There’s a shift that seems to take place as we move into adulthood, and our school and club athletics fall away; fitness often becomes more function than fun. (Like so much else about “adulting”.)
Organized activities for children have to be kept in balance, like so many other aspects of their development, but there’s no doubt that a good, solid program can offer both a means of exercise and a good dose of disciplined effort, as well as a way to meet new kids and make friends.
The discipline and fitness pieces of the puzzle remain, as you become an adult who relies on the gym or the track for your exercise source, but what about the fun quotient? Team work?
And what about...competition?
There’s an element of competition inherent in any weight loss or muscle building program, in that you’re “competing” against yourself. Working towards a personal best either in weight lifted, inches gained or lost, or your time, if you’re a runner or athlete in a time based endeavor, is one of the key motivators.
When pushing yourself towards goals loses its luster, there’s always the enjoyment element; yogis, Pilates enthusiasts, runners...several participants in highly focused pursuits often point towards their love for their activity, and it’s anecdotally well known that when you enjoy something, you do it consistently.
Group classes like Zumba and social media groups can also provide a boost, if you need a little push to stay on track, possibly for the sense of camaraderie and also some outside accountability--like a walking or running partner you don’t want to disappoint, or yoga class buddies that get smoothies together after class.
But what often gets overlooked is competition...and studies are pointing towards its benefits as an exercise motivational tool--possibly even the most effective one, depending on your goals and your personality.
One study in particular, conducted by the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, indicates that competition may surpass support (such as one would receive in a Facebook group or class) when it comes to pushing you to results.
Granted, everyone is different; you may only want to get your required amount of steps in, or check off the “Strength Train Three Times a Week” box on your to do list, and having a group of buddies may get you where you want to be.
But those who competed in high school and miss it, or even those who never got the chance, but would like to feel the sense of purpose of chasing goals and measuring up against others, might benefit from a little healthy competition.
Some people believe this is why CrossFit has become wildly popular--both the team spirit aspect, and because it’s “sportifying” weight lifting for the masses. Bodybuilding competitions can be another means of training with a goal to pit yourself against others, and a casual runner may get their appetite for seeing how they measure up against competitors stirred up by engaging in a few races. Finding group sports for adults has become easier, as well--softball teams for your place of business aren’t the only way to have play time with other grown ups anymore; indoor soccer and recreational volleyball teams have become more commonplace, and hopefully the trend will continue.
Activity is necessary, and whatever gets you moving--and keeps you moving--is good.
If you’re in a rut, though...think about adding a competitive component to your fitness journey.
Science says it might be a good idea.