The Pursuit of Perfection

The Pursuit of Perfection

This post is going to be a bit different from my typical Eri-thon post.  I’m not going to share with you my latest fitness find or my most recent race report. Wait, don’t go away! I’m pretty sure you’re still going to find this post interesting and possibly more applicable than just scrolling through pictures of me hanging from a trapeze. Although, I admit, those were pretty awesome.

trapeze school chicago

Look ma, no hands!

In fact, it’s trapeze lessons (I have my third one this evening) that made me think to write this post. But let me back up and tell you a story.

I started running on a regular basis in 2007. I wanted to run. I really did. But I couldn’t get past 20 minutes on the treadmill on my own and outside was even worse. So I joined a Beginning Women’s Running Group that taught us how to train to run a 5K. I ran with the group once a week and then two other times a week on my own. That was back in the days when I was a heavy Livejournal blog platform user so I joined a Livejournal group for runners and read as much as I could. I saw race reports and finish times from people who were running longer and faster than I was.


I ran my first 5K in September 2007 and was hooked on running. I wanted to get faster and go longer. I ran my first 10K in April 2008. And then I decided I was going to run a half marathon in 2009 and a marathon in 2010. I moved to Chicago, ran my first half marathon, joined the Oak Park Runners Club, and ran the Chicago Marathon.


And in 2011 running became my life. I ran with the Oak Park Runners Club two to three times a week. I had time goals for all my races. I ran personal records at every distance.  I ran 30 races including 2 marathons that were each faster than the last.  I was thrilled when a race went well and was in tears when it didn’t.  I tracked my mileage, my workouts, and my times. I blogged everything.


But the entire time I was battling some injuries so after the Las Vegas Marathon in December 2011 I decided to take some time off. I was sick to my stomach at the idea of not running 20+ mile weeks and doing speedwork and continuing to get faster. But a crazy thing happened. I started to love my free time. I didn’t quit working out. I just decided to find new things to try and step out of my comfort zone.

As someone that many people would call a perfectionist who wants to do everything right the first time, running was safe. I knew I could get better and faster because I had. I knew I was pretty good at it by my own standards. But new things? Those were scary. What if I was horrible at them? What if I failed?

The first thing I tried on a night when I normally would have been running was a painting class. I’ve never painted before in my life. And those perfectionist tendencies were put to the test for sure. Because it’s okay not to have your painting look exactly like the instructor’s. Really, it is. An eye-opening experience for sure.


I slowly added running back into my workout repertoire but stopped worrying about my mileage, my pace, and my race times. I was happy just to run, just to finish a race. I even decided to train for another marathon but not take it quite so seriously this time.   Yes, of course I know that a marathon is serious business.  But I know I can get to the finish line no matter what. Will it be my fastest? Probably not. Am I okay with that? Yes, I am. I just want to run the Illinois Marathon in my hometown, run past my parents’ house, run past my old office, my former high school, run through neighborhoods where I grew up.

So how does this all tie back to trapeze?

When I was at my second trapeze class last week I saw students who were on their fifth or sixth class doing amazing things while I was struggling to perfect the new trick I had just learned. In the past, I would have left a class where I failed at something feeling defeated and never want to go back. But trapeze is different. The thrill of trying is amazing in and of itself. So you screw up a trick and land in the net. You climb back up that ladder and jump right back off the platform and try again. And if I never get it perfect? That’s okay. I still get to swing through the air and feel that adrenaline rush.

The pursuit of perfection is not all it’s cracked up to be.  There is joy in doing things because you love them even if you aren’t perfect at them. You don’t have to be the best, the fastest, the most perfect at something. If it brings you happiness, then do it. If it doesn’t, why are you doing it at all?

Filed under: Out of the Box

Tags: running, trapeze

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    Erin Vandenberg

    I'm a 30-something who decided to get off the elliptical and expand my fitness horizons. Since moving to Chicago in 2008 I've run marathons and biked miles. I've done group fitness classes and lifted weights on my own. And now I want to share my fitness finds with you!

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