The best dissertation is a done dissertation. When you turn it into a book, “Good enough” is good enough. Your work is never finished, it is merely abandoned. Every writer has heard this, and has experienced it. Once you’ve experienced it, you know that it’s true. Fitness works in exactly the same way. Tanya’s last post here was about her fitness goals and inspired me to share with you a bit about how and why I move my body, and why the best workout is a done workout.
I’ve been a fit person on and off for all of my life. I’m lucky that it comes naturally for me- I have a great sense of balance, a good idea of my own body’s reach and whether or not it can do a thing, and I heal fast. My fat is distributed quite evenly on my body and I put on muscle faster than most people designated female at birth. My height and broad frame make me feel physically invincible sometimes.
Now this might feel a little contradictory, but I’ve also always been fat. Not so fat that I’ve felt much discrimination because of my body, but large enough that I needed to keep on top of it if I didn’t want my size to interfere with my fitness. It takes more effort to propel a body like mine up a boulder, or across a lake, or even around a track. I don’t dislike my body, but growing up it was the cause of a lot of frustration and shame because it was so much larger than everyone else’s. I shot up to the height of 5’10” when I was twelve years old. I wore an adult size 16 when the other kids at my school were still able to shop in the kids section.
It could have been a really bad childhood of bullying for me, but my coaches in school all saw something in me. In Junior High, I played basketball. I switched to Volleyball and Rifle Team in High School, and then moved onto West African dance and various martial arts in college and grad school.
From these, I learned a few important lessons. For example, I learned that my size could either be a hindrance, or an advantage, depending on whether I fought or embraced its natural inclinations. When I stopped worrying about perfecting the really impressive-looking jumping axe kick, and started focusing on the pure power I could generate through more simple moves, I was able to pummel the guys at the Muay Thai studio while getting in a good workout.
More importantly though, I learned that fitness isn’t a place you get, but a journey, and that you’re never done. All sorts of things interfere with your ability and will to work out. A fit body is a borrowed body, and enough stressed-out nights wrapped in a blanket with a book and some chocolate will take it from you. I also learned that like with writing a dissertation or book, “Good enough” and “done” are 100% valid goals for exercise.
I don’t have to be the best at any of my exercise. It doesn’t matter if I take a Pound class (it’s so fun! Take one) with all the undergraduates at my gym and am the slowest person in the room or if I didn’t get all the moves right, because for 45 minutes, my heart was working hard to increase my endurance and flexibility. It doesn’t matter if my time on the elliptical isn’t as effective as someone giving it 100% because I was reading a PDF on my kindle and not focused on the burn. I still got the exercise. It’s fine that the zombies ate me because I couldn’t maintain a fast enough sprint during a zombie chase in the Zombies, Run! app (seriously, again, get it. It’s so fun.) because I still did the thing. It’s also fine to run up and down stairs for a few minutes in the middle of the day and then throw in some crunches at bedtime and count it as a workout.
And this is because I recognize that just like with writing, doing the thing is what counts. It’s unreasonable to put perfect expectations onto my exercise or my writing. If each time I sat down at the computer, I demanded the perfect writing session from myself, with a wordcount I had to reach, with an imaginary quality standard in my head, I’d be paralyzed and I would avoid the computer more often than not. And it’s the same with movement. If I set the bar really high, when my decision-fatigue sets in and I don’t have it in me, I’d likely just not bother changing into my shorts. It’s so much better to do a workout at 50% than to not do one, just like it’s so much better to write one page than to not write anything.
If every day, I write some, and I move some, I call that a win. Good enough, is good enough. The best workout is a done workout.