My first IronMan event is upcoming in July. With this on the horizon I have been contemplating recently on the aspect of competition. I think that this aspect of being human is overemphasized, and thus, overwhelming us as a society. Often, for marathon events, I would train too much for a race and simply injure myself or carry around too much fatigue and stress at the mental and physical levels. I would do this by running too fast and getting too far ahead of myself. Why did I do it? Well, I thought that’s what I had to do. Now, what I have been doing for preparation for my first IronMan 70.3 is simple. I am slowing down, enjoying and exercising when I feel inspired to do so.
Having said that: the inspiration comes whenever; whether I am in a good or a bad mood. Inspiration is not ideal. Not like we think it is. There is no drama in it. Inspiration comes from within us at seemingly unpredictable moments. Inspiration does not have a calendar or timeframe, and happens in moments of happiness or agitation. In this, I’ve been learning how to strip away the competitiveness in me. It is still here, but in these efforts away from the ego, I have gained insight to more wisdom. An easier way of exercise through efficiency. Where have I gone in the abandonment of competition? Cooperation.
On the basis of compassion for another, rather than compression of an opponent/enemy, I operate out of a sense of sincere motivation. I can know that my intentions are noble and anybody who questions (challenges) me from the outside does not come as a threat, but more of a gentle inquiry or reminder as to my purpose. I would say that many of us need to focus on cooperation over competition. Instead of trying to be the prettier one…or the stronger one… or the better one, you’re being modest and relatable. For me, cooperation gives peace of mind in knowing that I am serving myself well as I am others too. I can hold no ulterior motives because nothing is a secret when you are doing something for the joy of it. Competition gets me to thinking “Am I good enough, yet?”, to which, never seems to be yes because I am constantly withholding effort to achieve ideal results.
In a cooperative mentality, when inspiration strikes me, I am compelled to act no matter what. That gives me better chances, not at success, but at fulfillment. Motivation doesn’t come from beating some other person or some concept, but only that I cooperated with my goals and feel good about myself. By “good,” I mean refreshed, loose, and energized for more activity. The subtleness of this is elusive. We’re dull to it; or at least, I have been dull to it. There is nothing to beat because we are already all here and there are no gimmick rules.
A cooperative mentality will bring you support. First and foremost to yourself. To accomplish this feat one needs to let go of trying to control every little detail of what is happening around them. I have an innate playfulness that simply enjoys exercise at an ordinary pace. Overachieving results simply push people away from me and it becomes difficult to befriend anyone. When I have support around me I can be myself around anyone. This allows me to accept another person’s own journey in exercise or life in general.
At the adolescent age I think it is important for an individual to learn the value of competition. There are principles within it that teach us how to be modest with victory or rise above a loss. Although, if those values are not reflective from those outcomes , we need to fall back to the cooperative foundation they were built for. Concepts like teamwork and camaraderie. The time for this is here in this moment. This cooperative mentality is what will help shape up a community as a whole.
Trey Tompkins is a local resident who writes fitness columns for the Record-Herald.