Are You Too Competitive With Yourself?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Last week, I was talking to my co-workers about the 10K race I ran on Thanksgiving. Until recently, I always enjoyed races--the crowds cheering, meeting new people along the course, feeling good about my accomplishments, etc. But all of a sudden, I'm not experiencing those same positive feelings. I think I need to change my attitude about racing, but I'm just not sure how to go about it.

My last marathon experience was not the greatest. I tried to put a good spin on it, writing a blog about how I was a success even though I didn't reach my goal. But honestly, that's not quite how I felt. For most of the marathon, I had an internal conversation with myself about how I wasn't doing well. I wasn't going as fast as I'd hoped, wasn't feeling good, and frankly, I didn't have a good attitude about the whole thing. I spent a lot of time beating myself up for not being better. Consequently, I missed out on a lot of the excitement of the crowd and the interesting sites of the city because I was too busy thinking about other things.

I thought maybe these thoughts and feelings were just a fluke that I needed to shake off. I decided to run a 10K on Thanksgiving, and registered just a few days before the race. No pressure, and not much time to build up expectations and stress about how I'd do, right? Wrong. As soon as the race started, I felt the same way I'd felt during the marathon a month before. And once again, I didn't enjoy myself. Rather, I beat myself up because my time was 3 minutes slower than my fastest 10K a few years ago.

I've thought about retiring from racing for a while, and just running for the fun of it. But I'm someone who likes goals to work toward. I like having a training plan to follow, I like pushing myself during training runs and I like the sense of accomplishment a race provides. I just don't want races to become something negative in my life instead of a positive experience. I wear a Garmin when I run, and I also think that might be an issue. I can look down at any point in the race and see how fast I'm going, which means I'm constantly evaluating my progress. I don't have these feelings when I'm training or just out running for the fun of it. So I think the watch is okay most of the time, but maybe just not on race day?

Are you competitive with yourself? Have there been times when you push yourself to get faster, work harder, lose more weight, or make other improvements- and it's taken a negative turn? What did you do about it?

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So competitive with myself, it is a problem Report
METAFUKARI 8/20/2020
Yes, too competitive with myself Report
1CRAZYDOG 7/27/2020
For sure, I know I'm much more critical of my own performance than others. If someone else performed in the same way as me, I'd have praise. But for ME, I see what could have, should have, would have been. Trying to work on that. Report
MUSICNUT 7/3/2020
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
USMAWIFE 5/25/2020
yep I am. lol Report
KHALIA2 3/4/2020
Thanks!!!!!!! Report
TRAVELGAL417 2/7/2020
Yes, I am. I have to be aware. I get injured if I don't. Report
CHERYLHURT 12/22/2019
When I was young. Report
KHALIA2 11/6/2019
Thanks for sharing this one! Report
KHALIA2 10/30/2019
Great Article! Thanks! Report
Thank you Report
Great blog! Report
Trying to stick to my plan. Report
I can relate. I personally have to leave my garmin at home when I race. Just so I can focus on the race and surroundings. It has really helped. Report
I ran a half marathon in October 2009. I had run the same race in 2008 and had a PR on the course, so when I ran it in 2009, I promised myself to beat the previous PR. In fact, I did beat it and have a new PR, but the cost was great. When running it in 2008, it was fun and 2009, I did NOT have fun! :( And that is one of my major goals in running. I have now resolved to train a little harder and remind myself to just enjoy the experience. I want to still love doing this in 32 years....when I am 65! Report
I am competitive with myself with respects to a lot of things. I am always pushing myself to be faster when I walk or run. I haven't necessarily seen negative affects with regards to that, but I have with my eating. I am trying to lose weight and then I start eating healthy and want to make a difference, then it back fires because I am not getting enough calories or the right foods to help make the process go better. I think you need to have a competitive spark with yourself, but you have to find the balance where its not going to affect your goals.

Thank you for sharing. Report
When I felt that way, I took a break from running. I actually took a two year break and found some other activity like strength training and going to the Y. Someone told me that maybe a sign of over training. I just started back almost two years now and really feel good. Report
I am not competitive with myself but with others that is another story. I am fine running or jogging along at a slow pace until someone wants to try to win boy oh boy I am in there. Report
I like the idea of leaving the watch at home on race day. Report
I've reached the point in my life where running is 90% physical and 10% mental, having been born in the first half of the last century.

