Running As A Perfectionist

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If you follow my articles, you know that I’ve been struggling with motivation. I have some epic relay races breathing down my neck and I still can’t muster the energy to get my training done. I’ve realized that much of this motivational block has a lot to do with my perfectionist nature. If I can’t be perfect at it, why do it?

I know for a fact that coming back from an injury takes time and patience. I’ve done it before. This time, however, it seems a lot harder. I was training for an ultramarathon. I was running further than I ever had before, and my endurance was something I had never imagined. Running 13 miles at a time wasn’t a big deal, and now I’m struggling to get to three. I’m back at the beginning, and it’s a little soul-crushing.

The only thing to do when you don’t feel like running is to run anyway. I’ve had to push myself into my running clothes and push myself out the door. I never regret going for a run, but sometimes it takes a whole lot of gumption to get going. What starts out as a bullet-pointed chore on my to-do list ends up being an experience that clears my head and gets me closer to where I used to be. Closer to where I need to be.

Just because you used to run a certain pace, that doesn’t mean you always run that pace. And just because your friend runs a certain pace, that doesn’t mean you will ever run that same pace. Being a perfectionist is not a good trait. And it’s something I have to battle every day, in most of what I do. Forcing myself to quit being afraid of not doing something good enough, and just getting out there and doing it, is the only way to get anything done.

I’ve had to embrace (and this just happened this week) where I currently am. I’m trying to gain on my past self, and that is a lot of hard work. Right now, I am good enough, and next week I will be stronger. But to get to next week, I have to do the work this week.

As a perfectionist, I am constantly looking for “results.” Am I going faster? Did I go further? And at first, those results are not clear. Every short run seems like torture. When I don’t see immediate improvements in my running, I start to feel discouraged. It’s at this point I usually give myself too many rest days and end up in a cycle of bad diet and self-loathing.

While I’m struggling to believe in myself and my running, I do know that I will gain back what was lost to injury. I have not, as I often fear, lost my love of running. That love is just hidden beneath the suck of starting again. I just have to keep my focus on today, and no matter how fast or far I run, I am doing something wonderful for myself. It is healthy, it is healing, and it will make me feel so much better.

There is also great beauty in beginning again that I often overlook. While there may be an extra layer of fat on my bones, and my legs and lungs are slow to cooperate with my brain, I am once again redefining myself. I am not an injured person. I have the ability to run on my two legs. For that, I have to be grateful and content in every step—no matter how sluggish and exhausting those steps are.

The lesson, as a perfectionist, is to just do it. It doesn’t matter how fast or how far you can run. What matters is that you are tackling your goals and focusing on today. Get out there and build yourself up again. Each run is one run closer to where you were before.

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About Author

Liz Ward

Liz Ward is a running fanatic, avid reader, and amateur farmer. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband, three kids, and a small herd of animals.

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