Can You Give 100% Effort All of the Time?

I’ve been struggling with this question for weeks now.  If you are invested in and passionate about something, you want to put 100% effort into it, right?  You want to walk away at the end with your head held high and know that you did everything you could to achieve your goal.

This leads me to ask how you measure effort.  I hate when a professional athlete is asked about their rehabilitation from an injury and they respond with something like, “I’m at about 70%.”  What the hell does that mean?  How do you quantify something like that?

Is 100% effort a static number, or is it fluid?  Some days, I am well-rested, energized, and motivated; as a result, I perform at a much higher level than my baseline.  On other days, I am exhausted, sore, and overwhelmed – getting to the gym at all feels like a major accomplishment, and I trudge through my workouts like a zombie.  Most of the time, I am somewhere in between – I feel like I challenged myself, but didn’t necessarily push the ultimate limits of my ability.  How do I measure that effort?  Are my high days 100%, my low days 50%, and my middle days 80%?  If I’m sore, exhausted, and not feeling well, but still get to the gym and do the workouts  I need to do, does that constitute 100% effort even though I’m performing at a lower level than usual?

Most days, I leave the gym feeling like I did a lot, but could have done more.

I should have done the stairmill instead of the cross-trainer to get my heart rate up higher.  I should have used heavier dumbbells when doing those reverse flies, I probably could have handled it.  I really should have done another set of abs.

I go to bed at night thinking I stuck to my meal plan pretty well, but I could have done better.

I should have had my coffee black instead of using creamer.  I had a bunch of mints and gum today to stave off my sugar craving, but I didn’t need them and they aren’t on my meal plan.  I wonder how many extra calories I drank today using all of those Crystal Light packets, I should just be able to drink plain water.

The problem with ruminating on things like these is that I totally miss the bigger picture.

I did two workouts today even though I was busy and tired.  I had a terrible sugar craving all day, but I didn’t cave in and eat that donut or go on a carb binge.  I drank 1.5 gallons of water today and didn’t have any diet soda.

It’s a balancing act between pushing yourself and not accepting excuses while still recognizing what you are accomplishing and allowing yourself to be human.  It’s especially difficult when you are competing in a sport where it feels like you could always be doing something more (another cardio session, another set of an exercise, another weight plate on the rack, one less meal with carbs, one more rep).

It seems that peak performance isn’t attainable or healthy every day all of the time.  If I pushed myself to the point of extreme fatigue, pain, exhaustion, puking, or passing out every single workout, chances are that sooner or later, I would compromise my health and possibly end up injuring myself.  In addition, a goal does not exist within a vacuum.  Rarely if ever does a person have only one goal toward which they direct 100% of their undivided attention and energy.  We have many goals that are competing for our resources.  Yes, I am training for a figure competition, but I also have a job, school, family, and friends that are deserving of my time and energy.  I think this makes sustained and continuous peak performance impossible in the context of a single goal.

My problem is with drawing the line between pushing myself to work hard and not entertaining frivolous excuses while still allowing wiggle room for the peaks and valleys we face in the human experience and for the other goals in my life outside of competing.

I decided to compare this idea with the concept of a person’s maximum heart rate and target heart rate.  Your maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting your age from 220.  So, my maximum heart rate is:

220 – 26 = 194 beats per minute (bpm)

However, when you are exercising, the recommendation is not that you exercise at your maximum heart rate.  Your target heart rate is generally calculated as 65%-85% of your maximum heart rate.  So, my target heart rate range is:

194 bpm X 65% =  129 bpm

194 bpm X 85% = 165 bpm

Therefore, even though my maximum heart rate is 194 bpm, I’m at my target heart rate anywhere between 129 bpm and 165 bpm.  I think this is the way I am going to approach my self appraisal of effort.  I will have 65% days, and I will have 85% days, and most days will fall somewhere in between.  But regardless of where I fall between 129 bpm and 165 bpm, I can still say that I am on target.

With all of that said, I recorded some of my posing practice on Sunday to send to my trainer.  Thought I would include the links for anyone who is curious!

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