Major injuries have come back to haunt me, but my brain is still pretty good.

In high school, I had a great running coach. Running long distances day after day in order to compete with others in Cross Country, I reached a point where the harder I tried, the worse my results.

My coach changed my training completely to his 'Apache' Training. He increased my total daily distance by 50%, but had me counting steps. Run hard for 100 steps, jog or walk as quickly as I could for 50 steps.

I continued to run at meets, running the whole distance. The first meet after my changed training, I didn't do worse than the meet before.

The courses changed every week, but my times began to get better, and better, and better.

The last meet of the season, I felt so charged up I started with the 'rabbits', and when they started falling off, I just kept running. I had the best run, and more fun, than I had all year long.

The other thing I started believing in is Coach's claim that Apache Indians could run down wild horses. Horses have great speed for a mile or two, then they stop or walk slowly. By cutting the corners and continually keeping the horse moving, they could walk up to a horse and put a bridal on it.

The next year was the most fun I ever had. Apache Training one week and distance training the next. I never broke any records, but the fun in running came back just because, I think, I was having fun again. Report
I am definitely my worst critic! For instance, I am constantly working to run longer and faster on my morning runs. I tell myself beforehand that the point is just to keep my heart rate up for 30 minutes and nothing more, but once I get going, I want to do more more more! Sometimes it's a good thing though. Whenever I try and run 10K on the treadmill, I usually get tired and want to stop halfway through, but my stubbornness keeps me going as I tell myself "I set a goal to run 10K this morning, and I'm not stopping until I do!" Report
As soon as I hit my 50lb goal, I STOPPED! Yes, just stopped! I didn't great until I hit that 50 and the last two weeks before I hit it, I was unstoppable and then boom! I hit my first 50 and that was it! I didn't quit, i just stopped. Stopped trying so hard, stop working out like I was, stopped watching my calories as much, and booml..............I have gained 10lbs!! I am stuck and I am not sure if it has to do with hitting that first goal or what, but I am stuck! I can't seem to get myself back to where I was and that makes me fear setting another goal to work towards! HMMM........great blog! Really made me think! Report
Great Blog! I work on knowing what "enough" is for me. There's a certain amount of exercise and paying attention to my diet that is "enough" and then there is working too hard at it and not having any fun or injuring myself. As soon as my competitive streak pops up I remind myself of all the times in my past that I burnt out. Why force myself to run in the rain just because it's a training day? The more often my sessions are fun the more I want to do it. The more competitive I get, the less happy I am. There's a balancing point that is "enough" and that is the magical amount that I'm looking for. Report
I felt like i wrote this blog....ive been feeling the same way,ive gained a little weight but im still struggling right now but i know running is 90% in the mind and 10% physical....just gotta work through it.JUST RUN:) Report
I am very competitive with myself. I always make sure I add time on to all of my exercises, add new ones, I find sometimes I do go beyond the point where I should have stopped, or exercise when I'm too tired, but need to "mark it" in my book or on my calendar. I can't leave an empty space. It seems like anything I take on, I go all out, whatever it may be! Report
I believe it's all about balance. Me, I should probably be a bit more competitive with myself, but as Spark has said (and I do love the concept and think it key to achieving success), each of us is an experiment of one. We must each find what works individually, with a little (a lot) help from our friends, especially Spark! Report
I'm not a runner, but I can relate to the article. I've beat up on myself for not achieving a specific goal. I have to admit that for the majority of the time, I punished myself, other times I would just forge ahead and tell myself I will succeed and master whatever it is because I didn't want to feel defeated. The majority of the time this happens is when the scale doesn't move which can be disasterous. Report
I am competitive with myself but to some extent that may be healthy. I push myself to do better reach my goals exceed my goals all the time. Not only when it comes to losing weight and exercise but when it comes to all parts of my life. It becomes a problem when you are so busy trying to out do what you did the last time that you can no longer enjoy what it is your are doing. It sounds to me like this is the problem you are now having. Stop fall back and reset some goals. Maybe you need to cut back on the running and pick something else to focus on for awhile. If you are putting yourself through this much stress and agony even though what you are doing is good for your body it is not healthy for you mentally and emotionally. Start enjoying what you are doing again and let some of the competitiveness go. Report
Are you competitive with yourself? Is this a euphemism for Perfectionist? If so, the answer is YES!

