and push more. These perfectionists think that no matter what they achieve it’s never good enough.

Then there’s us lazy runners. From the outside looking in, some would think that a “lazy” runner couldn’t be a perfectionist, but that would be a mistake. I’ll argue that oftentimes lazy runners are the worst perfectionists. Do you ever say any of the following to yourself?

“If I can’t run 5k in less than 30 minutes I’m not really a runner.”

“I can’t run a 5K without walking. I don’t know why I bother.”

“I should run every day like my neighbor. He’s out there every day, and he’s so much fitter than me.”

That last one doesn’t sound too bad, right? Based from my research there’s nothing wrong with running every day if it works for you; some would say you need at least one rest day a week, but there are certainly runners out there who’ve been running every day for years and they do fine. I think the perfectionism there is in comparing your performance to others, and determining from the outside looking in that what’s right for them is what’s right for you. Your body may need one or two rest days a week, or your life may not allow for running every day.

I think perfectionism is insidious, because it mimics more positive things like challenging yourself and seeking to improve. The difference is what’s behind the goal: are you afraid you’re not good enough and trying to prove something to yourself or others? Are you punishing yourself for not measuring up? Or are you comparing yourself to someone else? Negativity is soul sucking.

Of course it works for some people some of the time, but those people are often driven and unhappy.

I think it is better if you find your improvement in a more positive place where you challenge yourself for the fun of it, where you achieve because it feels good and you meet new friends.

The voice of perfectionism in my head tried to make this less than perfect runner quit for years, but I do my best to ignore it these days.  think the real way to beat it is to get to know ourselves as a runner, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and tailor our training to what works best for us.


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