A Little Friendly Competition: How Much is Too Much?

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Just enjoying climbing, even while competing, can be easy
sometimes! (D. Herscovitch)
I'm competitive by nature, both with others and with myself. Watching someone else's progress and wanting to equal or surpass it can be enough to push me past what I thought I could do. 

I'll watch another climber work a problem or route I'd tried and failed, watch them complete it, and think, "wow, I can definitely do that!" Or I'll find myself chasing another cyclist on the Schuylkill Trail, catch them, and find someone else to focus my attention on. The feeling I'm playing a game makes things quite a bit more fun, and interesting.
The desire to compete with myself, to best my own past performance, can also be a wonderful motivator. I'll head to the gym for a bouldering session and think, "today, I'm going to do a V4 because the best I've done so far is a V3." Or I'll be on the bike telling myself my average speed after the ride is over needs to be at least 18mph to best last week's time. The problem is, sometime the goals and rules I set and comparison with others are unrealistic and unfair.

Despite how much fun competition can be, it can, o
f course, lead to feelings of inadequacy, which is a problem I've always had with what I perceive as failure. I'll leave the gym without completing a V4 feeling defeated. I'll think, "the other girl I was watching could do it, why couldn't I?" Or, "why couldn't I do better than I did last week?" In reality, going up a grade might not have been a realistic goal, and the other climber might've been working the problem for quite a while. Or she might have simply been a better climber. I'll feel defeated instead of encouraged to try harder next time.

That's the difference between healthy and unhealthy competition. Healthy competition encourages you to push harder than you normally would otherwise, but not to feel shamed and defeated if you don't succeed. It's understanding that you are doing something difficult for you, that you are pushing yourself past what you might have thought possible, or where you might have
been before.

I struggle with this concept, and I'm not quite sure why. I've always set goals and put pressure on myself in even the most mundane situations, which can be a good thing, but can also lead to stress and worry. It was particularly evident in my last year of college swimming. I'd improved immensely over the past three years, but when my senior year rolled around, my attitude set me up for failure. I'd start a race thinking about how I knew all the other swimmers in the pool were faster, and I'd lose before the swim even began. There has to be a healthy balance between wanting to succeed and improve, and the pressure we put on ourselves to do so.


I haven't done a real competition in quite some time, and decided to sign up for the Philadelphia Rock Gym's Annual Midnight Burn Bouldering Competition on Halloween. (Of course, with Nina, my climbing partner in crime!) I signed up because I've wanted to do a comp for quite a while, and thought it might be the last little push I need to move up a grade. Plus, it just sounded like fun! I'm going into it with few, if any, expectations, but of course I won't be satisfied if I don't come in close to the top. But I'm going to do my best to remember it's supposed to be all in fun, and if I don't win, it doesn't mean I'm a failure or a bad climber.

What are some of your competition stories? Does it help or hurt your performance when you compete?

2 comments :

daisie981 said...

Just catching up on your posts. I don't really compare myself at all to other people. That doesn't mean I'm not competitive. I am. Just with myself. I get so focused on my own personal goals that I rarely notice other people.

Also, reaching into my later 20's now, my priorities have changed. Risks that I was more willing to take when I was younger no longer seem that important. I was thinking about this this am in reference to the boulder comp. I used to go for things and not hold back. If I didn't at least try something, I'd get really down on myself.

Now, after doing marathons and that one boulder competition in the past and getting injured, I no longer care about taking those extra risks.

I've been debating this weekend whether or not this is a good thing. Am I just being a wussy and giving into fears? Am I becoming too rigid in protecting myself.

Well, what's been holding me back is fear that I will get injured and not being able to do the things I love.

This is also why I've backed off marathon training. It takes such a huge toll on my body. What if I push myself to that next level and wreck my knee.

With instructing classes now a big part of my social (and financial life), taking these extra risks endagers that as well. If I sprain my ankle while bouldering, I won't be able to teach for at least a month. That won't just affect me, but all the ppl at the gym who are becoming dependent on me.

But this thinking always leads me back to: are these just excuses? Am I just afraid?

I think it's both. For me, I'm just going to have to decide what risks are worth it and what are not.

After seeing the amazing boulderers and the comp, and seeing what ppl can do, I def feel more inspired to take risks.

This leads back to your point a little: when if they can take those chances, I can too and not get badly injured. I just have to be more careful/aware about how to fall, where I'm going to fall, etc.

Hmm, maybe I should write a whole post about this too.

daisie981 said...

Just catching up on your posts. I don't really compare myself at all to other people. That doesn't mean I'm not competitive. I am. Just with myself. I get so focused on my own personal goals that I rarely notice other people.

Also, reaching into my later 20's now, my priorities have changed. Risks that I was more willing to take when I was younger no longer seem that important. I was thinking about this this am in reference to the boulder comp. I used to go for things and not hold back. If I didn't at least try something, I'd get really down on myself.

Now, after doing marathons and that one boulder competition in the past and getting injured, I no longer care about taking those extra risks.

I've been debating this weekend whether or not this is a good thing. Am I just being a wussy and giving into fears? Am I becoming too rigid in protecting myself.

Well, what's been holding me back is fear that I will get injured and not being able to do the things I love.

This is also why I've backed off marathon training. It takes such a huge toll on my body. What if I push myself to that next level and wreck my knee.

With instructing classes now a big part of my social (and financial life), taking these extra risks endagers that as well. If I sprain my ankle while bouldering, I won't be able to teach for at least a month. That won't just affect me, but all the ppl at the gym who are becoming dependent on me.

But this thinking always leads me back to: are these just excuses? Am I just afraid?

I think it's both. For me, I'm just going to have to decide what risks are worth it and what are not.

After seeing the amazing boulderers and the comp, and seeing what ppl can do, I def feel more inspired to take risks.

This leads back to your point a little: when if they can take those chances, I can too and not get badly injured. I just have to be more careful/aware about how to fall, where I'm going to fall, etc.

Hmm, maybe I should write a whole post about this too.