PUSHING Yourself During Exercise [Competition Technique]

Competition brings out the best performance in us.

Competition is a technique to PUSH YOURSELF to the ultimate level of fitness.

This is the last article in the series. This technique can be applied to any exercise, but in this series, I’ll talk about running and walking and running up steps. Those are the two exercises I do most frequently.
You might be thinking that I’m going to cover competition as in racing or joining friends for your exercise so you can push each other to greatness. That’s an amazing technique, but one that everyone already knows. In this series about pushing yourself past current levels of fitness, I wanted to give you some techniques you may not have heard of.

Pushing yourself through competition goes like this…

Usually, I use this technique when I’m feeling unmotivated or even a little down about the state of my run, step climbing, swim, bicycle ride or whatever I happen to be doing. I realize there’s no spunk in my effort and I need something to pick me up and get me up to at least a moderate pace.

In my mind, I assemble a group of my competition. My running competition? Nope. I blog in the motivational / life development area with Aim for Awesome so my competition (though really they are not directly competing with me) are people like Steve Pavlina; Yaro Starak; Albert Foong of Urbanmonk.net; Leo Babauta of ZenHabits.net; Donald Latumahina at LifeOptimizer.org and others. There are so many more. Usually, I name a group of twelve. I know what they look like and I picture their natural running style and abilities based on how well their blogs are doing. Choose competitors from whatever area you are striving to excel in. For me, it’s blogging.

I guess the people I named aren’t really direct competition, but they are my role-models and those that I’m striving to equal and eventually surpass online. They’ve got far more readers than I have and they have a high standard for their writing – one that I aspire to. My writing is obviously different and I’m not sure if it has mass appeal yet – but, I’ll find out in a year or so. Anyway, back to the mind-trick.

I picture each person close to me and running with me at first. We’re all in a group and none of us is feeling all that great. This makes me realize, I can beat all of them today because as bad as I feel, I’ve been running all my life. I can crank it up a notch and drop some of them right now.

I go just a little bit faster and see who starts to drop away. I see who picks it up to match me. There are some fighters in the group and I know I’m going to be kicking my own ass to get going as fast as I need to in order to beat them. After the first couple slow slightly I devise a plan. I say to myself, “Around that corner is the slight upgrade. Pretend to go slow right now and then crank it up just around that corner to a 75% effort and see who drops!”

And so I do. I drop a few people there. Steve Pavlina, Yaro Starak, Darren Rowse, Donald Latumahina and a couple others are still with me. Damn they won’t give up.

Depending how I feel I’ll either map out a long-term run strategy where I gradually pick up the pace dropping off everyone except Steve Pavlina or I’ll do some mini-bursts of speed usually up hills to drop people. Steve is great at the high speed, long distance, but I use hills to wear him down – the up and down wear him out. I love the hills so that’s where I destroy him.

Ha, it sounds funny as I write it but! I’m not joking at all. This is a very powerful technique that I love to use. I combine this mental competition with both positive self-talk and with self-coaching to bring out the best in me on bad days. Almost always it succeeds in motivating me to go faster.  Sometimes Steve wins and I vow to break him the next time we run. Sometimes Darren Rowse pulls away and beats both me and Steve. Sometimes Donald comes from behind in a surprise pass that leaves me dumbfounded until I regroup.

Though I haven’t read about any top runners at the international level using mind games to push themselves to greatness like those I’ve written about here, I KNOW they must exist. I guess if you had some really good techniques that you could call on during your deepest moments of suffering during hard exercise that would make you crank even harder you’d keep those a secret. Top secret.

I don’t have many secrets, so I shared the few techniques I use that came easily to mind. As I experience more or as I remember more I’ll post them here to help you take your exercise to a new level.

I use this Competition technique for pushing myself harder about once a week on average. One key to using these techniques is not using them every time you exercise. I use each of these techniques maybe once a week on average. But, sometimes I plan stage races where I race the same group of people over 3 days. I might even include Lance Armstrong as a runner in the pack. I visualize snapping his persistence like a dry twig as we push up a long hill…  haha.

Eat my dust Lance!

So then, try this technique as you need it. Be creative with your own ideas and let me know if you come up with anything cool that I can try while I run or bike.

Best of Life!


My Pushing Yourself Series Covers:

1. Getting Out the Door to Exercise!
2. Visual Imagery!
3. Shaming Yourself!
4. Positive Self Talk!
5. Delay of Gratification!
6. Coaching Yourself!
7. Competition!

When I Bicycle, I’m a Superhero. I’m SuperVern.

Bicycle pedaling, cool perspective.I’ll give up my bike again, only when I lose both my legs NEVER.

What in the world was I thinking to go without a bicycle for 4 years?

