Stop Comparing

*Disclaimer – this post was intended to be my weekly submission for Women’s Running. I was 90% finished with it when I saw a very similar post from T-Rex Runner and so I didn’t submit it (you should go read hers here). Rather than just delete it, I wanted to share my thoughts here.

STOP the comparison game.

I’m not talking about doing it with/to others (although you shouldn’t do that either…but plenty has been written on that topic).

No, I’m talking doing it with/to yourself.

It’s something I find myself doing a lot – especially as of late. I’m a couple of months into training for my fall goal marathon. Over the last two months, I’ve gotten back into a good routine and hit most of the paces and logged most of the miles my coach has planned for me.

But, there’s been this nagging thought running through my mind on virtually every single run which has resulted in a very unnecessary running funk. The problem has been that I’m comparing myself to what I was doing last year. I had a really strong training cycle last fall – hands down the strongest, fastest and most fit I’ve ever been in my whole life. I was hitting paces for intervals, tempos and long runs that I had previously only dreamed of seeing. And while it (unfortunately) didn’t result in the time I was anticipating for the marathon, it has become the standard in my mind for how fast I could (and should) be running.

The reality is that I haven’t even been close to those times. Long runs are 10-20 seconds per mile slower. Easy runs are slower. Tempo runs are slower (I ran 8 miles at a faster average pace than I did 5 recently). And I understand about peaking in time for the race and not beginning each training cycle where you left off your last one. I get all that. But I’ve been working hard for three months now and am not seeing the progress that I saw in the fall.

These numbers have consumed my stream of thoughts during workouts lately. And it’s caused me to quit – or come really close to quitting – on WAY too many occasions the last couple of weeks. The silly things is that it wasn’t because I couldn’t keep going – but because I was working hard and seeing numbers that are slower (for me) than I was used to seeing.

It’s great to be competitive with yourself and to always strive to improve. I think it’s an innate quality most runners seem to have. But it can also be our downfall. When does it go from being constructive comparison (looking back to see how far you’ve come or how much you improved) to one where you aren’t pleased with where you are now (not enough improvement or indications that you may not dropped back a bit)?

This goes for those coming back from having a baby, being injured, getting older, taking some time off (for whatever reason) from running. Don’t compare your current self with what you were doing six weeks, six months or six years ago. Set a new baseline and use that to gauge improvement and success. Be kind to yourself. Each training cycle should be it’s own stand-alone graph…and you may even have to reset that graph if an injury or sickness hits you in the middle of a cycle.

Maybe you will get back to your former running self. Maybe you won’t. But that could be out of your control. All you can control is how hard you work each new day and each training cycle and know that you gave it your all. If you do that, you will have succeeded.

photo (1)

Controlling what I can control – drills, recovery, working hard

Do you have a hard time not comparing yourself? 

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    14 thoughts on “Stop Comparing

    1. Thank you! I didn’t think I could get any slower than I was last year and now I’m slower (probably not what you meant by comparing yourself to your faster self – Ha!). I have stopped running with my watch. It was making me very upset. I just go out and run and thank the good Lord that I am still alive and I can still run. I mean, when you think about it, there is a lot of crap that needs to fall in line to make you have one of those knockout training years: No injuries, no age issues, good shoes, no excessive weight gain, good weather, a husband who cooperates, children who cooperate, a good work schedule. I guess we should all be falling on our knees in gratitude when it does work out, and not beating ourselves up when it doesn’t. Who knew this hamstring injury could make me so philosophical?

    2. OMG Thank you!!! This is EXACTLY where I am. Last year was my BEST year…I slacked of considerably over the winter and have declined like crazy…here’s to setting a new baseline.

      thanks…good luck with you’re training…you still ROCK!!

    3. I’m going through the exact same thing you are right now – I was in fantastic shape last summer and early fall. This year, I’m struggling on the majority of my runs. This has lead to more runs ending in tears than I’d like to admit, all because I couldn’t stop comparing myself to my previous self.
      Then I finally accepted that this training cycle likely won’t end with a PR. Being ok with it lifted a huge weight off my shoulders and finally brought some joy back into my running, regardless of the pace.
      I love what you said about each training cylce being it’s own standalone graph, that’s such a good way to look at it! Great post :)
      Amber recently posted..Race Report – Charles Street 12My Profile

    4. I so needed this right now. I am not hitting the paces I was hitting this fall and last winter and it is driving me nuts. I feel like I am SUCH a stronger runner now yet the watch doesn’t tell the tale. Thanks for writing this. Going to be positive and be in the now.

    5. Thank you so much. I am 6 weeks postpartum and learning this in a very real way. I was in the absolute best shape of my life when I got pregnant, logging PR after PR and at my lowest weight ever. Although I feel great and am already running, I am much slower and my body has changed!

    6. This is great! I am always in that same battle with myself, thank you for pointing out how important it is to not battle ourselves or others!

    7. Such a great topic and oh so relevant to what I’ve been experiencing! I’ve come to realize that even if my times get to where they were pre-injury (which they are and I’m happy about) I’m never going to FEEL the ease that I did when I set those PRs, because everything in my life was different then. Things were really hard at home with 3 young children, I felt free just getting out and I was in a “honeymoon” phase with running. I felt like I was flying, and for a while I really was!

      I need to set a new baseline now. Life is different, better in many ways, and running is more of a challenge now even though I still love it. Great article and something I think we can all relate to!
      Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted..Chili Spiced Burgers with Roasted Sweet Plantains and BaconMy Profile

    8. This is such an important thought and I’m so glad you shared it. I also tend to get frustrated with myself when I can’t complete each run the way I think I should be able to. Recently, I’ve gotten much better at finishing my run anyway and not giving up, but those negative thoughts still creep back into my mind when I compare my run to my own other runs. I think it’s human nature to want to always improve and get better, but it’s true that we have to learn to be patient and accepting of ourselves, especially when things don’t go exactly perfect.
      Charissa recently posted..Fall Race GoalsMy Profile

    9. I started to compare myself with my running friends, who are older and still faster than me. Long runs with them were not fun anymore, because I felt like I can’t keep up. I realized I need to stop comparing. My long runs are much better (and faster) when I run alone. I can get into my zone and enjoy my runs again. No worries about keeping up or feeling sad about how slow I am.
      Christine recently posted..Thinking Out LoudMy Profile

    10. I’m 50-so I’m pretty good at not doing the comparison thing. I’m always happy to be able to run and count myself lucky to be able to train for a marathon and not cry every run like I did last year for Chicago. Running can’t be a stressor for me it has to be my zen place…
      Therese recently posted..Throwback Thursday Commoner StyleMy Profile

    11. ALL THE TIME. It’s hard not to compare myself to how I was running last year. Right now however, being side-lined with a collar-bone fracture, I would take any miles at this point. It has definitely made me re-evaluate what is important as far as time/pace goals. I just want to run again. Patience is the key. I need to learn this and am horrible at it. Thanks for the great article Michele!! xo

    12. It’s hard because on one hand you can look back and compare and see how far you have come, and what worked/didn’t work in the past. But on the other hand, be doing things ‘better’ but not seeing the results and that’s when it starts to get dangerous. Feeling like we are doing more than before or training smarter than before- but not seeing the results…YET. I can totally relate and have struggled with this a lot. But how do you find the line between looking back and seeing how far you’ve come, and wondering if you’ll get back to a place where you might have been succeeding more.
      Laura @losingrace recently posted..ROC Training: More Running Less WorkMy Profile