Perfectionism in Sports

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Perfectionism and Sports

Last time we discussed procrastination and it’s negative affects on our mental health, and how beating yourself up usually results in being demotivated and loss of enthusiasm.

Today let’s take a look at procrastination’s cousin- perfectionism!

If you look at a couple of the great physicists, only a tiny percentage of their output was of any significant value. The standard of what is good cannot be 100%.

In life, excellence and perfection has to be happiness.

perfectionism in sports

Trying to achieve perfection results in stress, and the feeling of always falling short.

It has been said that perfectionism is the enemy of the good. You may have had a coach, teacher, or a parent that wanted perfection out of you, “for your own good” of course.

But, once you are free of their influence, you have to let yourself be free.

For example, if I feel that this newsletter must be perfect beyond words, and the standard of perfection in all things triathlon swimming, then

1) I wouldn’t ever get it done, and

2) I would feel anxiety (fearing attacks from other people).

If to avoid this anxiety I stick with this unachievable perfection standard, I am actually reinforcing it! So perfectionism leads to stress which leads to more perfectionism…etc.

In swimming as with life, good enough is good enough. Even Michael Phelps has not achieved a “perfect” stroke or the “perfect” swim, as fast as he is. That would mean he could not only never be beaten, but that his record times would never be broken!

When you are working on your swim stroke, or improving your endurance, it is important to let go of perfectionism. Remember, the goal with all of this is happiness. This will allow you to move through the drills and workouts with a lightness and enjoyment, and a much better chance of success and moving to the next step in a reasonable amount of time!

“The artist who aims at perfection in everything achieves it in nothing.”
-Eugene Delacroix

Tip of the Month: Building Strength

I’m constantly being asked about strength building for swimming. Most of the time, when someone asks me that question, their bigger problem is technique, not weak muscles. However, building strength in the core muscles can definitely help improve your swim.

If you are more in the intermediate range of swimmers, it’s a good idea to focus on strength training in the off season- whether it’s hitting the gym, or just doing basic exercises at home. Doing yoga or pilates can also give you the strength in the water that you will need to take your swim to the next level.

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook!


Kevin Koskella
Tri Swim Coach