Progress Over Perfection

In many areas of my life, it has been emphasized repeatedly: Strive for progress, not perfection. Focus on the journey, not the destination. Which makes good sense, but how exactly do we measure progress? Or maybe the better question is: how do we CHOOSE to measure progress?

In the first summer of the pandemic (yikes…are we really at summer number three?), I started a run club with my stepdaughters. Really, I started running again, and once a week or so they would join me. I used an app to plan the routes and work up to a 5k because I felt out of practice and didn’t want to injure myself. To my surprise, I loved the app. It was a great way to measure progress, and I did, indeed, stay healthy. If I was able to run farther and faster after three weeks, I must have made progress, right?

How do we measure progress in something like Pilates? Is it endurance; being comfortable doing more classes in a week? Is it skill; finding ease in choreography or positions that were once impossible? Is it strength, flexibility, all of the above?

For those of us who have been doing Pilates for a long time, while recovering from injuries or illnesses, during pregnancy and after giving birth, or as we age and our bodies change, our progress isn’t always a straight line. What if we got stronger, but don’t feel as flexible? What if we develop more endurance, but don’t advance to higher level classes? Can that still be called progress?

What if in the face of other things life has thrown at us, progress is actually maintaining our health and well-being?

I don’t run in the winter, at least I haven’t for a long time. Since tearing my ACL twenty-odd years ago, my right knee has never felt 100% stable on icy roads, and the urban trails I like to run and hike on, are often inaccessible during the winter months.

But I started my running app program again a few weeks ago, back at the very beginning. On my run today, I laughed when the voice–the helpful woman in the app who tells me when to speed up or slow my pace, when to stop and stretch, and when to cool down–said: “If it hurts, that’s a good thing–it means you’re challenging your muscles to push through.” It didn’t really hurt, but I thought, is THAT how I should be measuring progress? If it HURTS? (FYI, No. That’s not really the best measuring stick.)

Last month we focused on building strength, on finding new ways to challenge ourselves within our Pilates practice. What if we continue to focus on building strength, and also look at how our practice is progressing?

This month Retrofit is launching Pilates at Home, a new library of workouts with Barbara that builds progressively over 30 days from foundation level classes through intermediate workouts to advanced repertoire. Approaching that progression might look differently for different people–and we’d still call it progress. Your progress might be practicing 30 days of Pilates in a row, or getting through the second level of the progression, or starting Pilates for the first time and discovering you love it, or making it your own 30-day challenge and completing the entire series from Day 1 through Day 30.

Let’s strive for progress–whatever that looks like to you–over perfection.


Pam Ferguson
Retrofit Master Instructor
Lead Instructor/Operations Associate