The one thing that defines sports is progress. Competing in sports is about making your body stronger and fitter, whether it comes from improving your skills or training your endurance – these are all for the sake of progress. Being competitive in sports helps you to continually become a better version of yourself by incorporating discipline and grit.
Having a purpose in anything you do is the key to success, and sports is no exception. Competition gives you purpose because they force you to define your goals and set concrete plans to meet these goals. When we do sports non-competitively, it can be hard to stick to our goals because there’s just no incentive to do so – improvement can always come another day since there’s so many other things to do.
This often leads to some form of fitness-related malaise, where one develops a lax attitude and loses interest in pushing the envelope – a complete turn-about from when things were just starting off. If this is sounding uncomfortably familiar to you, fire up those competitive juices by checking out the tips below:
1. Decide on what kind of competition you want
Competitions aren’t restricted to tournaments or death matches. The concept of competition is that there should be an element of challenge, so the competition could be against yourself. It could be something as simple as breaking your personal best in the squat or running a 5K in under 30 minutes. A friendly fight between your friends is also a good way to introduce some competitive challenge into your fitness plan.
2. Mark your destination and route to achievement
You participate in competitions to win, so it’s necessary for you to lay out your game plan. Decide on specific goals. What sort of timing are you looking at for your marathon? How many goals do you want to score against your friend? With these goals in mind, think of how you’re going to get there. Be realistic but don’t coddle yourself – always aim to do better than what you did previously.
3. Give yourself an incentive to win
Okay, maybe not all of us are hungry for achievement. However, the right incentives will give even the most non-competitive of us the impetus to win. Make these incentives things that you really want so that you’ll actually feel motivated to work towards them.
4. Refresh your routine
The best way to improve is to add new things to your routine. Your body will appreciate the challenge and work harder, which means you’ll improve more in the same amount of time than if you did your same ordinary workouts. Running is one such sport where changing your routine really helps you improve – research has found that running the same routes all the time hinders progress because your body gets used to the routine and stops adapting. There are many ways to add a healthy amount of variety to your training regimen, such as using new equipment, having a change of environment or changing the ratio of power, strength and endurance training.
5. Monitor your progress
Remember the goal-setting mentioned in step 2? These have to be constantly tracked to make sure you’re keeping up. Also, monitor your health levels to see if your training is really benefiting your body. There's no point if your performance metrics improve but it leaves your joints aching all the time.
Very, very few of us can count ourselves among the likes of Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo or Michael Phelps. However, that doesn't mean that we can't learn from their attitudes towards attaining athletic excellence. A healthy amount of friendly competition can set us in the right direction and help us to constantly strive for progress.