Why You Need Healthy Competition to Achieve Your Fitness Goals

We have all been in a social setting where a competition breaks out.  It could be anything – who can eat the most pizza, who can run the fastest, who can climb the highest, who can catch the most fish… I could go on and on. We as humans thrive on competition. This is a big reason why Group Fitness Classes, or as we at Thriveology call it Team Training, have become so popular in recent years!  Even one-on-one training is becoming a thing of the past and semi-private training is taking over because we achieve better results when we work with others.

Why is that?  Think way back to the caveman days.  Food supply was limited.  Predators were aplenty.  Humans had to constantly compete with other humans.  There wasn’t enough food for everyone, so only the strongest, best hunters and gatherers could bring home food for their families.  You had to be the best or you simply didn’t survive. If a lion was chasing you, you just had to be faster than someone else.  I know those times are long gone, but we must still keep that competitive drive. Not every person in the world can have whatever they want, it just wouldn’t work.  We have to compete for the top position at work, the first-place trophy, and even for a mate!


Why Competition Drives Us as Humans


Competition drives so many of our actions and that isn’t a bad thing.  It is how we get to where we want to be in life.  One place in which competition is imperative for reaching goals is in the fitness world.

A study conducted by Jingwen Zhang, Ph. D on 790 graduate students from the University of Pennsylvania found just that.  The students were separated into 4 groups: a support group, a competition group, a combined support and competition group, and a control group.  The groups participated in online leaderboards which were geared specifically for each individual group. Attendance in weekly exercise classes was measured for each group.  The study concluded that competition motivated participants to exercise significantly more than social support.  Attendance rates were 90% higher in the competition group and combined group versus the other two groups that had no competition.

Working as a fitness coach, I see the effects of competition occur on a daily basis.  We have one particular member of the Pack (hi Bob!) who lifts very heavyweight, all the time.  Before he came to Thriveology, he trained with several friends who all competed to lift the most weight.  Now, any time any of our Pack members work out at the same time as him, they tend to lift heavier, even before he starts in with his persuasion techniques to get everyone in the gym to lift heavyweight.  When someone sees him lifting heavy, they want to lift heavy too. Why?  Just a healthy dose of competition!


How to Use Healthy Competition to Become Your Best Self


Competition is healthy. If we don’t have the sense to compete, we will remain stagnant, especially speaking on a fitness level.  Competition can mean trying to perform better than someone else or even yourself.  A healthy sense of competition is having the urge for constant improvement.  It is also wanting to do better because you see someone else doing better.

Putting yourself down because you didn’t improve from one day to the next would be considered unhealthy competition.  Unhealthy competition would also be putting someone else down verbally while you grind through one more push-up than them.  As long as you are competing in a healthy manner, you will notice great improvements in yourself and others you are working with.

Healthy competition will help you grow and help others grow alongside you.  Unhealthy competition, on the other hand, will get you and everyone around you nowhere.  So next time you find yourself in a group class or setting, don’t be afraid to compete, even if you’re only doing it in your head.  If you see your Pack mate reach for a heavier weight, why not go for a heavier one yourself?

Of course, always be aware of your body and what it is capable of, and never do more than what feels safe, but sometimes we need to see someone else step out of their comfort zone in order to step out of ours.  Why not be the first one that motivates everyone else?  Then you can all celebrate your achievements together! Happy lifting!

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