Sure I was dirt poor during that time – but, no matter – the bike should have always been priority number one. After riding passionately for 17 years recently I stopped for four long years.

Never again.

Bicycling is the ultimate sport and way of life. Many people feel that way, not just me. My own cycling frenzy began when, in Hawaii at Hickam Air Force Base in 1985 I rode a friend’s bike, a Fuji 10 speed or 12 speed, can’t remember which. It was the first real bicycle I’ve ever ridden in my life. Sure I had the Raleigh motocross beater for $129 in 1978 which was an amazing bike of it’s own, but this was an amazingly FAST bike. This Fuji was like greased lightening. I couldn’t believe I was going so fast on a bike. When I got on it I didn’t want to get off.

I told my roommate I just wanted to give it a go and that I’d be back in 10 minutes. I returned an hour and 20 minutes later, exhausted and in a state of mind that I hadn’t known before after riding almost 20 miles around base on that shiny silver Fuji.

Mentally I was hooked from that point on, but didn’t purchase a bike until I moved to New York City a couple years later. My first bike was a white Cannondale aluminum frame 12 speed I think it was. I became addicted to cycling in a bad way from that point on.

In New York I commuted almost daily from Astoria Blvd and Steinway Street to Central Park and to my job as a color reproduction specialist at Lamont Custom Color photo lab. Not joking… I rode through the streets of New York City almost everyday.

Bicycling became my passion. My outlet for stress and my key to molding my body for endurance exercise, and eventually leading me to do bike races and triathlons.

There are so many things about biking that makes it such an awesome activity…

Freedom – When I’m on the bike I’m free from any responsibility and nobody can reach me on phone, email, beeper or GPS. I’m off the grid and I’m nowhere anybody would find me if they did go looking. I rarely ride the same place over and over.

SuperVern – I’m a superhero on my bicycle. I feel like nothing can touch me – I’m invincible. I can beat cars, motorbikes and any other bicyclist on the road. I’m flying through reality’s 3 dimensions like I’m carving up a 30 footer at Waimea. I’m Jet Li working my way effortlessly through 16 bad guys to get where I’m going. I’m SuperVern on the bike. I don’t get the superhuman feeling while running, swimming, playing soccer or during any other activity – just cycling.

Health Benefits – I’m out for an hour minimum everytime I cycle. In one hour I’m burning a minimum of 500 calories. I don’t crawl around when I go out – I’m going 15 mph minimum all the time, even up small grades. I hate to slow down. If I’m only going out for one hour I’ll probably burn 700 or more calories because that’s a short ride. If I go out for 3 hours I’m burning 500 calories an hour – 1,500 calories and that’s going relatively slow.

All Vern Can Eat – If I’m cycling just 3 times per week for an average of 6 hours total then that means I burnt over 3,000 calories that I wouldn’t have if I didn’t exercise. That means I can eat pizza, spaghetti, Ice-cream or whatever I want to eat without fear of gaining weight. Bicycling is a free meal ticket to eat whatever you choose. If you over-do it with Pizza 3-days in a row, like I’ve been known to do – just add another couple hours on the bike that week and you’re right as rain.

Kind to the Mind – Bicycling long distance at an easy pace is like meditation for me. I am usually thinking of nothing at all, just watching the road in front of me, maybe my wheel spinning. Sometimes I focus on making each rotation of the pedals perfectly efficient and circular. Often times I focus on my breathing. I think this may have something to do with my easy time of advancing through meditative states. I was quite used to watching my breath. I was quite used to being aware of my body and all that was going on with it.

I think the coolest thing about bicycling for the masses is that it’s such a low intensity workout almost anyone can ride for 2 hours easy. Even if you’re riding easy you’re likely burning 300 calories per hour. About same as walking, except you’re seeing and experiencing a different world on the bike.

Once you build up your stamina you can be doing 4 hours on a bike pedaling easily. That’s 1,200 calories gone in one day!

If you get serious about it – or really want to have fun with it and challenge yourself you’ll be doing 2-3 hours at a good effort and burn 1,200-2,000 calories.

Cycling is, to me – the greatest activity for my health, freedom, and mental well-being. It’s something that I’ll never again be without. I’ve made that promise to myself today. Cycling is THE ULTIMATE form of exercise because it’s just such a blast, on top of all the other benefits.

Are you a superhero when you’re running on the treadmill? Are you a superhero when you’re doing bench press? Nah.

Cycling is IT. Cycling is GREAT. Cycling is LIFE. Cycling is unmistakably the most fun you could have today.

Unless of course you live on one of the Hawaiian Islands near perpetually breaking three to five foot surf. Or, trail running in Thailand… Or, uhm…

Photo: Flickr user LeeBrimelow