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Getting over myself: Why the pool brings out my perfectionism

Posted by Elizabeth Comeau  March 25, 2013 11:32 AM

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I'm Elizabeth.

And I'm a perfectionist.

If I had a dollar for every time I thought that -- or wrote it -- I'm pretty sure I could stop working right now and buy New Zealand.

Being a perfectionist is my unhealthy thing. I know it. I'm far too hard on myself. I'm trying to change it.

But I think training for this triathlon may be helping with that.

I was a lifeguard in high school and college. I taught swim lessons. I was practically a fish.

And then, I discovered crew -- rowing. Rowing was my life. And writing. And I got busy. And I stopped swimming. My lifeguard certificate lapsed. I never renewed it.

But guess what? Triathlons involve swimming. So here I am again. Back in the pool. Tomorrow marks water workout number three.

According to my training schedule, it should be more than that considering I am aiming to swim, run, and bike three times each over the course of any given week.

Why so few swim workouts so far? I just can't seem to get over my need to be perfect. And I don't feel very perfect when it comes to swimming.

When I started running, sure I was terrified I'd look like a fool and do something wrong, or be terribly slow (still rock sloth speed!). But, running could be done alone. On a remote route. Alone. In the early hours of the morning when no one was awake to see me struggle.

A pool, I thought, was the polar opposite. I have to share a lane!? What?! There's an 85-year-old woman who looks like she was an Olympic swimmer next to me?

Hello. This is my perfectionism coming out to crank up the volume on my head's internal radio station, which a colleague of mine affectionately dubbed "USUCK.FM."

My flutter kick has always been mediocre at best. My strokes get sloppy when I'm tired. Rocking 5-feet tall, I feel like I am not built like a "swimmer."

But then, I'm not built like "a runner" either.

A few posts ago (after my 10-mile race), I wrote "I realized today running doesn't judge. Running doesn't care if you are fast or slow, or if you beat your last time. It only cares that you keep moving forward."

I need to just get over myself. Get over my perfectionism. Perfect isn't going to get my training done: Determination will.

I keep reminding myself that two years ago I would have been too terrified to even utter the word "triathlon."

And you know what? Almost everyone's flutter kick looks mediocre under water.

Do you feel the need to be perfect? Does this get in the way of you trying new things?

Staying fit is an important part of staying healthy. This blog will offer exercise tips from experts as well as share the personal journeys of Globe staff members committed to fitness. No matter your age or energy level, we invite you to join in and share your own story. How do you find time to work out? What are your daily challenges? Let us know and read along -- and together, we can all get moving.


Elizabeth Comeau is a social media marketing manager at She will be blogging about her personal fitness journey and using a device called a FitBit to track her weekly goals and progress (see below). Follow her journey and share your own. Read more about Elizabeth and this blog.

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