Is Your Perfectionism Holding You Back from Exercising?

Becoming a stronger, fitter, more confident you.

Is Your Perfectionism Holding You Back from Exercising?

This is for all my fellow Fit Jewess perfectionists.

Racheli, 8th Grade

Racheli had the ball.

Her teammates were rooting for her and I was inwardly cheering her on. We all wanted her to make the basket. She steadied herself, gave a little dip of the knees, kept her eyes on the hoop, lifted the ball and took her shot.

And missed.

And no one batted an eyelash.

The ball flew over the hoop, bounced once and someone from the opposing team caught it.

The game continued.

As a perfectionist, I was struck by the simplicity of the action and the enormity of its message.

I hate being wrong. I hate making mistakes. I hate losing. I hate missing the hoop.

To be clear, I’m not a sore loser and I recognize the value of the learning process that results from my mistakes. But I will do my darnedest to make sure that I get it right the first time.

Sometimes that means not sharing an answer if I’m not absolutely sure it’s correct. Sometimes that means not speaking Russian because I know my grammar isn’t perfect. Sometimes it means that I procrastinate due to my fear of making a mistake.

And sometimes it means that even when I’m holding the ball in the my hands, I won’t take the shot.

basketballGrowing up, I used to be the last kid picked for the machanayim team. I was often one of the last players left in the game because I was so busy running from the ball and hiding behind my teammates that I never had the opportunity to get hit. Plus, because I wasn’t a strong player, I wasn’t a target.

It wasn’t till post-seminary when I was a counselor in camp and we had a staff machanayim game during color war that I realized how much I actually enjoyed playing. In a new setting there were no preconceived expectations of how I would or wouldn’t play and I let myself really participate.

Turns out, I’m not too bad.

After pondering why I had thought I was all those years, the conclusion I came to was that I was just too afraid of failing. Afraid that I wouldn’t catch the ball, so I ran from it. Afraid that I wouldn’t be able to throw the ball over the court or hit any girl from the other team, so instead I just avoided that chance.

I didn’t enjoy playing machanayim the way I could have, because I felt that if I couldn’t get it right, it wasn’t worth doing at all.

Watching Racheli play basketball helped me absorb an idea that I recently read about. Great basketball players are not born. They are created because they never stop trying. For every 100 baskets they shoot, they miss 900. (Ok, so maybe I made up those numbers, but you get the idea.)

They only score so often because they give themselves permission to miss.

I’d love to talk about how we unknowingly and subconsciously adopt this notion as it relates to fitness and how we can move past that.

Perfectionism and You

Diet Freedom + Body Image Coach, Mandy Sciacchitano, who is a friend and role model of mine recently shared a post calling herself a “recovering perfectionist”.

And while I loved the sound of that and really related to the content, I found myself rejecting that title as I still identify as a perfectionist. Granted, there are definite cons to being a perfectionist, but there’s also a lot of good that comes with it and I’m sort of proud to own it.

But in the name of accuracy (the perfectionist in me?), I decided to google it.

And it turns out that by definition, a perfectionist is “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.”


When I realized that, I reassessed and recognized that I’m not a perfectionist per se, but a person with perfectionist tendencies.

So first and foremost, if you’re someone who is a perfectionist, I challenge you to really think that through and perhaps acknowledge that you too are just a human being with perfectionist tendencies.

I think that sometimes we use the term “perfectionist” as a crutch – as if, by letting others know we are perfectionists, we can write off behavior that is less than productive, such as procrastinating, expecting nothing less than excellence from others, and pushing ourselves too hard.

Giving that label up makes space for some room in which we may display perfectionist tendencies, but also learn how to let go in some areas.

For now though, let’s talk about three ways that striving for less than perfect actually benefits us. We’ll address (1) exercise type, (2) exercise form and (3) exercise schedule.

CrossFit vs. Cycling vs. Zumba

CrossFit was the exercise methodology that hooked me into the world of fitness.

It spoke to me right from the get-go. I wholeheartedly believe in the idea of a workout regimen that consists of constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity and I like the idea of training my body to endure any type of physical activity life could possibly throw at it.

For a while there, I thought that CrossFit was not only the best way to exercise, but should really be the only way.

To be clear, I still think that every woman should at least give cross training a try, but I’ve come to realize that there is no one way that works for everyone.

We each enjoy something different.


I’ve always hated Zumba. I’m not a fan of aerobics classes and you couldn’t make me excited to get on an exercise bike. I never understood why anyone would willingly subject themselves to that..

But when I started lifting weights and found that the cold of the metal barbell in my hands makes me feel strong and capable and puts a smile on my face, I realized that’s how others feel when taking a Zumba class.

And some of those people they hate CrossFit as much as I hate spinning.

There is no “perfect” mode of physical training.

The exercise type that makes you feel good, that inspires you to sweat and leaves you feeling stronger and healthier than you were before, is the exercise type that’s right for you.

