Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Why Comparing Yourself to Others Can Hinder Your Progress

Competition is an important part of any sport. If you want to be the best, you have to see what those around you are doing and strive to work even harder than them. When done in excess, however, comparing yourself to other individuals may be counterproductive.

Social media has made it easier to track the accomplishments of others. People constantly post videos from their training sessions, their PRs, and even their failures. These posts allow athletes to get insight into the routines of their competition. The unfortunate part, however, is that it is very easy to see what others are doing and feel as though your own performance is inadequate. I know many people (myself included) find themselves comparing their own progress to that of a friend or athlete over the internet.

Your fitness journey is your own! Here's why you shouldn't compare yourself to others:

  1. You don't know their athletic background. Even though someone just started lifting, he/she may have been a competitive dancer. He may have been a Division I athlete in another sport. All of these factors contribute to a stronger, more coordinated lifter. If you were completely sedentary, or have never previously worked out at the level you do now, it's impossible to compare yourself to someone else who has trained at a higher intensity.
  2. You have no idea how they're training. Perhaps this person is a full-time athlete. They may not have a family to support or a 9-5 desk job. Maybe they have time to train several times-a-day, whereas you can only train once. You don't know what kind of coach this person has. There are so many factors that go into programming that can positively or negatively influence the end result. You need to tweak your training to cater more towards your own needs and limitations.
  3. You have a completely different body type. Weight classes in sport exist for a reason. It's really impossible for me to compare myself to girls who compete in higher or lower weight classes than I do. They're lighter, and they move completely differently. Genetics also play a big role. Someone who has shorter limbs, or smaller levers, is generally going to be able to produce more force than her lankier counterpart, because a.) the bar has a shorter distance to travel, and b.) her muscles will be more compact. Unfortunately, some people are also just gonna have more of a genetic inclination towards certain activities.
  4. Everyone progresses at a different rate. We all have different strengths and difficulties. Some movements will come really easily to you, whereas you'll struggle through others.  Your strengths will be someone else's weaknesses. If you don't pick something up as quickly as a friend, that's completely okay.
Yes, when it's game time, you absolutely need to try to outdo your opponents--that's the point of competition. However, for training purposes, I think it's more beneficial to be absolutely laser-focused and self-centered. You need to concentrate on your own improvement, rather than invalidating yourself because you don't stack up to someone else. If you got a bench press PR, and you see someone else who's doing reps with your max, don't let that phase you. In time, you will get there.

Never miss a chance to quote "Office Space..."

Instead of consistently comparing your progress to that of others, compare your progress to where you were at this time last month, or even last year. Focus on what your weaknesses are, and train as hard as you can to improve upon those areas. Ultimately, this fitness journey, wherever you may fall on the spectrum, is about bettering yourself, however that may be. There should not be an "end destination," but rather a constant stride towards health. Every workout is going to make you stronger, mentally and physically. One of my favorite quotes, which is painted on the walls of my gym, is, "hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." This quote serves a daily reminder for me to push through every workout, no matter how tired I may feel or how difficult it might be. Someone can have more of a natural ability for something, but if you get in the gym and bust your ass everyday, your efforts will pay off in the long run. You might not see a change today, or even next month, but when you reflect in the years to come, you will be amazed with your progress. Trust the process, and sweat now, so you can gloat in that success later.

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