When I was in high school I threw the shot put and discus for our track team. I was not particularly good at either, largely do to the fact that I was, for a thrower, rather small. I’m only 5 foot 5 and I’m currently far fitter than I was in high school. I never won an event. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for me to come in last place. It often made me feel bad about myself, but I remember having a few moments of satisfaction when I scored a personal best, when I threw the discus or shot put further than I ever had in competition before.
These days I workout almost every day, including several walk / run 4 minute cycle (walk 1 minute / run 1 minute / walk 1 minute / run 30 seconds / sprint 30 seconds) workouts on my treadmill each week. I recently commented that the walk part of these workouts are at a slightly faster pace than I “ran” when I spent about a year doing so in my early 20s. That’s right, my walking workouts in my mid 40s are faster than my running workouts in my 20s. Add into that that I now run about 2 miles per hour faster than I was running back then and how can I not feel pretty good about my fitness level (I run faster outside too, not just on the treadmill).
Now, I have no interest in being a competitive runner, but if I did I would probably still be among the slower members of the pack. If I was comparing myself to others I would probably be pretty frustrated, but comparing my fitness level now to what it was 20+ years ago is motivating and empowering (my long cardio workout is now a 60 minute workout of 15 of those 4 minute cycles). I know this isn’t true for a lot of people, maybe even most, but it feels great to know how much stronger I now am physically compared to then, and serves as a reminder of how much stronger I am in other areas of my life.
Competing against others in terms of fitness, money and possessions, job titles, relationships, and anything else people post about on Facebook, Instagram, and the rest will lead to frustration. Competing against your past self in terms of how much you’ve grown as a human being should be your goal. Are you setting new personal bests in some of the areas of your life or are you stagnating because you’re focused on how well others are doing? Which do you think is better for you?
Picture used under a CC0 license.