The Competitive Edge

“Come on, you can do it!”

“Get it girls! You’re almost done!”

“You’re doing awesome you guys! Keep going!”

I started to tune out these positive mantras of cheers and encouragement. The clapping began to annoy me slightly. I was a sweaty, frazzled mess and the techno beat blaring from the speaker through all the cheers began to annoy me too.  The voices just started to sound like “Charlie Brown” parents. I was only focused on not coming in dead last and beating the lady beside me who was equally a sweaty, frazzled mess, to finish with our last reps of burpees, squat jumps and upper-cut combo.

This was my first bootcamp/WOD type class that was done for time a few years ago.  The participants who already completed the W.O.D stood around us like we were at a party and we were going up the soul train dance line. Lucky for our cheerleaders, the torture was long over for them and they were already cooled down and sipping from their water bottles. I looked up at the happy, cheering faces, hoping they would stop. It was getting embarrassing although their intentions were good. They finished the WOD in record time. Now it was their job to encourage the last two slow pokes. Huffing and puffing out my last upper cut, I dropped over in a rag doll position, my hands dangling by my feet. Just then, the other lady finished, moving across the studio and gasping for  her water bottle. The instructor recorded our times on a white board. “Don’t you worry ladies,” she said, sounding a little too much like a sweet fitness Pollyanna. “You will only improve from here on in,” she smiled, recording the ugly truth. This lady and me were the slowest and the weakest link of the group. I couldn’t help but purse my lips in a “yippee” kind of way.

Well, according to a new research study out of the University of Pennsylvania  that competitive edge, wanting to out run, out lift, out plank, out burpee others will keep you coming back to your workouts, as opposed to the support and encouragement of your workout peers.  Seeing your name dead last on a leaderboard is what makes you want more.  The study states, competition triggers a social ratcheting-up process. In a competitive setting each person’s activity raises the bar for everyone else. Social support is the opposite; a ratcheting-down can happen. Competition gives people higher expectations for their own levels of performance. Support groups can backfire because they can draw attention to the less active members of the group.” (AKA me and the other sweaty, frazzled lady.)


My sister is a classic example of someone who could do without cheerleaders. We used to run a lot with her ex-husband (who is a marathoner.) The one thing that drove her nuts was his encouraging while we were running. Like clockwork, he would know our point of fatigue and begin to clap mid-run. “C’mon girls, keep it going. Just to tree, just to the corner. Let’s get this done. You can do it. There is no such thing as tired in our world. It’s all a state of mind.” My sister would begin to grunt and huff, dropping a hint for him to stop with the vocal mantras. “I wish he would just stop it,” she would hiss, under her breath. “So annoying.”

To be honest with you, I am a wee bit competitive person by nature. Just ask my husband. When we were dating he would beat me at games every darn time. Especially card games and checkers. He would always out wit me. One night I almost left his apartment in a mad rage because I was so fed up of losing. Well, in this bootcamp class, my desire to finish before this lady was driving me to finish this grueling sweat session, not the cheers from the other participants and instructor. In junior high when a school mate beat me in the hundred metre dash, I had a handy excuse reason why. My shoes were a half-size too big. Had my shoes been the proper fitting pair, I would have beat her hands down. (or so I reasoned.)

Having that drive to improve, to aspire for more, to achieve a personal best. I think for the most part, your biggest competitor should be the person you were yesterday.

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Tell me, are you a competitive person?

Would you find the cheering from the soul-train line annoying or helpful?

6 thoughts on “The Competitive Edge

  1. I agree that the best person to compete with is the person you were yesterday but it still feels good to beat someone in a race. I’m sure you did a great job and the trainer is right – you will improve if you just keep working at it. Wear the right shoes next time! 🙂
    Sometimes the cheerleading helps – when I’m out running and tempted to stop and some random person tells me don’t stop, I try to run at least until they’re out of sight, so if someone did that every time I was tempted to stop, I might run the whole course non-stop. That would be good. Haha. Maybe that should be my next running plan.

    1. Lol! Those shoes. That’s completely what the issue was 😉. I think that’s why personal trainers are so important for many. They are your personal trainers even when you don’t feel like pushing yourself and pressing on.
      I love that random people encourage you. That’s very nice!

  2. I actually prefer to keep anything I am doing silent. I find the competitive stuff stressful so when I do stuff, I just don’t say anything until I am done or do it. 🙂 I think for some seeing their name last can actually set them back,. I think it is a personal thing what works for one may not for another… xoxoxo

    1. Isn’t it such a personal thing? I really don’t like being put on the spot, either in a positive or negative way. There is something to be said for discretion for sure, Jody. I’m with you! 😘

  3. I am definitely competitive but only with myself. I am also one of those self driven people who doesn’t really need the words of affirmation but sometimes it can be nice to hear if it is genuine. 🙂

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