I woke up on Sunday morning at 7am. My alarm chirped, and I rolled over to turn it off. I then sprung out of bed and headed to the kitchen. There was a French Press with cold coffee waiting for me. I poured a small cup, and put the rest back for Katie. I didn’t need any coffee where I was going. For the third time of the summer, I was headed to Mountain Creek Bike Park.
The weather forecast wasn’t looking good. If we didn’t have plans for the next few weekends, I would have stayed home. Alas, I found myself driving to Jersey, saving my caffeine for a RedBull on the lift. Once at MCBP, I saw some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve seen in a while. And that scenery was lots of mist, fog, and mud. Here’s a picture from the trails:
I was excited to ride in the mist and the rain. The hardpack trails became slick and muddy, and there were a few instances where I found myself avoiding sliding around the trails rather than flowing down there. By the end of the day, I was pretty dirty. It was amazing.
While I’d have preferred less slop on the trails, it was still an immensely rewarding experience to slide around on my bike in the mud, just as I did as a kid. It made me think about how often we wait for everything to be ideal before we pull the trigger.
It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be rewarding.
We can see progress and results in our fitness and life Journeys by letting go of perfect and focusing on progress. Sometimes you want to eat an ice cream bar. That doesn’t mean your diet’s ruined. Sometimes you skip a set of deadlifts. That doesn’t mean your workout is ruined. Sometimes you need to stay up an hour late, or wake up an hour early. That doesn’t mean your entire week’s sleep schedule is ruined. It doesn’t have to be perfect for it to be rewarding.
The search for progress is far more rewarding than the search for perfection, and builds an appetite for the small victories that truly make us happy.
Let’s look at one of my favorite exercises: The Squat. Squatting is either beautifully simple, or incredibly complex. Which one is it? That choice is up to you.
I’ve seen folks finish high-volume workouts where every rep was done without technical precision. Literally, 10 sets of 10, and on every rep their knees caved in like magnets were pulling them together. Still, that person was proud of their workout, because “my knees caved far less than normal!” That’s a great victory in my book.
I’ve also seen people focus so hard on 3 sets of 5 squats that they spend just as much time, and far more emotional energy, nitpicking about every single energy leak, biomechanical mishap, and possible problem that they view their entire workout as an utter waste of time. If there’s ever a time that exercise is defeatist, it’s those moments.
Don’t pursue perfection. Pursue progress.
Pursuing perfection is often a great opportunity to let ourselves feel let down, or like we’ve failed. Nothing good comes of that shame cycle. Pursuing progress, on the other hand, allows us to celebrate each step that feels like an accomplishment, leading us to stack achievements as we grow. I think that we can agree that the latter is preferred to the former, right?
If you find yourself focusing on all of the reasons why you can’t do something, why something isn’t going to work, or why you shouldn’t try, remember that there is success to come from attempting it anyway.
During Sunday’s bike ride, I made a specific decision to ride some new trails and features that I wouldn’t have ridden were the trails dry and running faster. I was going to slow down in the rain anyway, so I might as well learn from it in the process. As I explored some of the Blue and Black trails at MCBP, I thought to myself, “I’m really glad I’m able to practice this today!”