Some competition in fitness can be a good thing, but like most things — it’s only good in moderation.
I used to treat my training sessions like competitive events. I’d continually push myself and didn’t think a workout was really a “workout” unless it left me lying in a heap on the ground.
That style of high intensity training gave me huge benefits, as it promotes a hormonal response that targets fast-twitch muscle fibres and boosts metabolism. And I enjoyed those benefits for a good few years.
But after a while it started to catch up with me…
Continually driven to compare myself against the standards of far-younger people, I pushed myself until my recovery suffered. My cortisol (the stress hormone) was in overdrive, my sleep patterns were poor and I was struggling.
Worst of all, my results suffered. I wan’t going forwards, I was beating myself up to go backwards.
Here’s the thing: high intensity training and competition is great. But it needs to be contrasted with periods of intermediate and lower intensity training — and proper recovery. And even the high intensity stuff (interval training, hill sprints, etc.) has to be done at the level appropriate for the individual.
You only need the appropriate level of intensity to produce the desired physiological adaptations (and therefore results). Anything more is overkill.
The rise of group-fitness classes naturally leads to peer pressure and competition, even if it’s not the stated goal of the program. Classes do provide a ton of benefits, including support, encouragement and camaraderie.
But if you’re in such a program, just be aware that you’re there to challenge yourself, not to necessarily keep up with everyone else. And to challenge yourself safely.
I’m proud of the way we approach our small-group training sessions at the StrengthBox in Toronto. We work hard, for sure — but we cooperate more than compete.
Our trainers know that peer pressure can cause people to go beyond their safe limits (when the positivity of the group is not properly directed), and they’re quick to step in and suggest modifications.
Train at your own level. Challenge yourself for sure. But maybe save the competition for true athletic events.
PS: If you’re in the Toronto area, be sure to schedule a FREE fitness consultation and class at the StrengthBox in East York.
PPS: With due respect to some of the good CrossFit coaches out there … this self-parody video made me laugh 🙂