Have there been times when you push yourself to get faster, work harder, lose more weight, or make other improvements- and it's taken a negative turn? Yes. I pushed myself when I got to the point in my weight loss that I was eating more than I needed, and working out to compensate for those extra calories. That extra exercise led to exhaustion, which finally forced me to ask for help from my support group. I got immediate response from my therapist, who had me sign up for a Binge Eating class, told me to stop journaling for a while (I was being obsessive about my calorie intake and exercise), and to stop performing any exercise that I didn't absolutely love: I ditched the gym workouts and kept walking the dog; I stayed off the elliptical for a while and went for more bike rides and hikes. I also had a medication review (I hadn't had one in three years, and during that time I'd lost 240 pounds!), which led to some changes in the Rx I was taking. Once I changed my routine for a while, I got out of that unhealthy cycle and began to make better choices. I still struggle with the Perfectionism, but I have the support of a great team behind me. Report
My advice (for what it's worth....I'm not a runner) is to forget the Garmin on race day. Go out & enjoy yourself & just do your best. Who knows? You might surprise yourself!

Thanks for the blog! I have a good friend that's a runner, & she's constantly beating herself up, too. Relax & enjoy! Report
I am a very slow runner, who is begining the long process or training for a 5K. I run for the joy that it gives me. I would love to run a marathon in the future, but I am taking this one step at a time and enjoying my runs.

Have started a beginners book on running where the author talks about accepting where you are and who you are in the process. There will be ups and downs. It is the joy of running that keeps people going. I am not saying that setting goals and being competitive is not important. Doing your best and making the best race possible for you on that day is just as important.

I know that on race day that I may not be anywhere near the front of the pack (most possibly in you rearview mirror :-) ), but I will be cheering for you and your success.

JS Report
I am just the opposite in this case. I am trying to bring out my competitive juices more. Usually things like running were things that I did with the intention of just finishing or finishing in a particular required time. In the case of the latter my goal was just to pass and not so much worry about how well as long as I met the standard. Now I wonder how good I can actually be at something and the only way I feel I can reach that goal is to be a bit more competitive and challenge myself. Report
I am not much of competitive with myself, however, I find myself competing with other people when it comes to intellect. All my life a lot of people think because I am deaf I am also dumb. So I have to prove to those people that this is not true therefore I have to compete with others to show I can do things as well or better than them intellectually. Report
It strikes me that perhaps you have reached what you can achieve in terms of speed and may need to look at other kinds of goals. Maybe focus on flexibility this year, or endurance. Or make a goal to try out a new type of exercise each month. Or a goal to see how much you can raise in your favorite charity race. Something to mix it up, refocus and use your competitiveness to your advantage.

Thanks for being so honest! Report
I have also had to work on this problem. I would go to the gym and make myself miserable by always trying to outdo myself. I have had to learn how to stay focused on why I am working out in the first place. Report
I'm too competitive, period. I realize this now, after 24 years lol. I thought it was just my mentality, you know, to want to win and be victorious. But after playing a friendly card game with friends and seeing their reactions to my fervor, that's when I realized the competitive spirit in me goes too far.

Sure, nobody likes to lose, even if the competition is with yourself (in which case I think it makes you want to win all the more), but sometimes you have to stop, look at yourself, and say "IT'S NOT THAT SERIOUS." There will always be a chance to try again if you lose or you are otherwise unsuccessful. And if you don't ever get that chance, as long as you make sure you give it all you've got on the first go-around, you can look back and say "I did the best I could and that's good enough for me." Report
Don't think I am. I am just trying to stick with my plan. Of course, I am still on step 1. Maybe it will change in time. Report
I so agree with you. I am such a competitive person, both with those around me and myself. I completely understand where you are coming from. If you figure out a way to solve that, by all means spread the love. LOL!!! Report
I used to be that way, but I'm not anymore, or at least not as much. I think it is partly because I have so many things to fill up my days with, that I just don't spend as much time thinking about any one thing. I'm not sure this is entirely a good thing, because some days I am almost paralyzed by an inability to choose one thing among the many things I could do, and just do it.

