Caught up in comparisons?

Kate chasing after other athletes at the end of a 5,000m race.

5 tips to break the cycle

Have you recently found yourself unmotivated, unsatisfied and perhaps unsure of next steps? Yeah, me too …

For about three weeks following our trip to Australia, I was in a funk. I couldn’t concentrate on work and every run felt like a chore – it was a struggle to get out the door some days. Easy runs felt hard, and my perceived rate of exertion (effort) for workouts was far higher than normal. I had taken a week off after Worlds, which likely contributed to the sluggish return to training as my body got back into routine.

So, there absolutely were training and physical adaptation aspects involved here. We don’t always feel our best coming off down time and ramping up mileage and intensity again. I just don’t remember it ever taking quite so long to get back into a groove.

I was out for a run when it dawned on me. I caught myself feeling resentful towards runners I know, and jealous towards Instagram runners and influencers I don’t even know and realized – I got caught up in the comparison trap.

I was coming back to training alongside fit and professional athletes in the middle of their builds. I fell and felt behind everyone else. And every time I opened Instagram, another athlete was opening a brand-new spring kit and running and personal best. Meanwhile, I had just spent over $700 on three pairs of racing and training shoes and bombed a workout.

It is human nature to not always be completely satisfied with what we have and to always strive for the next or bigger thing. Also, social media facilitates constant comparisons with the click of a button.

Quite frankly, sport and life are rampant with the culture of comparison. The adage that “comparison is the thief of joy” absolutely has merit. Comparing ourselves to others steals the satisfaction we have with our own life. We perceive that others have more wealth, success, skill, or happiness, for example, which kickstarts a damaging internal dialogue that we are inadequate.

To shut down the comparison cycle, we must make a conscious effort to not let our minds run away with this negative narrative. Here are five tips to re-center yourself and feel grounded again!

  1. Practice self-compassion and gratitude
    Write down your strengths, what you’re most proud of and recent accomplishments. We are all unique in what skills and abilities we bring to the table. The more we can embrace and appreciate what our bodies can do, the healthier we can approach training and performance. Even taking a moment to be grateful for the “little things” in life can brighten your outlook.
  2. Reflect on your journey to this point
    What challenges have you overcome? What goals have you reached? How are you progressing towards your current goals?
    I find that looking through my training log provides the personal validation that I sometimes need – to see that I am putting in work every day towards achieving my goals. I gain confidence from the visual reminder that I can do hard things and hit “x” pace in “y” workout. It’s also important to remember that no two people will have the exact same path towards any goal. You’re going your own way! – Cue Fleetwood Mac
  3. Take a break from social media
    Delete any platform that leaves you feeling unhappy or insufficient. Unfollow accounts that do not bring you joy or trigger unhealthy comparisons. Taking a break from social media can allow you to focus on the tangible things that bring you happiness in real life instead of being constantly bombarded by highlight reels.
  4. Talk about it with a buddy
    Chances are, if you speak with a friend who knows you well, they’ll be able to lift your spirits in no time. Friends often offer the best pep talks and can always remind you how awesome you are!
  5. Keep showing up
    Motivation and confidence can take a hit from seeing others who are perceivably better off. But you’ll be able to break the funk by continuing to show up, proving to yourself that you are capable and seeing progress.
    Finally, after about four weeks, I am feeling more like myself again and am bringing better energy to workouts and my writing. Once I was able to focus on and appreciate my strengths (instead of lamenting over my perceived weaknesses), I saw positive results.

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, try your best to tie your identity and self-worth to who you are (values, beliefs, lifestyle choices, biological history, education) and not just to what you do (sport, profession).


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Oats and Grit are two fundamental ingredients that fuel endurance athletes in high performance sport.

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