Motivating Yourself


Being the fastest isn’t important. Being your best is.

How do you measure your progress or success on your fitness journey? Do you record every run or weights session? Do you keep a food and training diary and compare your sessions? What is your definition of doing well and what are you measuring it against?

It occurred to me on the recent RDC Youngers Women’s Project that I was mentoring on that we are taught to think of physical success in a certain way. At school, we’re taught that fastest is the best. We place emphasis on winning. First place matters. Sure, they give you the ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ spiel, but no one’s really buying that. If you’re of a competitive mind, you’re thinking about the win. If you don’t get it, you’ve failed. In team sports, if you play badly, you’ve messed it up for the whole team, no pressure or anything. Alternatively, perhaps you think you can cruise through and let your teammates do the work.

So, how do you adapt all this as you mature and focus on your own fitness goals? How can you get out of the mentality that if you’re not going the fastest, that’s OK?

I suppose in the sense, the answer is, in part, to be unapologetically self centred in your approach. As I emphasise to the young women I mentor, with running, I don’t care if you beat me to a traffic light. If you feel crappy at the end of it and have learned nothing from the run, what did you achieve exactly?

With any physical activity, your only competition is yourself. I think in this social media age, where we’re all posting pics of our workouts on Instagram and updating our Twitter followers on our movements, it’s easy to feel inferior or as though you’re not doing enough. I once commented online about how slow my run was and someone snapped at me about how that was their average speed. With respect, I don’t care about your speed, I care about my own performance. I’m massively supportive of any woman getting out there and doing her thing, but when it comes to what I’m doing, I’m pushing myself and trying to improve. None of that should make anyone else feel inferior in their efforts.

We all have different goals. It’s no use me comparing what I’m doing to someone else. I am not a fast runner and I’m actually fine with that. I’m just happy to have the ability to run. I like to do my runs and enjoy them. I ain’t never making it to the Olympics, so there’s a limit to which I’m willing to train. When I’m doing weights, I can’t compare myself to a woman who’s been doing it for longer than me. I’m doing well with my weights at the moment and am progressing nicely, for me. Measuring my success against someone else’s is just nonsensical to me and can kill my vibe.

Setting your own goals and being realistic about your progression to get there is important. Being motivated and inspired by others is great. Writing here and engaging with all of you really motivates me, as do the people I follow on Instagram etc, but the bottom line is we’re all on our own journeys and need to make sure we can feel confident and secure in what we’re doing, without comparing it to someone else.

So what do you think? Do you play the comparison game or are you able to focus on your own goals without distractions?

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9 Responses to “Motivating Yourself”
  1. Lizi says:

    Finally, some common sense! Until Sunday I’d never run anywhere in my life yet I got my trainers on and began training for the York 10K (challenge accepted!). I ran for a total of 8 minutes with recovery between each 60 seconds of running so no, I didn’t go very fast or get very far but once I got to the end of the podcast (I’m doing the BBC Couch to 5k to begin with) I felt like I’d achieved something. I won’t be winning any races but I’m doing it for charity, it’s a charity close to my heart and if it takes me twice as long as everyone else, I don’t care as long as I get to the finishing line!

  2. Alex says:

    I used to compare myself to others all the time, I have a friend who doesn’t work out as much as me but is more of a natural runner and I used to envy how she could run faster and further than me. But then I realised when I’m running the only person I can compete against is myself, I know my strengths and weaknesses, I know when I’ve had a rubbish run, I know when I’ve felt amazing after a plod around and comparing my times to others is just stupid!
    I do however get a little bit competitive sometimes in classes because it keeps my motivation, particularly if it’s crossfit (I like to beat the boys- particularly the sexist ones!)

  3. Jennie says:

    Kind of related….

    I help with the girls running group at the local athletics club. Last week I was running at the back of the group with some of ‘slower’ 9-12 year old girls. They laughed, chatted, joked and smiled the entire run. These girls are never going to be the fastest runners, win races or be selected for championship teams, but they love running and don’t give a stuff about their speed. In my opinion they will probably be more likely to run through their teen years and into adulthood then the ‘fast kids’.

    Fast in nothing if you don’t enjoy it.

  4. Christina_i says:

    Love this post!
    I totally agree – I enjoy some healthy competition, but ultimately it’s all about personal progress. Who cares about everyone else?! It can be a barrier, either by causing disappointment if you can’t keep up with your peers, or by making you complacent and not willing to push yourself if you are keeping up with them.
    Be selfish!

  5. Steph says:

    Great post!
    It has taken me a while but yes, now I usually only compete with myself. I spent years at school and throughout Uni not doing any exercise because as my teachers said ‘I wasn’t any good’ i.e. not first and not co-ordinated. So the logical assumption you make as an adult when you take up fitness again – oh yeah, compare yourself to all these other people who you know or who you don’t, get dispirited and start to not go out for runs/cycles/to the gym as planned.
    Sometimes it takes a while to get that out of your system but once you do you realise that others can inspire you (no matter what sport they are doing or how fast they are going) and everyone is doing their own personal progress. A little bit of competitiveness can push you but I reckon you just have to remember why you are doing something in the first place – you are meant to enjoy it!

  6. Chloe says:

    I agree and disagree with this sentiment- totally think it’s time we stopped comparing ourselves too hard to others and set realistic goals that are relevant to ourselves, but I do think that the key word is realistic. I also think that having a point of comparison (whether it’s a past self or someone else) prevents me from copping out and telling myself that something is ok, because it’s fast/strong/fit for me. I try and avoid unrealistic comparisons- but I’m battling with myself to get back to times I’ve set on my rides, and conditioning I used to be able to do, and I know I need to be hard on myself to push on, push through and do better.

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