The other thing is that I exercise (run, walk, bike, strength train) for multiple reasons (e.g., general health, weight loss, protecting and conserving my bone mass, maintaining or improving my strength), so even if I am disappointed by my time in a race (I came in last on my first 8K), I can still feel very good about what I've accomplished relative to my other goals. It was my first 8K (!), and regardless of speed, it still counts for weight loss and bone mass, setting a good example for my children, and so on.

I think you're PRETTY AMAZING, and I'm sorry that you don't feel the same way about your marathon performance. I was really impressed that you could keep up such a steady pace for so long a time, but I know you want more. Being a working mother of little ones must take its toll on your physical strength, energy, and the amount of time you have for training. Would you consider adjusting your goal for a set period of time, until say, your youngest is in preschool or kindergarten? That may help take the pressure off so you can enjoy just being where you are, for the time being.

Good luck, and hugs!
Janet Report
I ran my first 5K at age 52 in September. I did it in 40 minutes. I was extremely disappointed. But my son pointed out, the course was the toughest he'd ever been on because it was almost completely uphill. Not many people are able to say, I ran a 5K at age 52. I'm still disappointed but at least I realize I'm blessed to be able to run let alone walk. When I put it in that perspective, then I think "who the heck am I to be disappointed?" I mean really! Thanks for sharing. Report

As I was reading your blog, I kept thinking of John, and how he ran his second half marathon as a guide for a blind person who wanted to run. Maybe if you tried something like this, it would allow you to run the race . . . but really take the pressure off yourself because it is all about the other person you are helping. I put a link to his blog (above) that describes the experience. Even if you don't do this experience, the blog is amazing to read and can change your perspective. The person who was blind actually had a reaction to a medication - life can change at any time, so we really need to appreciate what we have right now.

Your honesty in this blog is admirable, and helps the rest of us know that these feelings are real and not mean we are any less of a person for having them (and I've had them too). Thank you for being a coach we can look up to and appreciate.

Judi Report
Great article, Jen Mueller,
I admire your honesty and your ambition.
I normally do 10 km run and did 21 km once and
discovered that running is not me.
Having problem with my spinal discs, I avoid hiimpact sport as such andturn to triathlete event.
It's more enjoyable and adventurous for me.
Just to race with myself and yet be grateful for what I could achieve, regardless of health problem.
Try it you'll like it.

Yankeeroj Report
GREAT catalyst for introspection... Thank You.

Highly competitive, yes I am in passions such as table tennis and Trivial Pursuit... Yet...
there is a yin and yang love of running and competing within myself that I feel when I run. Granted, this is a new passion for me, but I don't want to burn out and fade away from the simply sweet rush of confidence I have garnered within my minimal experience. Race day is a rush. A full on RUSH of adrenalin and CONFIDENCE that I never thought I could embrace within my insecurities.

I have no desire to push myself any harder yet. 10ks and Half Marathons are entities that are only in the dreamy distant distance for me.

I yearn to hone where I am. I race only against myself at this point in my time.
Yes ! I do indeed have a push yourself harder attitude.
I feel so good when I tell myself "you can do this"
and of course I get the job done. many people I have came into contact with wants to know what is my drive? and I tell them "I put out my personal best" It's just in me to do better and to work harder. Report
It seems that running really feeds uor competative side. I am very competative and have become very fond of running. I sign-up for as many races as I can Report
I am very competitive with my self.. In fact, i developed an eating disorder because of my need for perfection.. Report
I tried training for a half marathon - I was supposed to do it with a Spark friend. I overtrained, in the wrong shoes, and totally messed up my foot - I ended up in an orthopedic bootie and physical therapy for 3 months. I attended the halfie and cheered on my friend - but I also learned that I shouldn't walk 9 miles in Birkenstocks. Report
I bet a whole bunch of us Sparkers are competitive, especially with ourselves. I easily become addicted to excercise, too. I have to watch that because my back is starting to bother me. Report
I am very competitive with myself, much less toward others so I know what you are feeling. When I get like this, I have to remind myself why I started in the first place, to be the best me, ON THAT DAY, that I can be. This makes sense to me since some days are naturally better than others down to the weather,. Sun does not happen every day. which is the best type of weather for me. Hope this helps you think about your dilemma in another way. Report