Fitness Tip of the Day:
The only person that matters in your fitness journey is … YOU!
All human beings (to some degree) are competitive in nature. According to Charles Darwin’s Evolutionary Theory, all of our actions reinforce the premise of “survival of the fittest” (that the “fit” rather than the “unfit” will survive any challenge). On instinct, we are driven to improve our performance and establish superiority over others in all aspects of life (i.e., at work, at home, in relationships, in sport and … at the gym)!
Why Do We Feel the Need to Compete (or Compare Ourselves) with Others?
Some would argue that “healthy competition” is good for us and builds character. But what is healthy about a scenario where one person succeeds only if another fails? You only have a fifty-fifty chance of coming out on top which means it is hardly a “win-win” situation.
Regardless, we size ourselves up against other people throughout the day and decide (for ourselves) whether we are better or worse than that particular rival. These are not official head-to-head competitions (where both parties are aware of the competition taking place) but ones that we create in our own mind. The other person (or people) have no clue they are being evaluated or that you are comparing your traits against theirs. Because it is generally easier to focus on all of our negative traits and attributes over our more positive ones, these “invisible” competitions are most often lost before they even begin.
We are the competitor, the judge and the jury … against an opponent that already has a 10 second head start!
Examples of Competition in a Fitness Environment
Whether you want to admit it, or not, you have most likely found yourself in an “invisible” competition the last time you were in a fitness club or recreation center surrounded by other people. Read the examples below and see if you can relate.
- Running on the treadmill and competing with the person running beside you. You find your self looking more at their treadmill display than your own and only feeling satisfied if you run longer, at a faster pace or a higher incline.
- Participating in the 30 Day Challenge at your yoga studio and competing with the names on the board who have completed a class every day (even though you have already missed several days and will never catch up in time).
- Doing plank holds at the end of in a group fitness class and comparing your endurance and form with the person beside you. No matter how awful the plank exercise may end up looking you refuse to put your knees down before your neighbor.
- Standing in front of a mirror on the weight room floor and comparing your physique to the super toned personal trainer working out on their lunch break.
You know that it’s not productive to have these thoughts but you just can’t help it … and you suffer the consequences if you lose this “invisible” competition.
Stack the Odds in Your Favor
Self-esteem and self-confidence are important when it comes to sticking to a program and seeing real results. But … in order to build self-esteem and gain self-confidence you need to be successful at the challenges you choose to participate in. Because competition is in our nature, the only way to do that is to choose competitions that are fair and completely objective. The best competitor you can choose, that can challenge you in an objective way, is … YOU (and your past performance)!
When you randomly choose another person to compete against you don’t have enough information to know if the match up is fair. You don’t know the other person’s history, their strengths, their weaknesses, or their state of mind. If they win the “invisible” competition you don’t question your defeat. But … if you win you always second guess yourself and wonder if it was a fluke or an accident. Also, you only get one chance to compete with this person. Once they walk away it is highly unlikely you will meet up again (at the same location and under the same circumstances) to get another shot.
On the other hand, when you compete against your past performance and you win there is no second guessing because you know everything there is to know about the opponent. You either beat your past performance and “win” or fall short and “lose” (but learn valuable lessons along the way and know how to win the next time). In addition, you can recreate that competition over and over again, giving you unlimited opportunities to be successful!
Whether you choose to compete against others or you choose to compete against yourself, the only person you should be focusing on through your fitness journey is yourself (mind, body and soul). If you want to remain positive and enjoy the journey along the way you need to choose activities that will promote success, rather than the negative effects of experiencing failure.
The choice is yours.