I’d be a better athlete if I had more time.
I wish I had so-and-so’s quads. Or abs.
You do it. Everyone does, to some degree. The comparison game runs rampant in gyms, online leaderboards and social media. And it’s killing your progress.
You’ve heard it before: you are your own athlete. It’s you against you.
Did you see so-and-so’s PR?
This conversation goes one of two ways. Either the people discussing it are jealous and now must find a way to “catch up” to whatever weight was lifted or score posted. Or (less likely but still happens) they’ll critique form and deem it was ugly enough to “not count”. So, they are still “in front”.
But watching someone make or miss a lift doesn’t make you any stronger. Sacrificing proper movement patterns or doing shady reps for a spot on your gym’s leaderboard doesn’t make you a better athlete.
Don’t get me wrong. Competition is great. But this isn’t pro sports. Hardly anyone is making any money in competitive CrossFit, weightlifting and powerlifting. Most of us have jobs, families and other things going on.
So, why the obsession with comparing where we are in our journey to everyone else?
“Don’t envy the champion. Be the champion,” is the very first quote in the book The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes, Think, Train and Thrive.
Why? Because the comparison game is an epidemic at every level of sport.
That person at the gym or on Instagram you admire? They’re probably comparing themselves to someone else, too.
But what people fail to realize is fundamentally most athletes are the same. Not in talent or strength, of course. But our mental capacity to learn and grow is virtually the same.
Playing the comparison game by scouring social media or the whiteboard to see what other people are doing is surrendering the mental edge, the strongest influencer you have to tap into your true potential.
Strength takes a lifetime to accumulate. Learning skills and developing an endurance base can be equally tedious. But you can maximize your athletic potential right now by working on championing yourself.
What does championing yourself mean?
It means approaching each training day with a specific purpose, whether it’s to have no misses on your jerks, not step forward on your snatches or keep your chest up on heavy squats.
It means looking at the workout, identifying your sticking point and mentally preparing yourself for when that will come for you. Not the person who you usually compete with in the 4 p.m. CrossFit WOD.
It means sticking to your program on days where it’s not as cool or sexy or fun as what you see on Instagram.
It means getting out of your head on days 80 percent feels like 110 and the person across from you is PR’ing.
How does it look when you see someone throw a fit when they miss? Tell everyone how bad they feel that day? Toss their weight belt across the gym or have a mental breakdown during a workout?
It looks like someone who can be easily defeated.
Why is it that so many of us thrive in competition? Because the sea of people looking on, whether they are pulling for you or not, is telling us that we can. That we are stronger and more capable than we believe. If only we would listen.
We would be better if —and only if- we championed ourselves.