Category Archives: Perfection

The Comparison Trap

The other day, one of my girls said, “I’m in a pain hole and I can’t get out!” We spend a lot of time on our team working to push ourselves when you reach that fork in a race where you can either choose to blast through the pain tunnel or stay where it’s safe and (more) comfortable. She excels at getting into the pain tunnel but post-race can be just plain miserable for her; when she crosses the line, that’s all she has and we end up carrying her back to the tent. As much as we giggled about her pain hole comment (and her question about whether she still had arms), I found myself thinking about it this week as I checked my email for the fifteenth time looking for interview invites (for residency), checked an online message board for the interviews others were getting and scrolled through Instagram looking at everyone’s seemingly amazing training and racing posts. I realized that I’m caught in a comparison trap and I can’t get out. 

There’s a saying about never knowing about the rocks that other people carry and I think social media exacerbates this in a way. Despite knowing that social media is highly curated, it’s hard to avoid the creeping sensation that everyone else is running faster, doing more and generally better than you. For me, daily posts by other runners that include phrases like #neverstop #workharder #rundaily don’t inspire me, they discourage me. I’m nowhere near lazy; I’m busy coaching a team, applying to residency, and keeping life going but if I’m not killing my workouts (or even really interested in doing them), I feel like a failure by the time I’ve done my first internet scroll in the morning. I’m not sure what the solution is but I definitely need to start the process of building a ladder or find some teammates to carry me back to the tent to regroup.

How do you react to the comparison trap? Have you tried a social media hiatus? What is it about social media that makes us automatically filter our lives?

Inside Out Underwear

Truth.

Truth.

Believe it or not, this post is running related. It’s also underwear related, although I try never to run in the underwear in question. Anyway, at least once a week, I find myself with underwear inside out and laugh every time. It’s never not funny to have to flip your underwear while wearing business clothes and standing on one foot in a bathroom stall. Because why would you ever find out before you left home…

Anyway, about 2 years ago, I made a life decision that that markedly improved my quality of life, challenged my general insistence on perfection and made me far more likely to find myself with inside out underwear. What was this decision? I stopped folding my underwear. There. I said it. My mom is almost definitely disappointed in me, but at some point while working full time, training, coaching, taking pre-med classes and studying for the MCAT while doing laundry at the local laundromat, I found myself unable to fathom spending 20 extra minutes to fold my underwear. So I didn’t. I headed home and threw them in the drawer where they lived anyway and life went on. If it gives you any impression of how wound up I can be, it was one of the most freeing experiences of my life. I haven’t folded underwear since (unless I’m traveling, let’s not get insane) and it is a similarly amazing experience every time I realize I don’t have to fold underwear for 20 minutes.

So what do my laundry habits have to do with running? Letting go of perfection is really, really difficult for me. This quest for perfection spills over into my running. Of course, some elements of this are part of why I’m successful at running. Other elements, however, self-sabotage me out of workouts and races. If I have a bad repetition or mile, I’m prone to starting the downward spiral towards “I suck and will never reach my goals-ville.” I react to missing assigned paces almost the same as I would react to missing a workout. Bad runs can trip me up for the week to come because for me, not being perfect is unacceptable. I’m literally never happy with a race and barely make it across the finish line before I start picking apart what I could have done better.

Logically, I know that perfection is unattainable in almost any pursuit and most definitely in running and medicine. Emotionally, however, it’s still a daily struggle to realize that giving it the best I have on any given day and getting close enough is the best most of us can ask for.

What silly life “rules” have your broken over the years? How do your personality traits show up in your approach to running?

Perfection

So my diet perfection goal on my Monday Motivation blog is just so unrealistic, un-attainable and non-productive, I know that.  But for some reason the quest for perfection has helped me hold it together this week and to me that makes the ridiculousness of the goal so special, so productive.

I haven’t cheated all week.  And I have been tested as early as day two.  It’s especially hard having two young kids who eat lots of yummy treats that scream to me “come on Tim try a little corner or my delicious brownieness.”  And last night was my first serious test as my Sister came to visit from NYC which she rarely does.  I bought wine for dinner and felt like I’d be too much of a dork not to have a glass so I had resigned myself to have one.  But when the time came to pour I held back, not worth it.

Staying perfect allowed me to feel like I was training even though I hadn’t run a single mile this week.  I tackled this plantar thing head on with my head on straight and laser like focus.  Would I have had the same focus if I had been eating desserts and fatty foods all week, probably not.

And I’m still achieving this week, like doing my first palms down pull up, go me!  Sure cranking out a 3×3 mile tempo run would feel a ton better (and aren’t the cool down miles after killing a workout the best miles) but I’m grateful for any positive experience during this setback.

Starving myself to stay in my calorie limit and being good all week has not been easy, but I feel great, probably have shed a few junk pounds I seem to gain when I eat poorly, am in the right frame of mind to deal with the Plantar and will be ready to train when I’m back on the roads.  Thank you perfection.

PF update:  I’ve been to Brian at On-Track three times this week where he’s not so gently massaged (if I wasn’t watching him I’d swear Brian was using an ice pick) my PF and had me stretch it out.  Monday I had to close my eyes and try to be somewhere else in my mind as the pain was unbearable.  But by Wednesday the pain was 50% less and even better this morning.

And consulting with coach Jess Cover I’ve held off on running and won’t run until I can’t feel it at all when I walk.  The recovery is going so well that I’ll probably be able to go for a test run next week.  Best of all On Track is getting an Alter-G treadmill next week and I might take my first run on it!

I’ve pushed back my fall marathon from Hartford (10-13) to Cape Cod (10-28) to now Philly(11-18).  I want to be patient with my PF, not rush through this (thanks for the feedback Bob on not pushing too hard) but give myself enough time to have a solid marathon training cycle.