Archive for May, 2012

Trainer Tip, by Gary Ditsch

Thursday, May 10th, 2012

When Perfect doesn’t Produce.

“This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections”

Saint Augustine

I am sometimes asked, “What is the most difficult thing about training other people?”  I am not sure what they anticipate my response to be, but the answer I give sometimes surprises them.  The hardest thing about training is not teaching new exercises and skills, or dealing with injuries and physical limitations, nor finding ways to fit activity into a overly scheduled day.  The hardest thing about training other people is creating an awareness about fitness and health that their dedication doesn’t have to be “all” or “nothing”.

The mindset of many people when they seek a trainer is that they are going to “buckle down and get this right”.  They know that there are behavioral changes to make, they have motivation to make it happen and they are going to use the help of a trainer to facilitate those changes.  The work begins with scheduled strength workouts, mobility and flexibility sessions and cardiovascular exercise.  The nutritional discussions begin, with commitments to improve the quality of foods they eat and manage the quantity of food consumed.  The plan to an improved lifestyle is underway … then life happens.  A missed workout, an unforeseen piece of birthday cake at the office, the decisions come so fast and hard that it becomes a little overwhelming.

That is when the tough decisions are made.  Do you decide that if you can not remain perfect in your newly created lifestyle that you are just going to return to the way things were before, or are you willing to accept that perfection is not a human condition and living healthily is a lifelong journey?

I don’t have statistics to highlight how people commonly respond to that decision, but everyday I see some people make the decision to continue the journey while others decide that if they can’t do everything, they just won’t do anything.

I admit that I can fall into this trap of seeking perfection.  I can commit 100% to something and when things are going well, they go really well, but when things start to go badly I begin to lose self confidence and wonder if I have the personal will power to “succeed”.  Let me share a personal example from my own life and then give you a few strategies to help alleviate your own all-or-nothing compulsions.

Racing has been a big part of my life over the last 13 years, I have lived to run marathons and compete in triathlons.  As it was time for a break, my last race was the Rev3 Cedar Point back in September of 2010.  The great thing about races is that they require commitment, so how have I filled in for that gap now that I’m not racing?  Here are a few ideas:
1. Be process oriented not outcome focused: When you think about your desires to improve are you only focused on the outcome, if you are try setting some process oriented goals too.  For example, “eat 6 servings of vegetables 5 days this week”, instead of “lose 20 pounds by the family reunion”.

2. Find something you can track daily that helps keep you focused: Some of you may have seen me in the training studio talking about my FitBit tracker. I use it to track my steps and sleep each day. I have a general goal I like to achieve, but I have found that the act of wearing it is enough to get me moving more.  I also started tracking water consumption, I simply keep a 2 gallon jug at home and monitor how many days it takes to empty it.

3. Keep your goals “top of mind”: One trick that I’ve used with clients for years is putting little colored dots in places they often see.  Put a little red dot on your computer monitor and your rear view mirror, then let that dot remind you of your commitment to drink more water.  Put a little blue dot on your television to remind you to stretch and foam roll, use them as regular reminders.  Of course, you could also go the tech route and set up regular reminders on your phone with text messages or alarms.

4. Own your identity and healthy journey: How you view yourself will go a long way in your ability to find happiness in your new lifestyle.  If you have have confidence that you are fulfilling your our journey, opposed to living up to someone else’s expectations, your happiness will keep you grounded.  If you have never been an athlete, yet you want to run a 5k this year, don’t let others tell you all the reasons you can’t do it, start viewing yourself as a runner and make it happen.  At times when I have had self efficacy issues around goals, I have found that regular journaling on the topic and private meditation gives me a stronger belief in myself.  If you journal publicly on a blog, you may be surprised how many people will be there to support your efforts.

The bottom line to all of these suggestions is that they are: very short term focused, which gives you many opportunities to succeed or try again tomorrow and they create an environment that support daily habits opposed to only long term outcomes.

When making decisions to change a lifestyle or habit, it is often better to find out where our shortcomings are and learn from them quickly.  The faster we can learn from our failures, the easier it is to create a new strategy moving forward.  If you require perfection to have happiness with your exercise and nutrition programs, my observation is that you will not be all that successful.  The highest achieving people I know in business, sports and relationships are not afraid of failure and learn quickly when they do fail.