Feb 11, 2012
At my gym, there’s a new member that is working hard to get into shape. Not a day passes where he doesn’t ask me how fast I run on the treadmill, or how much weight I’m able to do on a given exercise. He then pits my level of fitness against his own, and perhaps – to some extent – uses it as motivation.
But comparing yourself to others is a dangerous game that doesn’t always yield healthy results. Because of his age and health conditions, it’s unlikely that the aforementioned individual will be able to run at my 11.3 MPH treadmill pace. And if he tries – which he has – he’s likely to injure himself (though he hasn’t yet). Moreover, over time, the process can be physiologically defeating and take the wind out of any workout’s sails.
Comparing yourself to yourself, however, can be much more effective. When you hit the gym, it’s not about how much resistance or weight the man next to you is able to move – it’s about how much weight you are able to move relative to your own goals. What the people around you are doing is irrelevant – each of those individuals has a different health history, age, goals, etc. than you. What you are doing, on the other hand, is very relevant.
If you are looking to increase the amount of weight you bench press, for example, then your point of comparison is your last few chest workouts (and not the bodybuilder lifting next to you). If you’re looking to maintain muscle mass, then look no further than the mirror, your BMI and fitness history.
My point is this: Whatever your goals, use yourself (and not other people) as a reference point. It’s safer, healthier and far more effective.