How do you know if you are being successful? Whether it is at work, university, racing or trying to lose weight. How do you determine whether you are doing a good job or a bad job? I think most of us if we have to be honest, would say that we compare ourselves to others. Jealousy is a human emotion and despite how much we may try not to feel it or lie about falling victim to it, it is something most people will experience at some point. Sometimes this can be a good thing, the motivation to match someone who is faster, stronger or smarter than you can push you to go harder or to lift a new level you may not have been able to if you kept going. For people who are new to fitness or anything else, comparing yourself with others who have been doing something for a long time can unfortunately be a source of demoralisation and it can even be depressing. When someone is starting something for the first time, especially something they feel self-conscious about, the more positivity they can experience the more likely they are to keep going.
Before we really get into it this week I want to take a quick moment to thank everyone who read my last post and thank you all for your encouragement and words of support. I read each and every message, email and comment I received and I apologise to those of you who I have not gotten back to. There have literally been too many messages and comments to respond to.
Now onto business. One of the things that really pisses me off is when people use the whole "You're lucky" or "It's easy for you" when they are explaining why they are unable to do something which I have either done or believe they can do. There is nothing easy about what goes into living a healthy lifestyle. I take my hat off to those people who have spent their lifetime living a healthy life. There is sacrifice and there is long hours spent training. There are internal battles with self control and making decisions which will not only affect you but will have an impact on those closest to you too (one of the best ways to lose contact with friends is to cut back your drinking). So while there is a perception that it is easy or simple for someone, realise that more likely than not, it isn't so easy for them to live the life they want.
Maybe I perpetuate the image of simplicity. It is all good and well for me to put up a pretty cycling photo or a shot with my sexy legs all flexed and veiny. Yeah, easy right? Just a casual 25km run with time to stop and take a few photos. When the reality is much more unexciting. How many of us will share those moments where we are down or at the bottom. Why is it that I do not post photos of me vomiting at the end of a particularly hard interval session. Why is it that I do not tell the world about how I went too hard on a bike set and spent two days recovering because I was so dehydrated. The answer is because no one wants to see that and to be honest it could also scare some people off. I can't remember what movie it is out of but there was a line I once heard which was something along the lines of 'the bad moments are what come between the happy photographs' and I think this is true with training. The dark and hard moments are what happens between the positive and happy successes.
What I do to maintain my healthy lifestyle is a decision that I need to live with. Which is why people need to focus on their own health choices. There is nothing to be gained by apologising to a coach for missing sessions or telling your personal trainer that you let them down because you ate pizza when you were trying to avoid take away food. You are the one who will incur the results of your decisions. So then why would you compare what your results are to someone else?
Partnering with others is a useful tool for motivation to a point. When you encourage each other and create an element of competition, you can go harder. Where it becomes an issue though is when you start to let it get you down. If person A and person B both train the same and person B loses more weight than person A there is a chance that person A will become frustrated by this. Excuses will start to form, I have to work more, they are younger than me. This can lead into more negativity which in turn can mean that person A and person B continue onto completely different outcomes. Person B might after working hard and seeing results make a lifestyle change and continue on the fitness path. Person A however may become demoralised and decide that they cannot do it. They fall off the wagon and instead of understanding that there are an almost endless list of variables as to why they have had different levels of success to person B, they think that there is something wrong with them or their body which wont allow them to lose weight properly.
As always I stress that I am no expert here but if you took the above scenario, took two completely random people and made them both do the same exercise and eat the same diet I would be curious to see the results. I would think though that they would not be the same. All these other factors would play their part. One person may sleep more or have a more active job. One person might have a medical condition which impacts their metabolism. It isn't a level playing field yet people think that it will be fair? The same with a job. If two people start at the same time and both have the same qualifications, it is likely that one of them, not both of them will get the promotion. It is just how things go. It can seem unfair and it can seem like there is no hope. But just because you don't experience the same results as someone else does not mean that you will not achieve your own success too. Remember, whether you run a 4 minute kilometre or an 8 minute kilometre, you both ran a kilometre!
So when you undertake a new challenge, it is important to source internal motivation. If you focus on yourself and those things that you are doing right you are more likely to keep going. If you see that you are losing a kg every week because of the changes you have made you might be more motivated to keep going even if your friend is losing 2. At the end of the day you are the person who lives with the consequences of your decisions so should you not also be the person that you measure yourself against? Keep a journal with your training and food and weight. Do what I did and geek out with an excel spreadsheet which tracks your progress. Take photos once a month so you can see the differences in your body shape. All of these things will mean that you are measuring your success against no one else but you!
While I am sure that there are many people who would say that it is easy for me to say this because I have made lifestyle change let me tell you. I still find myself comparing myself to others and feeling helpless. What I try to do though is focus on those things which are within my control. When I line up for a race, I cannot control how skinny the guy next to me is or how much training they have done in the lead up to the race. I cannot control how much money they spent on a bike or if they are coached by the greatest coach on the planet. What I can control is how I prepare. I can control how much I weigh when I line up at that start. I can control the fitness and form that I carry into a race. This is why I am so adamant that I am out there racing against myself. I measure myself against myself because it allows me to understand how much I have improved. It keeps me motivated to keep improving. No matter how many races I do, the course will change, the weather will change and the competition will change. I will still be there and I will be the constant that I can use to measure myself against.
So learn to use yourself as a gauge for your improvement. If you find yourself in a situation where you are required to compare yourself to others, either in a race or work situation, just try and remember that you have no control over the other person and if you are going to draw anything from it, try and make it positive. There are a plethora of reasons why things shouldn't be done but if you are able to focus on just one reason, because you want to do it, you will be able to keep going.
Wow I just re-read this and it is a little preachy. But I can't be bothered writing it again. I think it must mean that I am wise now that I am old. I turned 30 on Monday which I keep saying doesn't bother me too much. I don't really think that it does. I say to people that I feel like I lived the first 5 years of my 20's like a 40 year old so does that mean I get to enjoy my 20's for another 5 years? I am ok with it and I am actually excited to see where the next few years lead me. This year is my last year of uni (hopefully forever) and will also see me line up at some big races. I know that I am training harder and smarter than I have before and I am loving incorporating this stuff more and more into my daily life.
So from this wise 30 year old let me wish you a happy week, an amazing year and remind you to TRI!