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[firstname], how many athletes, in any sport, have you witnessed having a perfect performance in competition? We all know the answer ….perfect performances are extremely rare. How many golfers can maintain a perfect swing throughout an entire tournament? How many baseball pitchers have thrown a no-hitter? How many soccer players can kick every ball on net?

Olympic and professional athletes have high personal standards of performance and continue to push the boundaries in their sport. They consistently strive to be stronger physically, technically, strategically, and mentally. The difference between these top athletes and perfectionist athletes is the understanding that mistakes are a natural part of sport participation. In fact, many athletes, coaches, and sport psychologists look at sport as a constant recovery from error. Examples include the turnover in hockey, football or basketball or the unforced error in tennis. The winner of any competition is rarely the athlete with a perfect performance, but rather the athlete who continues to move forward and commits to personal excellence instead of perfection.

Similar to the sport environment, your fitness participants who are perfectionists and have a high concern over mistakes or inability to keep up with you and the rest of the class (one dimension of perfectionism) are at greater risk of anxiety and low self-confidence. These riders also display a failure orientation, reacting negatively to mistakes and typically engage in negative thinking. Consequently, perfectionist participants are at risk of emotional exhaustion that can lead to dropout.

The best focus for your participants is a focus on riding to their personal best. To help them achieve this focus, ensure that you always provide options in your profiles. For example, if your profile includes a section of jumps, be sure that you give your participants permission to take a quick break to regroup. If your profile includes a 20 minute seated climb, remind your participants that it is okay to come out of the saddle for a short period of time when you need to, but to sit back down as quickly as they can.

That said, it is just as important to encourage your group to push themselves, to take that extra step forward. While you provide options to your class, you can say “immediately before you choose to take a break from jumping, challenge yourself to 4 more. Then go ahead and take that break”.

The most important thing for any individual engaging in fitness training is to believe that he/she could not have exerted one more ounce of energy, gone a bit faster or harder. An understanding that you performed to your personal best on a given day is what will help you to persevere. When your participants wake up the next day, they will continue to push their boundaries in their commitment to excellence. What might have previously been considered a personal best performance will soon be perceived as just one step further on their fitness journey.

Call to Action:

After at least one exercise in class and during each cool-down, ask your participants three questions:

1. Did you exert every ounce of energy you had to give?
2. Could you have managed a bit more today?
3. What can you do to have a better class next time?

The objective of the first two questions are to redirect or maintain a focus on your participants”™ energy levels and their commitment to excellence - exerting100% effort towards performing to the best of their ability. The third question is to help your participants enable themselves to improve each class.

Believe and Achieve,

Haley Perlus, Ph.D.

Visit http://www.drhaleyperlus.com to receive Dr. Haley”™s Mental Toughness Articles for sport and fitness.

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