When it comes to seeing results in the gym why does the grass always seems greener on the other side, or so it would seem? People want results and more specifically I see them more focused on trying to duplicate other’s results and not create a unique goal for themselves. This especially seems to ring true when it comes to those just starting out or those a little further away from their overall fitness ideal. It’s always encouraged myself and others I train to have goals, but to let those goals become absorbed in envy is a mistake.
I think people in general will always compare themselves to others to some degree. I am on the extreme end of the comparison game and am always in a battle with it, I am always comparing myself to others. It’s OK. I’m getting better at it and am always learning from it. I think the most interesting thing I have found is that the activities I feel most compelled to play the comparison game with are the same sort of activities that I have shown promise in. What this does is keeps me small, keeps me unnoticed but it also does not allow me to shine.
I had previously been doing more of a bodybuilding type routine. I had gained decent size and strength but I was looking for something very different. That different type of training I found was powerlifting. I’ve been at it roughly 9 months with this new style and philosophy and it has brought with it new exercises, new programs and of course new challenges.
Powerlifting is hard. You’re trying to move an object that does not want to be moved. It’s called Powerlifting, not lightlifting or moderatelifting for a reason, it’s hard work. It’s not only hard but very very technical. When you break down a squat or a deadlift there are over a dozen things going on to make that a successful and safe lift. Previously I thought these guys were all just strong, but when I looked at the best at it, it was their form and technique that really separated the heard.
Trying to get stronger and stronger all the time can be brutal, but for me the biggest battle is still the comparison game I play. What does this comparison game do? It rattles my confidence, breaks my concentration and does not allow me to enjoy any victories in the gym. Does this sound familiar to any of you?
If I set a PR I immediately shift my focus to find and name everyone who is stronger than me. I’m not saying I’m hoisting world records, but I have steadily improved and have not let myself enjoy it. In fact, I’ve barely acknowledged it until just recently.
“EVERYONE is lifting more than me!” runs through my head as I am so intent on proving this truth I fail to recognize that the 70 year old man whom I say hello to every morning at the gym is doing some sort of stiff armed butt-up in the dip machine. He’s wrong but adorable. If it is your belief that everyone around you is stronger its funny how your mind will try and find ways to prove this belief, regardless if it is accurate or not. Could everyone around me be stronger? Chances are probably not good. Even though I am starting to catch myself in this comparison game its still a very hard thing to control, but it can be done.
Example – A while back I set a new PR in the bench press of 225. Two big plates on each side is a big step. Its very psychological and its a very proud moment when you start putting those big plates on. What did I do after I hit 225? I immediately looked for someone who could do 230 or more. I did not stop until I could validate the belief that most if not all people at my gym were stronger than me, that my new PR meant nothing.
This is an absolute lie. Like I said before this gets easier and easier to spot with practice but it’s very hard to break the habit. I may not play this unfair game every time I hit a new gym goal but I do it enough for others to notice the pattern.
“You’re too hard on yourself.”
“Take a moment and enjoy your success!”
“You absolutely crushed it today! Good job!”
Occasionally I will let myself enjoy it. I know I am getting better with the self-talk, but it takes time. It takes A LOT of time.
So what can you do to start winning some of these battles and stop comparing yourself to others? Here are some things that have helped me:
- Acknowledge this feeling – As soon as you feel yourself comparing yourself to others acknowledge it, name it and move forward. If you do not acknowledge this feeling you cannot possibly stand up to it. Once you stand up to it you will see that it will easily run away and hide.
- Write down your accomplishments- This does not have to be just fitness accomplishments, it can be anything of value anything you’ve really really had to work for. Everyone wants to write down goals and goals are good, but do not forget all the things you have already done. Write them down, look at them. See, you are capable of greatness.
- Clear your mind prior to the gym if at all possible – Deep breathing for 2 minutes with eyes closed, focus on what sort of good things you want from your gym session.
- Develop tunnel vision – When I am doing squats I focus on a bench that is directly across from me and rarely used. If that is not available I find a spot on the wall just to the side of it and focus my energy on that. I take a few deep breaths and block out everything around me.
- Tell yourself no one is watching you- Get over yourself. Not everyone is there to watch you. Tell yourself over and over and over.
- Write down your goals for that workout- This is another focus tool. I write down target weight I want to lift as well as target reps for each and every exercise and set before I even enter the gym. If you are focused on the task at hand you will tend not to care as much about what is going on around you.
Know that you are not alone. Self-comparison is something most of us do at some time in our lives, but it can and will get better with practice. Maybe you have more positives going on with your workout routine than you think. Maybe there’s someone at the gym that’s envious of you and your body. It’s all about perspective. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side.