I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the phrase: Progress not perfection.
Progress: forward or onward movement toward a destination.
Perfection: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.
Progress NOT perfection.
I’ve resigned to the fact that I will never be perfect, and frankly THANK GOD because being perfect or free from faults or defects would be incredibly stressful and annoying. At my daughter’s 1st birthday party this past weekend, I indulged in some of her birthday cake which was not on my prep meal plan. Not perfect. Not the end of the world. Back on track today.
Progress, however, is a word and a state of being that I do take seriously. This week marked a milestone in my personal life. This week, 7 years ago, I made a decision to start living a healthier life. If you knew me 7 years ago, you probably knew a pretty different Mary. I was a 15 pounds lighter, a little more of a party animal, and I was no one that you wanted to take nutrition advice from. I was also a smoker! Yikes. After work happy hours which often turned into late nights and one-too-manys, eating whatever I wanted, and absolutely no thought about taking care of myself. That was the Mary you would have known. Crazy right?! I knew that I was not living the life that was intended for me.
One day, I decided that I really didn’t want to live that kind of life anymore, so I stopped living that kind of life. My after work happy hours were replaced with post work runs. I started small with a few miles around the neighborhood. I was always a gym rat, even in college, so I had decent cardiovascular health. I started going to bed earlier. I started doing simple things like drinking more water. I knew I had to stop smoking. I was one of those people that smoked on the way to and from the gym, and I knew that had to end. I also knew that I tried to quit smoking a thousand times, and it was just too hard to do on my own. So I picked a very important date, my late father’s birthday and quit on February 4th, 2010. My father passed away from lung cancer, and even though he was not a smoker, I knew that lung cancer would be knocking on my door if I kept up my habit. I also started training for my very first long distance race – the Zooma Half Marathon – and raised money to support the research and development of a lung cancer cure. I was very dedicated to my training, and I ran my first half marathon in June of 2010 in honor of my Dad. I haven’t had a cigarette since, not even a drag.
That race really kicked off my love of exercise and of overall fitness. I signed up for my next race, the Marine Corps Marathon. I figured, I was half way there, so why not?! In October of 2010, I ran my first (and likely last) full marathon in 4 hours and 33 minutes, without walking.
I kept going. More races. More getting healthier. More learning about nutrition. More PROGRESS.
One day, I switched out my running shoes for spin shoes. My was getting a little burned out, and my body was feeling the effects of my running schedule. I started spinning every morning at 6am before work. I loved it. It was less impact on my body, and the calorie burn was serious! My next passion was born. More progress.
I started learning more about how the food that I eat affects how I FEEL. I started reading blogs and articles about the effects of sugar on our bodies. I saw the movie Fed Up which really opened my eyes to the sugar epidemic in America. I watched TED talks, learning more about GMO’s and the chemicals that are put into our foods. I could not unlearn all of the things that I was learning. It was always in my brain. For these reasons, I purchase mostly organic foods, and if I do not know what the ingredient is on the side of a packaged food, I don’t buy it. More progress.
I was still a cardio queen. I would hit the weights as an afterthought if I got to the gym early before spin class started, but I was definitely not an avid weight lifter. I started learning more about weight lifting and the tremendous impact it can have on your overall health. I learned that it helps to improve your heart and bone strength. It helps to reduce body fat, since the more muscle that you have, the more fat that your body burns at rest. I really liked what I was learning, but I didn’t know where to start with my training. A friend told me about the free Jamie Eason LiveFit Trainer program, which was a 12-week online program. I completed that program in 3-months, and my passion for weight lifting was born. More progress.
From there, I tried out new programs. I started stepping more outside of my comfort zone and trying exercises that I had never seen before. I would watch YouTube videos and test them out on my own. I started to care a lot less about “what people would think” if they saw me doing these exercises in the “guy’s section” of the weight room. My confidence grew, inside and outside of the gym. I was proud of my muscles. I was proud that I could carry my baby and 2, 30-pound bags of groceries up the stairs. I was proud to wear tank tops to show of my arms, a part of my body that I used to be self conscious about. More progress.
For me, progress means growth. It means challenging myself to keep moving forward, to not settle for stagnant, to keep testing the limits that I create for myself. This is the very reason that I decided to start training for a body building competition. It was new, it was scary, and I would continue to progress forward. Fitness is my hobby, and I love having new goals to sink my teeth into.
Even though I have not been perfect during these past 5 weeks of training, I have made progress. My weights are increasing each week, and my muscle growth is starting to show. Last week I had all time high weights in 9 exercises. It felt SO GOOD. I was really proud.
I challenge you this week to think about the you from 7 years ago, from 5 years ago, from last year. Have you progressed? Have you stayed the same? When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I challenge you to grow. I challenge you to get uncomfortable, because that’s where the real growth happens. And always, I challenge you to seek PROGRESS not perfection.