Don’t Look at Your Neighbor’s Treadmill

How your workout is going is dependent on a million factors (no more, no less): what you ate the day before, how much sleep you got, what time you’re working out, your stress level, the weather, how far into House of Cards you are, what other physical activity you’ve done in the past couple days, how much water you drank today, and so on (to one million). All of these things will affect how you’re feeling, how far you can push yourself, and how fast you can go. So why the hell are you looking at your neighbor’s treadmill to see how fast they’re going?

Why. The hell. Are you doing that.

First, let me take a quick moment to point out that looking at your neighbor’s treadmill can be a metaphor for any number of workout snooping. Checking to see how heavy your neighbor’s weights are, how many burpees they’re doing in a minute, etc. It could also be a metaphor for materialism or self worth, but whatever.

So let’s say, hypothetically, that you are doing a series of sprints on the treadmill. They’re super hard, because if you do sprints right, they should be SUPER HARD. It takes all of your effort to go that fast, and then even more to stay that fast for like, 30 or 45 seconds. This requires as much mental effort as it does physical exertion (which is to say, a shit ton of both). So far you are doing awesome. Maybe your sprints are even in the double digits, like 10.0 or 10.5, which is half a point faster than you ran last week. You are killing it. And then, like an asshole, you check out your neighbor’s treadmill. Your neighbor is doing… better. Your neighbor is running 11.7 and now the awesome run you were totally killing about two seconds ago is super lame, and you are a loser, and god why do you even bother, you aren’t even really that fast and this is the BEST you can do and it is garbage. And now all that mental power you really, really needed to push you through and do those sprints is gone and your workout feels even harder. And what’s worse, the empowerment you should feel from totally killing it (and believe me you are; you are totally killing it) is also gone, and you leave your workout feeling almost worse than before you started. This should never happen.

As we’ve discussed before, one of the major benefits of working out is that is makes you feel good. Even if the workout itself is hard as shit and maybe you’re about to throw up? but you still get though it, the second it’s over, you feel awesome. You’ve released a shit ton of endorphins, there’s a sense of self-efficacy, and you actually have a little more energy than before you started. When you look at your neighbor’s treadmill, you’re creating a very sudden, very arbitrary goal that you have no control over whether you can reach, and then all of a sudden you’ve failed at something you never set out to do in the first place. This is RIDICULOUS. Your neighbor could have been running longer, have a different build than you, have trained exclusively in running, possibly is even in training for the ’16 Olympic Games at this casual, 30-minute-limit-treadmill gym (the latter scenario is the most possible). Comparing your speed or progress to theirs is going to make you feel bad at fitnessing, and when you feel bad at fitnessing, you aren’t going to want to do it again. This is the primary thing we want to avoid. You should be doing whatever it takes in your workout to make you understand that it’s good for you, mentally and physically, and should be done very often.

Rather than comparing yourself to your neighbor who we will all be cheering for in Rio 2016, take note of where you were at your last workout, or a handful of workouts ago. Are you faster? Or maybe feel a little less like you’re going to throw up during the sprints? This is progress. This means you’re getting better at something. This means you’re good at it and should keep doing it. Fitnessing is different for everybody, and the million factors we touched on earlier are going to be different for each person. So just do yourself a favor and keep your eyes to yourself. Looking at someone else’s workout is either going to make you feel arbitrarily cool or arbitrarily bad, but regardless, it is COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY ARBITRARY. Just don’t bother. Plus, you’re probably going to fall if you turn your head while you’re running anyway, and then you’d be a REAL loser.