Smarter Striding With Elinor Fish: Comparison Trap

December 22, 2016

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  • Elinor Fish

I get down on not being as fast as my running friends. No matter how much I train, my friends are all faster and it frustrates me. How do I stop comparing myself to others?

Many runners find themselves in this situation, whether they’re aware of it or not. Either way, it’s no way to measure your progress as a runner. 

The kicker is that we’re wired to see our shortcomings ahead of our strengths. While some might say this is a good thing because it drives them, fuels their desire to always improve or motivates them to work harder, I disagree. 

Technology makes it easier than ever to compare how we measure up to our peers, not only in a race setting, but also in training (thanks a lot Strava!). This leads many people to experience self-doubt, unhealthy training habits, under-recovery, anxiety and waning motivation. 

The solution lies in changing how you measure your progress as runner from quantifiable means (like a race result or how fast you run) to qualitative means (such as good or effortless running feels).

This shift can feel challenging at first, but like anything you practice, it gets easier. And the results are well worth it: you become incredibly empowered and confident in your running independent of others. 

To do this, set intentions. Intentions help you align what you want to accomplish with how you want this run to feel. 

Let’s look at how this works in practice. Say you set an intention of having a morning run with your peers that’s invigorating and not exhausting. You have a busy day ahead and you’re still a little tired from your last long run. So your intention is really about feeling energized but relaxed. 

But then your running group starts out at a brisk pace that leaves you struggling to keep up. Your shoulders tense and your stride become choppy as you work harder to keep up. Then you recall your intention to feel energized and relaxed. So you slow your pace until you feel your breath become even and your stride flows easily. 


Jen showing great form on the trails at the @nipikamtnresort Mindful Running Retreat. #runningretreat #nipika #canadianrockies #trailrunning

A photo posted by Run Wild Retreats + Wellness (@mindful_runner) on

As you stick with your intention to feel energized yet relaxed, it gets a bit easier to maintain focus on how you feel rather than what others are doing, and run in a way that feels right to you. Any time you start to feel frustrated that you’re not keeping up, redirect your attention to your intention. Each time you do this, you increase your self-efficacy, putting yourself back in control of your running experience. 

The thing to remember here is that it’s not necessary to compromise your goals in order to fulfill your intentions. In fact, setting intentions alongside your goals increases your chance of ultimate success because you’re getting there on your own terms. 

Intentions allow you to tune in to your body and how running makes you feel right now, which ultimately makes it far easier to make the best choices for your running and recovery.   

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