The Comparison Game: What will help you improve and what will drive you insane

A friend of mine was asking his runner friends what their favorite training tracker or log was. Apps, watches, etc. were all thrown out there. Personally I don’t use any of the online training upload apps or sites, not that I have anything against them, I just have a love/hate relationship and here’s why.

1) What are you comparing?

Now I’m OCD and I know that about myself. I abstained from buying a Garmin for so long because I can easily turn it into an ugly thing with knowing too many numbers. I know that about myself. But I also know the watch can be a great tool to use. So I bought it and learned how I can ‘safely and sanely’ use it. And yea, I flipping love it.
But I don’t upload stats and pour over the elevation charts, I don’t wear a heart rate monitor I go off of effort, I don’t want to feel like a scientist about my runs. But that’s just ME. Of course hard workout splits I do care much more about, but I don’t look at the splits on my easy days.

But some people LOVE all the stats…that’s cool beans, that’s why they make all those things! I just caution you to compare what matters and what can actually be destructive.

* Fast Hard Workout Splits Matter.
* Fast Easy Run Splits Work Against you.

Make sure you’re able to recover on your easy days so you can NAIL those hard days. Those are what count.

2) Competition for the sake of competition?

Lots of runners are Type-A, a bit OCD, and of course competitive. Now there are things to be competitive about: races, PR’s, etc…but then there are other things that are just dumb and destructive.

If you’re trying to do XXX amount of miles because you want to beat Joe Moe’s total miles at (just pulled that outta my head, not a real site??) then you could wind up injured or overtrained.

They don’t give PR’s or medals to people in training, what matters should be race day. If you’re feeling sucked into wanting to do more for the sake of just doing more stop and ask yourself this:

“What’s in the best interest of my long term running goals?”

Btw…who knows if Joe Moe is even being truthful?
running to win text
3) Motivation versus Pessimistic attitude

Most runners are motivated when they see incredible feats like Meb winning the Boston Marathon!! Hurrah!! But thinking on a more logical scale, seeing what people are doing who are closer to your fitness level, running pace, or age can be just as motivating. If you’ve run with someone and trained frequently with them, if you know you can keep pace with them in a workout and you see they raced XXX you should be feeling quite confident that you, yourself have the ability to race XXX.

The problem is when runners come down with the wrong perspective…namely a pessimistic one. “What the heck, Meb can run a whole marathon faster than I can run a half! Why am I even bothering?!” That’s really just an excuse your brain has for wanting to be lazy and not try at all. 😉

You will probably never beat Meb…yo, honesty policy. But you shouldn’t be comparing yourself to Meb unless you’re on ‘that level’. The motivation of elite runners should come in the way of:
* Running hurts for everyone. The test is pushing YOUR limits.
* Running is fun. If you’re not keeping it that way then that’s sad and find something you are passionate about.
* Compete agains yourself. PR’s are called PERSONAL Records. You set a new one and THAT is something to be proud as heck about.

Keep things in perspective and realize what you SHOULD be comparing your running to and what you shouldn’t. Use any App or community training forum as the positive it can be: a motivating space for people to stay on track and dedicated to their goals.

Emphasis on THEIR…ahem…YOUR GOALS. 😉

1) What do you compare?
2) How do you, and how much do you, use a training log?

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8 thoughts on “The Comparison Game: What will help you improve and what will drive you insane

  1. I have always felt competitive only against myself, especially in running. I am never going to win a marathon (much happier watching someone like Meb who was born to fly) but I love running for its own sake. I love comparing my average times and seeing myself get faster, but I’m not going to get down just because I had a slower day. The next run will come, and maybe it will be faster maybe it won’t, but the important thing is that there is always another run and each is held in its own capsule of awesomeness and gratitude.

    • I really have always respected and admired how well you are able to approach your running, SOO balanced and sane. Trust me, it takes years and years for lots of runners to be as mature as you are! And I’ve been SOOO freaking pumped to watch you continued to build your speed up, Chickpea is flying in her own right!! Best part is you’re only going to keep on improving! 🙂

    • Thanks! and i do think that using them as a running diary is super helpful and in my humble opinion the best way to use them. 🙂

  2. I’m very competitive with myself – I’m learning to stop pushing myself on every single run.
    I do like to have a Garmin because now I don’t have to drive my run after – I hate not knowing how far each run is.

    • another way we’re similar! haha…yea, always the hardest/most competitive on ourselves, right?! but we’re getting smarter and better at that!
      oh man, not knowing how far a run is…that’s just too much for my OCD to handle. 😉

  3. Great reminder! I try to only compare myself to… myself 🙂 Reading about everyday people doing amazing things (like training to run a sub-3 marathon) and then watching people like Meb win Boston motivates me. I’m not comparing myself to them. But watching them dominate a race or put in a 50+ mile training week inspires me to work harder and improve. But I’m certainly not trying to do what they do!

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