My first real involvement in athletics was in martial arts. When I began, I just thought they were cool, a great way to exercise, and I wanted some self-defense skills. As time goes on, the more I appreciate another aspect of martial arts that I wasn’t aware of when I began. In every martial art I’ve ever tried, one rule stood out across the board: strive for perfection in everything.

Unfortunately the further I get from martial arts, the less I see that desire for perfection or mastery. Most people in the fitness world are focused on more weight, more miles, more steps, more reps. I’ve never heard someone tell me they have been spending the last few weeks working on perfecting their running form or trying to do the perfect push-up. I suspect if I had, I would see far better runners and far fewer injuries.

There’s something that happens when we focus on quantity over quality. Namely, the quality goes out the window. People will limp and drag themselves for miles on end to hit a specific number. I’ll tell you a secret… that limping, and dragging, and hurting is not good for your body! You are causing damage that will last and hold you back. And this applies to all physical activities. Bouncing reps in the gym, getting as much work done in a specific time as possible, or any other activity where the goal is to get it done rather than do it correctly.

Watching someone that has mastered any activity is magical. They always make it look sooooo easy. The men’s gymnastics portion of the Olympics is my favorite example of this. Those guys do the most amazing things on the rings with a calm, cool look on their face. Everyone knows that’s impressive, but the second you try to do something as simple as holding yourself in a simple ring support, you realize how many thousands of hours went into that performance to make it look perfect.

This rant is not all meant to discourage you from pursuing any activity you want. Just the opposite. But I would like you to change your focus. Rather than worrying about miles, reps, weight, or any other quantitative marker, focus on getting every mile, rep, and movement perfect. Run as far as you can with perfect form and stop! Lift the weight you can lift correctly and not a pound more. Use the progression that’s appropriate for your body right now and master it. When you do, you’ll discover your body feels so much better and your performance increases dramatically. Your friends might not be impressed with your volume of activity, but they will all comment on how easy and athletic you make everything look.

Quality over quantity. Every time.