Why do you run? Ask a group of female runners this question and some of the answers that might pop up are ‘to stay in shape’, ‘to socialise’, ‘for headspace.’ All of these things are really valid reasons to want to run, but how many women will say ‘to win races’? When we are used to, and expected, to take the back seat, it can be hard to admit that we actually want to come out on top over a field of competitors. Here’s four reasons why having a competitive edge can help you progress as a runner
Running doesn’t only have to be about losing weight and taking part. It is more than ok to want to win, to push yourself and feel like you want to beat other people.
Yes, you might hear fighting talk amongst elite female athletes for whom running is their career, but for recreational runners, the talk is usually a little more subdued. Find your inner competitor and reap the benefits.
Pushes you out of your comfort zone
A study conducted by Yale researchers found that the only time we learn is when there is uncertainty in our emotions. When something is too comfortable and familiar, it does not challenge us to grow.
Taking risks, regardless of the outcome = growth. Stepping out of that comfort zone will also help you deal with change, building resilience. The unexpected will always happen, not just in racing and training situations but inevitably in life. Being able to go outside your comfort zone in a controlled way – that is, you are choosing to do it – will help you cope when situations occur outside of your control.
Keeps you motivated
When you are striving towards a particular goal, being competitive can help keep you on track, determined to make improvement. One study found that competition is the BEST workout motivator compared with social support.
“Competition motivated participants to exercise overwhelmingly more than social support. In fact, attendance rates were 90% higher in the competition-motivated group.”
If you struggle to motivate yourself to commit to training, then adding in an element of competition might just be the reward you need.
There was always another woman in my age category at parkrun that I could never quite pip to the finish line – trying to beat her was what motivated me to push and push and push, running faster than I would have done had she not been there.Ruth, GRTW content writer
Improves brain function
A New York Times article investigating the traits of ‘superagers’ (older people who are mentally sharp) points towards the idea that in order to keep your brain function young, you need to perform difficult tasks, physical or mental. And these things should feel uncomfortable in the moment, just like that final 400 metres of a race when you are trying to beat the person in front of you in the red vest who you’ve been chasing for the last mile.
‘…If people consistently sidestep the discomfort of mental effort or physical exertion, this restraint can be detrimental to the brain. All brain tissue gets thinner from disuse. If you don’t use it, you lose it.’
Read more here on why trail running is great for brain function in midlife female runners
Builds confidence and self-esteem
Even if we are not very good at shouting about our achievements, how good does it feel when you find out you were first in your age category at a race? Or when your parkrun time comes through and you bagged a new PB? And while we might not be shouting about it from a podium, these achievements do matter and will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the confidence we have in our abilities.
And if you’re wondering if men are more competitive than women…
Data from the Big Running Survey suggests that the difference between men and women’s competitiveness is caused by differences in perception of talent – women don’t compete because they don’t think they are good enough.
So really, it is a confidence issue, not a lack of ability.
Being competitive does not always have to be about beating someone else – competing with yourself can drive you to work on getting better at something – be that getting faster, stronger, or more consistent. Our biggest competitor can be ourselves. If you are looking to train for a specific goal or event, read here on how to choose the perfect training plan.
(But it is ok to admit that you want to beat your partner at parkrun on Saturday)
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