Yes, I still recommend that you try other types and sometimes even push yourself to do things that you may not necessarily love in the moment but know leaves you feeling better after.

Accept that and you’re one step ahead of the game.

Of Form and Technique

As a functional fitness trainer, form is always top of mind when training clients.

Proper form is about making sure that any given movement is safe, efficient and effective to give you maximum results from that particular exercise.

Whether it’s squatting, doing push ups, bench pressing or running, we want to perform the movements with correct form and technique.

Here’s the problem with that for perfectionists: we want to get it right on the first try.

But that’s pretty much impossible.

One of the hardest movements for me when first starting to work out was the bodyweight squat. Nothing but me sending my hips back and down to below parallel, while keeping my chest upright and feet firmly planted on the ground.


Guess what’s one of the hardest movements for me now?

That’s right, the squat.

I’ve been working on it for the last four years and my squat is still miles away from where I want it to be.

But it’s also miles ahead of where it used to be.

I remember constantly asking my coaches (all superstar women who empower other women) what progression exercises I could be doing to help develop perfect form with my squat.

They would give me excellent tips, advice and guidance. I’d give them a try… and then I’d come back the next week and ask the same question.

Because I was looking for a magic solution. A single exercise that I could perform once or twice that would instantly resolve any squat-problems I was having.

But life doesn’t work like that. Like with anything else, there’s a process involved. And every single repetition where I focus on enhancing my form will have a positive effect on my positioning, but it won’t go from sucky to perfect overnight. That just doesn’t happen.

I can’t say that I’ve completely left that mindset behind, but as I remind myself that good practice makes good progress, I know I’m doing ok.

Give up this idea that you will get those movements right the first time you do them.

That instructor at the front of class demonstrating the exercise? She’s been doing it for years now! She’s got loads of experience and that’s why she’s standing there at the front of the room.

But you and I both know that one day – whether it was eight months ago or eight years ago – she was the person standing in the back of the room trying to figure out to position her feet just so.

Give it a chance. You’ll get there!

AM, PM and How Often

So now that we’ve gotten the what (mode of exercise) and the how (form and technique) down pat, let’s talk about scheduling.

When deciding what time of day to work out, there’s two factors to consider. The first is when you can actually get to the gym, a class, or have a trainer come to you. The second is when you feel best working out.


If you’re not already in the throes of working out habitually, starting to exercise can be rough.

Between work, family life, social life, and making sure you eat, sleep and other self-care, getting a workout in can almost seem like a dream. Like something that you’ll do if and when some time opens up in your schedule.

Here’s the thing though: time isn’t just going to make itself available for this. You’ve got to figure out a way to make it fit.

And…. there’s no “perfect” schedule for that.

When I first started CrossFit, I began with a schedule of classes two times a week. And that’s what I did for my first nine months. That was enough for me. Over the next couple years, I worked my way up to 5-6 days a week and that was super cool!

One wasn’t better than the other – because where I was at those points in my life influenced my decision.

Jumping into a training regimen of intense exercise six days a week after years of being sedentary would not have been a smart move for me. Twice a week eased me into it just perfectly. It left me looking forward to each class, without giving me opportunity for burn out.

When I hit six days a week, I was far more in tune with my body and how it responded to exercise. Once in a while, I would take a whole week off from my typical routine because I felt that the exercise was stressing me out more than it was benefiting me. Sometimes on those days, I chose to do yoga instead as that felt restorative to me.

Fit Jewess Home

I currently have clients with whom I only schedule workouts once a week. That’s what their schedules and/or budgets allow. That’s great. And I highly encourage them to add some more movement on their own time in whatever way they can.

I personally love working out in the evening. For me, it’s a way to release the tension of the day, get rid of negative energy and allow the exercise-induced endorphins to leave me feeling relaxed and ready for a stress-free evening.

I have a client who works out at 5:20am. She’s rested after a night of sleep and she takes advantage of the morning hour before work to get her day off to an awesome and energizing start.

Sometimes the deciding factor is when you most enjoy exercising and sometimes it’ll be when you can actually make time to get out. Ideally, the two will go hand in hand, but that’s not always the case, and that’s ok.

As always, something is better than nothing and in this case, you take what you can get!

Strive for Imperfection that’s Perfect for You

Let’s get back to Racheli, my eighth grade basketball pro.

Let’s use her experience as a learning tool and walk away with an understanding that if you want to ever get things “perfect”, you must give yourself a chance to not get it “perfect” at first.

Or alternatively, you can look at it as there is no objective perfect. Your perfect is dependent on where you are currently holding at any given time and how you respond to that scenario.

You do what is within your personal reality and you’ve done incredibly well!

Perfectionist tendencies or not, we have it within our abilities to work with and past them instead of being absorbed by them.



I’d love it you’d comment below and with your perfect ideal that’s been holding you back from working out and what action you can take now despite it.

And if you found this article helpful, please click your favorite social media platform and share it with others!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *