Perfectionism is harder than 12 long runs

Felt like shit. Still progress.
Self-portrait, post long run, July 22.

I posted this photo on Instagram with the caption: “Felt like shit. Still progress.”

While this seems like just a punchy caption for the gram, it was also a personal reminder that came out of some reflection at the end of my run. What I really meant was: even if your run felt like shit and wasn’t perfect at all, it is still definitely progress. End of convo.

I’ve talked a bit about my struggle with mental health and running before and this is part of that.

When I’m struggling to find joy and success in the sport it’s usually because I’m wrestling with perfectionism. In the past, for me, this has meant my base runs, my workouts, my strength sessions, and even my recovery activities had to be perfect for me to feel like they counted.

Counted towards what you ask?

I’m still not sure. But it was a feeling–a vague notion–I was very committed to pursuing without really thinking through how counterproductive it was.

It’s gotta feel right, or it doesn’t count…

The best I can extrapolate from Perfectionist Nicole’s illogic was that whatever I was doing for training had to be done perfectly or it wasn’t good enough to be counted as something I could be proud of, or something I could consider a job well done.

It’s gotta be perfect or you don’t get to feel confident in your abilities…

And I don’t mean I had to run until my Garmin turned from 9.97 to 10.00 miles to feel satisfied. I mean I had to feel like my form was good my whole run and I was coming down on my midfoot right, and firing my glutes, and getting my arm carriage and posture right and also have a positive attitude and also be fully recovered from yesterday’s training and have made no mistakes refueling my bod and got 9+ hours of sleep and…

Eventually, with that thinking, I barely had anything I would allow myself to feel good about.

Which is more exhausting than twelve long runs and is obviously a good way to not achieve any goals.

It’s a mindset that can change your relationship with the sport and make you hate it.

And that shit is heartbreaking. (And soul-crushing.) (And terrible.)

So, please please please, if you’re struggling with distance running’s perfectionist tendencies, phone-a-friend, or teammate, or family member, or sports psych, or coach and talk about it.

It helps to talk about it.

And too, if you know someone who is probably struggling with perfectionism, reach out to them.

They might need a glass of water.

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