A Good Dose Of Healthy Competition

When I played soccer professionally I had a wonderful coach. He understood the concept of competition. He knew how it could make you better and he knew how to balance it with a perfect dose of confidence and recovery. I remember during playoffs he would always hope to get a home and away series with the toughest teams. Meanwhile, the rest of us wanted to play worse teams and hoped for an easy victory. He preferred to play against the best opponents because that is what would make us better. What I loved about his approach was that it challenged me to do my best and it gave me the satisfaction of knowing that I was getting better no matter what the outcome would be. 

The other side of playing against an opponent who was often better was that our team had to train and recover in a way that allowed us to be ready for those challenges. Of course with a roster of 25 players it was tricky to have everyone ready at all times to take on these challenges. Make no mistake about it, just the thought of having the challenge of playing a better team or a worthy opponent or a new player coming in fighting for your position kept us all on our toes. It helped us to be better. The players who had long-term success not only appreciated this but they learned how to balance the challenge of competition and self care. In turn, they thrived!

It’s not too dissimilar to the way that we approach a successful community in our movement practice or exercise. In the gym, having the option to be challenged or be pushed is extremely important. It’s how you get better, leaner, healthier, stronger!  

When we see competition as an internal motivator it becomes less scary. The outcome isn’t about winning or losing. The outcome is about you, individually, getting better.  

Competition becomes dangerous when we put our self worth in the winning or losing. Then, stress and external validation become part of the equation and now we’re trying to control something that is impossible to control.

In the gym, the balance of when to compete and when to take it easy is a skill that all athletes have to learn and the rhythm and timing is different for all of us. The key to losing that last 5lbs or hitting that personal record is to embrace the competition, thrive on it, and use it for your own good. Balance this with finding your times to push and your times to rest.

All in all, I recommend finding a gym, community, or team where healthy competition is built in. Learn how to use it to your advantage and it can help you reach your goals. 

How do you feel about competition?

FitnessAaron Leventhal