What is healthy competition?

I’m a competitive person.

It’s not a secret either – not something I would or even could hide.

Although competitive, I don’t think I’m a bad winner – or a bad loser, particularly. The reason for this is because there’s really only ever one person I want to beat. Or at least, it’s always sweeter when I beat one person in particular.

Who is that person? Well, me.

I’m battling with this quite a lot at the moment, with my climbing and especially with my running.

I was so nervous before Parkrun this Saturday. I can’t remember the last time I’d felt like that. It must have taken me at least 1K to calm down. And that was with the voice in my head shouting at me to chill the hell out!

Note: You know when you shout in your head, it’s more about the tone than the volume – volume doesn’t change with the voice in my head. It can’t whisper, and it can’t shout. 

I did it. I won. Against myself. I have a new PB which puts me below 25 minutes and under 8 minutes for my per mile pace.

I can’t quite believe that those stats belong to me – but they do. They’re mine. I managed to do that. And it really does feel like winning.

This is where my particular type of drive comes from. I don’t really care about beating other people. I don’t even care what other people think – it’s a sweet bonus if someone does notice and acknowledges my achievements. But mostly, I want to feel like I’m constantly achieving and making progress.

Sounds pretty great, huh?

Then we come to the flip side. What happens when I inevitably don’t win against myself. How do I deal with that?

I was talking to a friend the other day about Parkrun. She’s just started doing them too (which is great). I said I was nervous for the next one. What if I don’t beat my time. She asked something I have never asked myself. She said something like “why does it matter?”

I didn’t have a rational answer. All I had was “it just does”.

Which made me wonder when my competitiveness goes from being how I get sh*t done, to being something that’s unhealthy.

I can be hard on myself. Really hard.

I like to think I have the capacity to be forgiving to other people, but when it comes to me – not so much. I have ridiculously high standards for myself. There, I said it.

I’m scared though – if I give myself a break on my failures, maybe I’ll be shaving the same off of my drive. Why should I want to succeed and improve if the threat of failure is less?

Then I thought – how do other people get things done? What’s their motivation? If it isn’t winning, what else could it be?

It actually didn’t take me very long to figure out the blindingly obvious.

I climbed yesterday. I did some really good repeats, but didn’t complete any new routes or ones I was struggling on. I made some good progress, but progress isn’t really a win.

I thought about it for a while afterwards, and put together a sort of synopsis. And then I realised the trick to all of it was the last nugget my brain threw me:

I had fun though.

And I think that’s the secret – to have more fun. Run because you like it. Climb because you love it. Whatever makes you talk faster and means that you can’t stop smiling – do that. And do more of it. If you love something, and try hard enough, and give it enough of your time, you will inevitably improve at it I think.

6 months ago, I would have laughed at you if you’d said I would enjoy running. I HATED running. I started running because of that competitive streak – for tough mudder. I didn’t want to be the dead weight. And I wasn’t. But I carried on. And I think it’s becoming a part of me. Just like climbing.

Sure, my hands and shoulders ache from yesterday’s climb. Yes, my shins hurt from Saturday’s run.

But I don’t care. It makes me happy.

What’s the point of all of this? What does it have to do with you?

Find something you love and do it. Do more of it. You won’t spend all of your smiles, you have an unlimited supply. I think too often we ration ourselves, we try too hard to be grown ups. Let’s stop doing that a bit.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the park with my girl. There was an awesome, old school climbing frame there. I really wanted to play on it. The park was full of other parents and their kids. I felt a bit silly the first time I played on the climbing frame. But do you know what? That went away when I started enjoying it. Oh, and then another kids’ dad came over and started swinging and hanging off of it too.

It was fun…

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