The Power of Competition

Words by Rachel Rivers

This month The Sports Edit blog takes on the theme of ‘Go Hard or Go Home’. We look to address why more and more people, particularly women, are taking on extreme challenges and exercise, with the desire to be challenged and pushed hard. A growing appetite to compete is reflected in everything from Tough Mudder to Triathlons, and also in the changing nature of studio fitness, from CrossFit competitions to the BURN Board at Ride Republic, which embraces the power of a bit of healthy competition.

Competition has a purpose in nearly all aspects of life

The most obvious benefit of general competition is it keeps you accountable and honest with your efforts. How do you know what you are capable of if you don't have some sort of peer measurement? Competing and pushing yourself in sports and exercise also has the added physical benefits of feeling stronger, healthier, sexier and more energised, which in return increases your confidence, productivity and overall happiness.

In the past men have been the main players who thrived in competitive sporting environments. The media has always encouraged men to push themselves harder in the gym and at sports, plus men have a natural affinity via the elevated competition hormone testosterone. However today more and more women are putting themselves in these competitive sporting environments. I believe this has a lot to do with the new media trend of "strong is the new skinny" and showcasing sporty women as sexier and more appealing than even a decade ago. In addition, as more woman start to push themselves in their fitness activities they feel the mental and physiological benefit it has in all areas of life. The adrenaline rush of pushing to and beyond your apparent limits. Feeling confident becomes less about what society says and more about how great you feel being physically fit.

A little competition helps push you to higher levels and keeps complacency at bay. Most of us will have a memory of not really wanting to do something, or of feeling lacklustre, when a competitor or competitive urge nudged you on. All of a sudden your adrenaline kicks in and you complete your best workout. This is the power of competition and a reason to surround yourself with like-minded peers.

The mere presence of others inspires us try harder

Indeed, one of the first social psychology experiments ever undertaken (back in 1898!) was about just this; that cyclists racing against each other instead of against the clock go faster. This so-called ‘social facilitation’ has long demonstrated that the mere presence of others inspires us try harder. Fitness lost sight of this seminal point, with gyms allowing members to fall into a trance on a treadmill. The rise of CrossFit, making fitness measurable, and of our own BURN Board at Ride Republic, are a reaction against this, to help people find motivation in groups and in competition. Your position in the ranking, whether your real name, or your moniker, is there on the board for all to see – boys versus girls – and it makes you work harder than you ever have before.

The community of riders at Ride Republic continues to blow me away. They are from all walks of life, of all ages, and with different goals. They gather together each week, put their fears aside and push each other. Over the weekend I taught four classes and each one left me buzzing from the riders energy. It didn't matter if they were new, a seasoned rider, out of shape or in shape, because everyone was putting in their own great effort and feeding off each other. While the BURN board displayed individual rankings, it felt like we were a team. This is what healthy competition and our BURN board is all about. Replacing complacency with a little healthy competition will only equal positive mental and physical results.

Come join us and see how hard you can push yourself and each other. You'll be surprised!