How To Use Self-Competition For Fitness Motivation

A reality check is coming for millions of people in about a week or so. Their New Year’s fitness goals will hit a speed bump. Sadly, that first speed bump is the beginning of the end. Research indicates 92% of all goals fail.

Most goals are fueled by emotion. I can last about a week before my emotional tank hits empty and the goal no longer feels worth the effort. I’ve written about this a lot and I always recommend you prepare in advance for when the emotions fade. And, they always do!

That burst of emotion at the start of a new fitness goal is the excitement of future transformation. But, of course fitness transformation takes a long time…way longer than those emotions can last. There aren’t many who can push past when that happens which is why only 8% enjoy goal success.

But, what if I said you could harness a different emotion to help keep you motivated and moving forward towards fitness transformation?

Grace is the mother of three young children. She’s always taken fitness seriously. After her last baby, Samson, was born she didn’t want to wait the required six weeks to start getting back in shape. Grace likes to run and has a treadmill at home to make that easier. But, she couldn’t start running for awhile so she  tried something else.

Grace said since walking is unavoidable she set a daily goal of reaching 10,000 steps. She figured if she did that every day it would give her a head start on resuming her regular exercise. 

And, then a funny thing happened. She didn’t stop the goal after three weeks. She kept going…for months and months.

The motivation for Grace was a powerful emotion. And, this might sound familiar if you grew up watching ABC’s Wide World of Sports. This tagline was part of the show’s intro. It also describes what Grace was feeling as she worked to reach her daily goal of 10,000 steps.

The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.

Grace says she’s very competitive and the step goal was a way to compete with herself. Self competition can be a powerful motivator. It can also help sustain you as you wait for the results of your fitness activities to become real.

For some people the thrill of victory is enough. For others, it’s avoiding the agony of defeat. 

Grace says her competitive edge kept her going when she had a fever and on days when she was tired and really didn’t feel like walking 10,000 steps. But, the emotions of winning that day’s competition and avoiding losing was more powerful than “not feeling like it.”

Grace says there were nights when she would walk around her house holding the baby just to reach the final 3,000 steps she needed. 

I totally understand how this feels. That self competition was the foundational emotion that kept my 20,000 steps a day streak going for more than two years.

But, maybe you’re reading this and you’re just not competitive. Are you sure of that?

Early in our marriage, Ava and I would play cards with several other couples. Our favorite games were Hearts and Spades. Often we would play couples against couples. It drove me nuts because I wanted to win and Ava wanted to have fun. And, her idea of fun did not include winning. She just enjoyed the social aspect of playing cards.

I was convinced she was the least competitive person on the planet. And, then she started running. Now, I’m convinced she’s the most competitive person on the planet. She competes with herself every time she runs. I don’t know anyone who is more motivated by self competition than Ava! And, yet, that’s not how she would have described herself. 

Effective self-competition requires a goal that can be met for a win and a way to track those wins. Setting a daily step goal, like Grace did, is an easy way to do this. The goal can’t be too high or too low. You need a mix of days when reaching the goal is easy and days when it requires extra effort. If every day were easy you’d lose interest. If every day were hard it would get discouraging. So, having the right goal for you is crucial. And, that goal is likely not 10,000 steps!

You also need a step tracker, like a Fitbit. I recommend the brand new Fitbit Inspire 2! The Inspire 2 has double the battery life, and also tracks your heart rate and sleep so you get an even wider picture of your fitness progress.

(By the way…if you use this link to purchase a new Fitbit, this blog receives a small commission that doesn’t affect your price at all.)

Your Fitbit will keep track of your steps, but for some writing them down on paper is more powerful than just seeing them on your Fitbit screen. This 30 Day New Year Fitness Challenge includes a Win Tracker to track those daily victories. It also includes a worksheet to help you set the right goal for you.

If you’ve already set a New Year’s exercise goal I recommend you find a way to compete against yourself every day to harness the power emotion of self competition. Perhaps you could add a daily step goal if that’s not already a part of what you’re doing.

Grace kept her 10,000 steps a day streak going for many months. It ended because of a silly reason. That reason is also the downside of self-competition. We’ll cover that next week.

One comment

  1. Very good! Your posts help encourage me. I’m about to complete one year (January 20th) of walking 11,000 steps a day!

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