Chasing Perfection – Error of the Endurance Athlete

The idea of perfection is one of the biggest misconceptions that endurance athletes struggle to comprehend. The notion that a successful race is predicated by a perfect run of training sessions, with no roadblocks or hurdles is a fallacy. It’s a reality that just does not exist – and doesn’t need to.

There is no such thing as the perfect preparation or the perfect race. Even a well planned, well executed season will have its moments.

It’s the pursuit of perfection that makes it so dangerous for an endurance athlete. Trying to pit yourself against an ideology that is so utterly inconsistent with the realities of the task, will almost result in failure and disappointment.

What do I mean by the pursuit of perfection?

Chasing green boxes when orange boxes tell a more accurate story. Cramming sessions into your week because you think you need to. Holding onto “how it used to be” instead of how it is now. Training when you know you need the rest. Comparing your training, your body, your habits to other people.

Striving for perfection is wrong because the idea of perfection is so misconstrued. Do you know what “perfect” looks like? I don’t, and I am in charge of plenty of schedules, and therefore have more than sound insights. When we plan a season, we don’t plan for perfection, we prepare for the absolute worst case: what does that scenario look like? What would be the most disaster riddled, roadblocked training preparation be? When you answer those questions, you can plan a season that will be far more accurate and congruent with real life.

The counter to my argument could be: if you aren’t chasing perfection, then you are settling for mediocrity; available to rest on your laurels when it gets gritty. And that’s wrong too. It should never be about perfection, it should always be about discipline.

Discipline is the habit that keeps you on course when life gets in the way. Discipline is turning up and doing the work when you don’t want to. Discipline is also making the call to rest when your body is screaming for it, but you want to push on. Discipline, not perfection, creates a successful race prep. Discipline, not perfection usually results in more green boxes too.

Even in very small doses, discipline is a potent tool. The simple habit of stretching, rolling and or mobilising every day, goes a long way in ensuring that your body can handle the demands of the sport. Packing clean food for work trips or a long meeting, means you avoid the guilty feeling when eating food that has no nutritional value.  Spending 5 minutes a day emptying the mind (even if you only get ten seconds of clarity) works towards the bigger picture of becoming a more mindful and therefore self-aware athlete.

It’s the ripples that make the waves

So if you are in that place – chasing the flimsy ideology of perfection. Stop. Change your mindset and shift the focus to your discipline; what are you doing each day that sets you up for success? What habits are you forming, what patterns are you creating?

Your ability to endure is a direct result of those disciplines.