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The Importance of Being Competitive

Being competitive is often seen as a negative thing. No doubt you have heard that you shouldn’t compare yourself to others, just do it for yourself. Well this is true and healthy in certain areas of life, but it shouldn’t be used universally for everything that you do. The world has become too politically correct, where kids playing sports at a young age are not even allowed to keep score because it upsets the losing team or athletes.

In sports performance that is bullshit. Usain Bolt would not be breaking world records by such a margin if competition and a drive to win were not a motivating factor for him. The same goes for everyone else. You NEED a healthy competitive streak. Nothing motivates a person more than than the desire to win and the fear of losing. Competition and comparison is what drives people to the upper limit of their potential.

How Does Competition Enhance Performance?

When you train on your own and without comparison against others you have no way of knowing how well you are progressing. Your own judgement is often highly inaccurate. Competitive athletes obviously have exposure to a competitive environment by default. But even so, they are not always in that environment.

Without comparison your brain has no subconscious leverage to drive you towards maximum improvement. Introduce competition and the results are almost instant. An athlete that can sprint 100m in training in a time of 10.50 is likely to run that same distance in 10.20 or faster while racing against athletes of the same level or greater. The survival instinct in our brains compels us to outdo our competition.

Competition is necessary for performance enhancement. Everyone that is striving for greater performance should introduce a competitive aspect.

Introducing Competition

Most athletes participate in regular competition. That’s exactly what sport is. However it is often not quite enough. Athletes can benefit from competition in the training setting as well as through remote competition such as comparing one’s results to others via remote communication such as email, social media, blogs, forums etc.

Non athletes and athletes that are not regularly competing can often go a little stale in their training. There is no instinctive leverage or urge to rapidly enhance performance and win.

This can be solved through informal of formal competition. The following are a few ways to incorporate competition into your training in order to enhance performance….

  • Train with athletes of a similar level. If you’re a 22 second 200m sprinter then train with others that have are capable of similar times. Be competitive with each other. Aim to outdo each other regularly.
  • Remotely compare your performance with others. You may not have actual training partners of a similar ability. So compare yourself remotely via forums, social media etc. Share results for comparison, be truthful and develop the drive to win.
  • Compare yourself to the best athletes in the world, regardless of the massive gap in performance. Think of Tyson Gay as your rival for example. Compare yourself to him and aim to beat him, even if it seems far-fetched.
  • Publicly declare your intent to perform at a particular level. For example, use facebook to tell everyone that you will run an 11 second 100m. Always set a difficult goal, one that is extremely difficult to reach but not impossible. Post your intentions on facebook so that backing down or slacking off will make you look silly. It’s a way of burning bridges so that you have no choice but to achieve the desired outcome. It’s not competition perse, however it works in similar ways.
  • If you don’t already do it, start competing in organised competitions. If you’re a sprinter then register for as many races as you can. If you’re a rugby player then play as much rugby as you can. Nothing drives performance like actual competition.

Long story short, being competitive and comparing yourself to others is useful in performance enhancement. Aim to be competitive on a regular basis. It drives you forward while also keeping tabs on your progress.

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YOUR COACH – Chris Lyons

Chris Lyons is an experienced strength and conditioning coach, having trained athletes of all ages and levels since 2002. Chris specialises in coaching athletes for speed and power specific to fast-moving sports such as rugby league, rugby union, soccer, Aussie rules football etc. Since 2002 Chris has conducted close to 15,000 hours of training and coaching directly with athletes and members of the general population. From this experience comes Sprint Ninja, based on tried and tested training methods combined with up to date research. Chris continues to challenge himself not only as a coach, but also as an athlete, competing in sprinting events, strongman and Olympic-style weightlifting.

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