I read this interesting article recently about competitiveness. Take a look if you like reading things: time.com/4553305/workout-competition-exercise-motivation/
If you don't like reading things - except for my things of course - here's the gist: Competition makes you work harder. The folks in the study mentioned in the article trained way more when they were competing against others. Even more fascinating, the folks who were in a friendly and supportive classroom environment worked out less.
I'll talk about the first thing first. I've always been competitive. I pretend not to be. I try not to be. But I am. I'm a terrible person to play board games against. Which sucks because I'm a nerd and I like board games. One of my ex-girlfriends actually smacked me once because I was winning too much. Like, not playfully.
I'm definitely competitive when it comes to exercise as well. I'm inspired and impressed by my friends and their amazing achievements. But I also challenge myself to push myself even harder. Competitiveness isn't a bad thing inherently. It could be. But that's where experience comes in.
When it comes to board games, I can be competitive without being a douchebag. I'm still working on that. When it comes to exercise, I can be competitive without breaking myself. I'm, um, still working on that too.
But I'm getting better at both things!
|Just... maybe don't talk to me if I've just lost Settlers of Catan|
Photo cr. Marc Ryan
Some folks aren't competitive, and that's fine. But having a goal to conquer will definitely motivate you to push yourself more. And if you don't have any races scheduled, then being part of an athletic community can help motivate you. As long as you choose to be motivated and not discouraged by the performance of others. Maybe you don't run as fast as others, but maybe you can run farther! Or maybe with more elevation! Or maybe even with just brighter socks. Whatever it takes!
I've mentioned in other posts the importance of friends and community. This is one such reason. Friendly competition can help everyone achieve better results. It's not about being "better" than others, or about "winning". It's about pushing yourself. And boasting about your own accomplishments makes you feel good and encourages others to push themselves as well. And in this way you and your friends all get stronger. Just be careful not to burn yourself out!
The second part of the study was really interesting too. If you're in a classroom, or a community, that's too supportive, it's actually a detriment. In the same way that a group of people can bring one another up, they can also bring one another down. This isn't done maliciously. But we can all relate to losing motivation and will forgive one another for doing so. But too much of this can make giving up "OK".
While it's important to not overtrain or cause yourself injury, having pals who are too "nice" to you can hamper your progress. This means when you're looking for people to workout with, or just to connect with, look for the ones who are crazy. Even if they scare you a little, or you don't think you can measure up (at first!). These are the folks who will make you want to work harder. Don't intentionally hamper yourself by only spending time with folks who say, "it's ok you missed your workout, let's go get cupcakes."
|"I ate all the food and did nothing today. Please tell me that's OK."|
I mean, cupcakes are delicious. But they're a reward, not a consolation prize.
I've mentioned a few times not to burn yourself out. Only you know what your limits are. It takes experience to learn when to push yourself, and when to ease up. And even though some competitiveness will inspire you to work harder, too much can cause you to hurt yourself. Don't quit if this happens. Take a break and then come back stronger than ever. Let your friends know you will be back kicking a$$ in no time!
Be conscientious of yourself and the people around you. Sometimes we look to punish ourselves by taking on too much. Other times we deliberately hamstring ourselves by hanging out with friends who encourage our laziness. Be aware of both. Find a balance and find a community that lets you progress consistently.