After being limited in every activity this past year, it’s hard to believe we’re halfway through 2021. Last year we may have had a valid excuse, but did you start this year with the “perfect” program knowing deep down that you wouldn’t be able to stick with it long-term? Why do we do that? It’s cliché but true: Perfect is the enemy of good.

When we strive for perfection, we will likely fall prey to an all-or-nothing mindset. We will train extremely hard and overdo it and get hurt. Or we will eat super clean, not allowing for any deviations from our diet, and then binge out on junk food when we can’t take it any longer.

This can happen with your work, too. If you take on too many responsibilities and don’t take time for you, you will sacrifice your health. You may have heard it said, some people spend half their life sacrificing health to build wealth, and then the second half of their life using their wealth to buy back their health. Take time for yourself. If you can’t take a week off for a grand vacation, take a day off and travel somewhere close you haven’t visited before. If you can’t work out for an hour, get a 20-minute intense session, or take a 10-minute walk morning, noon and at night. If you can’t give up your sugar addiction, try cutting back and reserving desserts just for special occasions.

Instead of thinking perfect, think progress. More can be less if it keeps you from being consistent. Consistency is the key for success, especially when it comes to your health and fitness. It’s not just about getting things done, but getting the right things done.

Fitness is complicated these days. There are so many programs, exercises and implements to choose from that it’s hard to know what you should really be doing to get in condition. I get emails regularly from Albany Herald readers asking me for advice or my opinion of some program. Unfortunately, all routines tend to present different information, require different diet philosophies, and present themselves as superior to all other training routines. Even if you can’t be perfect, is there really such a thing as the “perfect” workout or diet?

When asked about different workouts and diets, I’m slow to discourage someone who is having success with a program, even if it goes against what I know to be proper protocol. There truly is no perfect program other than the one you will do, and stick with. The truth is, any halfway decent plan will produce results, so long as you are consistent. If someone is having success with a diet or workout program, it’s not necessarily because it’s a great plan. It works for them because they are doing it. If the plan is unsustainable, they will fail.

Here is a fool-proof way to find the perfect workout or diet. When evaluating a program, narrow it down to three criteria. 1) Is it safe? It always amazes me when someone decides to start a health and fitness program with a program that can be detrimental to their health. 2) Is it evidence-based to be effective? If it’s not proven to be effective for your specific goals, why waste your time? 3) Is it enjoyable? If it is not fun, you will fail, although fun is relative. To succeed it must be sustainable.

Behavior can be a result of wanting to gain pleasure and avoid pain. We can sacrifice and do something unenjoyable for only so long. If the program is too unpleasant, you won’t be able to stick to it long-term.

If you get a yes to all three of these questions, the program is credible. There are almost an infinite number of ways to accomplish those three goals, and every single person will have a different definition of what each means.

We often overvalue nonessential possessions and neglect truly essential activities that will keep us healthy. Spend less time and money on things, and more on experiences. Don’t have an all or nothing mindset. Small, consistent steps over time will get you where you want to be. Think progression, not perfection.

Perry Buchanan, owner of PT Gym, is certified as an exercise physiologist through the American College of Sports Medicine, and fitness nutrition specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Email him at Follow @ptgym on Twitter.

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