image via Vintage Penny Lane
I don’t want to bring up terrible stereotypes, but this one is unfortunately still prevalent in our culture. As women, we’re sometimes taught to shun competition– that being ambitious and working hard to get ahead isn’t ladylike and isn’t in keeping with the universal fellowship of women. I’m all for cheering on your friends and opponents– but to think that we shouldn’t be competitive just because we’re women is total bullshit.
There are times when I get lulled into an attitude of “it’s okay if I’m not the best”– or worse, “there’s no way I can be the best” (this goes mostly for my running, but also for other aspects of my life where being competitive is a good thing). I roll along for a bit, lifeless, going through the motions, and mentally disengaged, and then get upset and depressed when I feel like I’m not living up to my expectations or the expectations of those who I work with or depend on me. It’s the worst feeling in the world.
image via The Celebrity Cafe
I’ve been in this kind of funk with racing for a year now. After college, my races were lackluster, disappointing, and uninspired– because of burnt out or being unhappy with my living situation(s). I barely ran any “personal bests,” I rarely raced, and I was confused. Maybe being a professional runner wasn’t going to be my thing… and maybe I didn’t really care. That spark I had in college seemed to be growing dimmer and dimmer with each race where I failed to live up to my expectations or potential.
And then… I ran a race at my home track at the University of Virginia. The race wasn’t a distance I specialize in, so there was no pressure. It was against mostly college girls, so there were no scary professionals to race against. I was racing in front of a hometown crowd, with old teammates, coaches, and friends there to cheer me on. It was AMAZING. I had no stress, very little anxiety (a bit of nerves is healthy before a race), and so much fun. Best of all– I ran a PB, my fastest time in that event EVER, which proved to myself that a) I was fit! fitter than I’ve ever been! and b) I still had it in me.
What happened? I was actually being competitive! I “remembered” how I used to be a complete badass and totally fearless when I raced and it all came back to me in that race. I wasn’t afraid of racing, I wasn’t afraid of my competition, I just wanted to race to win.
image via Blogspot
I came back to normal training after that race and had a much stronger mental attitude (remember, mental toughness is the biggest fitness challenge I face). I was excited to do all the little exercises and stretches; I felt very zen in my workouts. I had recaptured that college fearlessness and felt like much less of a headcase than I had been the entire year prior. And it was all because I had embraced my competitiveness.
Being competitive is a must for your athletic life. Don’t think of it in negative terms– “I want to demolish that girl I don’t like in spin class” or “If I could just be thinner than that mom I run by in the park, I’d be happy.” Think of competing in terms of goals. If you have a fun set of goals you want to hit, you’ll be more motivated to want to improve in your fitness life– and more willing to do whatever it takes to get there. Find a friendly competitor to push you during your workouts and put yourself in competitive scenarios– races or performances– to get your adrenaline spiking. It will, in turn, make you feel so much more motivated, satisfied, and raring to get back to work when you hit your goals!
image via ffffound
Ignore all those who think you shouldn’t be competitive because you’re a woman. Being a confident and self-assured person– and athlete– is a way to fuse health and happiness. Go out and kick some butt!