If you're getting back on the exercise horse after a long hiatus, it seems intimidating and can be super frustrating if you have to make modifications, change things, or can't do what others are suggesting. I've had lots of these frustrations over the years.
- When I decided I wanted to do a 5K, everyone recommended C25K (Couch to 5K) but I got discouraged when I saw day 1 included intervals of jogging for 60 seconds. There was no way I could do that!
- During the first couple of months at my previous gym, I regularly walked on a treadmill behind a woman on the stair climber – we were on the same gym schedule. She would just walk stair after stair at a good clip for at least 45 minutes and barely broke a sweat. When my trainer told me to get on it, I lasted about 3 minutes at the slowest pace possible and I was so winded. I felt like a failure because I used this woman as my measuring stick.
- There was another girl at my gym who had an ankle problem the same time I did, and she bounced back much faster. Every time I came in with my ankle brace, I just felt like I was failing in some way.
- More recently, for 3 weeks at the gym on Thursday's, we did these 30 second activities and one of them was do ball slams or kettlebell swings. I knew my body didn't feel conditioned or strong enough for swings, so I slammed. But the “strong” girls were doing swings and I felt like slamming wasn't good enough (totally false.) By week 4, I finally felt strong enough to swing:
We have such a competitive human nature that it's natural we compare ourselves to those around us. Even if it's normal, it doesn't mean it's right. So often we use others actions as cues on what we should be able to do, forgetting the fact that we all have different bodies and abilities. We look for ways to “measure up,” and in doing so, we discount our efforts and shortchange the things we ARE capable of. This negative self-talk has the nasty unintended effect of leading to shortchanging our efforts or quitting altogether.
How do we bust out of this comparison game? Find other ways to celebrate your progress, independent of what anyone else is doing.
- If you need metrics, consider a heart rate monitor. I started with a heart rate monitor, and I quickly could see progress with how much more effort it took to raise my heart rate, and then the speed at which I could lower it. It was pretty nerdy, but it was physical proof that what I was doing was right for ME, and no one else.
- Want to set a distance goal? You could try a fitness tracker or mobile app. I find that using the tracker as a competitive tool with friends leads to too much comparison, so I choose not to connect it with the social network. It still gives me my own stats and I can compare my personal results to myself to see exactly how I'm improving.
- Take notes about your workouts. What did you do? How did you feel? Even if you're just taking mental notes, it's still a great help to look back and see how you've improved – whether going faster in your walking or running, or lifting heavier weights. If you like putting things on paper, consider keeping a workout journal in your car or near wherever you exercise at home. This would be a fun one to look forward to writing in.
- Remember that everyone started somewhere. You can't compare your beginning to someone else's peak. Shut down the assumptions in your mind that things come easily and naturally to those around you. I like to think of it as “blinders on.” Whenever I start comparing, I say to myself: “blinders on!” and it helps me snap out of the fog of feeling inferior. This takes a lot of practice, but it helps immensely.
Remember, RUN YOUR OWN RACE!
How do you quiet down the comparison trap?
This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Kohl's.