Image via iStock.
These days, certain fitness programs have acquired a cult status. From CrossFit to Pilates, cardio to weight training, we’ve elevated the simple workout to a scientific art (with associated skills, slogans, diets and training equipment). CrossFit enjoys the type of public profile once reserved for trainwreck celebrities, and there is a certain grudging respect afforded to anyone who can regularly sweat their way through bikram yoga sessions.
Fitness classes are designed to bring out our competitive sides, and on our smartphones, #fitspo is only a fingerswipe away. So what’s wrong with a little healthy competition? After all, competition can increase our confidence, make us more aware of our strengths, and improve our focus. No one would deny that working out alone can get tedious – and sometimes it’s fun to use apps to hold yourself accountable, or fish for a little external validation via Facebook. But it can be hazardous for your physical and emotional health to monitor every workout you perform in some way, shape or form.
By consistently tying your workouts to how you performed in relation to those around you, you can push your competitive drive into, well, overdrive.
According to psychologist Amelia Flores-Kater, being competitive is an important and vital part of being human.
“Competitive behaviour can have a healthy impact on our lives and can be used as a driver to achieve individual goals,” she explains.
“But in certain circumstances, being competitive can have a negative impact, particularly when the competition with others becomes a ‘win at all costs’ mentality and results in psychological and physical distress, such as anxiety, depression or physical injury.”
Abbie, a 34-year-old CrossFit enthusiast, knows the damaging effect of competition overdrive only too well.
“I’m not going to lie, I am ultra-competitive, and I have to be the best in my class. Once at CrossFit, we had to do deadlifts during a workout session. I picked up a heavy weight to try to compete with the others and hurt my back in the first round – but I didn’t stop. I kept going, because I didn’t want to look like I couldn’t do it. As a result, I couldn’t exercise for about a week and now my back pain’s chronic.”
If you’ve ever done an extra set of reps just because your workout buddy did or cranked up the speed on your treadmill to go faster than the person next to you, then you can probably relate to Abbie’s experience. We’re taught from an early age that we should always give 100-percent, so we’re now living in the era of the competitive workout.