by Madeleine St. Marie
So there I was, pouting in Extreme Training, because my lovely Shred partner, my boyfriend, had lost three pounds. I should have been happy, but I wasn’t. I was pissed, because I had been working my ass off and I had not lost weight. ?Though I had gained three pounds of lean mass, I was seriously not happy that Gary had lost three pounds. “Whatever,” I said, “it’s because you’re a boy.” In a moment, I had excused myself from not losing weight – it’s harder for women to lose weight, so it’s not my fault! – and had totally dismissed the work that Gary had put in through exercise and eating well on his own.
Here’s the thing: I shouldn’t be comparing myself to anyone. My body works in its own, special, unique way. It is not going to lose weight the same way yours does, or the same way that my boyfriend’s does. I am not going to gain muscle in the same place, I am not going to lose fat in the same place, and I’m certainly not going to make the same progress with the same amount of effort. In this case, I am actually a unique snowflake and I CANNOT be comparing myself to other people; doing that would be like comparing an apple to an orange. I will always be able to find something that I think is “better” than what I have accomplished, and that will almost always make me feel bad. What’s the point in that?
If anything, the benefit of all this is that it got me mad at myself and into the gym with a ferocity I haven’t had in a long, long time. Instead of worrying what other people were doing with their reps, I pushed myself to do more than the time before. Instead of peeking at someone else’s time on the rower, I kept my eyes to my own machine and tried to beat my personal record (which I did on Monday, clocking in at 1:47! Yay!). I also got a compliment on Monday that really made me feel great: as I was doing lat pulldowns, another person in my training cohort said that my back muscles looked good.
What she had no way of knowing is that my back muscles have been the bane of my existence since I moved back to Los Angeles from Nashville. They had never really been a priority of mine and I had let them totally atrophy, resulting in some pretty gnarly trap and shoulder issues when I started working out again. So, it’s been almost a year of working on my back and trying to get it stronger. At this point, I’ve vastly improved, but you wouldn’t know where I started by just looking at me. If you didn’t read this blog, you wouldn’t know that I used to be a multi-sport athlete but allowed myself to slip into disrepair and depression after graduating college. You wouldn’t know that I had the exact same experience you did in my first kickboxing class (face bright red, difficulty seeing straight, newfound hatred for whatever the hell a “sprawl” is).
That’s why comparing yourself to someone else is not a good idea, unless you’re doing it to inspire. When you look at someone who is just kicking ass at their workout and you go, “Oh, well, they’re just doing better because they’re younger than me” or “They’re able to do that many burpees cos they’re naturally?athletic”, you’re putting the other person down and excusing yourself. You don’t know where that person came from, nor do you know their training history. So, for example, I am 25 years old and have been in relatively good shape (and the best shape of my life) for two years. But virtually everyone who finished ahead of me in the Spartan Sprint last November was older than I was. John O’Connell, the man in the video on our Facebook page doing burpees, kicks my ass at burpees and he’s 69 years old.
The bottom line here is that you have to do you. You can’t look around the room and put yourself down, or put someone else down just to make you feel better. That won’t get you anywhere. Compare yourself to yourself and try to become a better version of you each day. It may happen in fits and starts, but it will happen if you push yourself. And if you see someone else excelling, give them a high five. Encourage them not to give up when you see them lying, staring at the ceiling, during a round of core exercises. We’re all here to do the same thing, after all.