Building Better Habits: Measuring Up

Published December 21, 2016


Building Better Habits: Measuring Up

-by Rachel Binette

“There is no value to leaderboarding whatsoever...because you are trying to compare yourself to others rather than to your best effort and what is under your control.”

-Ben Bergeron, Chasing Excellence


Do we decide what weight to use based on what others have done?

Do we check each others’ scores to figure out how fast we need to go?

Are we only happy with our scores if we’re near the top of the leaderboard?


If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you are not alone. We all fall victim to comparing ourselves to others sometimes. We know that this is not a good thing outside of the gym; where did that message get lost inside of the gym?


Principle for Success:

We focus only on what is under our direct control.


Using other people’s performance as a measuring stick for our success is a recipe for low self-worth or underperformance. A better habit to build is to learn what our best effort feels like and use that as our guide.

A lack of confidence or awareness of our own abilities can be why we use comparisons at the gym. If someone that we perceive as our equal has done the workout at a certain weight, then we believe that we can do it. The key word there is “perceive”--our perception of other people should not influence our perception of ourselves. How do we know that they are pushing as hard as they can? We have no control over them, and so their effort should not have any control over us.

'Stay in your lane,’ is a common phrase that coaches use for athletes. What other people in the gym are doing is a distraction. Our goal is to focus on ourselves, only caring about giving our best effort, not how we compare to everyone else. Think of it this way: your best effort is what it is. Looking at the leaderboard doesn’t change it.

There is something to be said for using the community as motivation--if one of the athletes in our classes is pushing us to go faster, that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s one of the biggest benefits of working out in a group. We inspire each other. It’s when we:

-need the validation of beating someone to feel good,

-are unable to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone when we’re on our own, or

-are unable to assess for ourselves whether we gave our best effort that we know we are relying too heavily on external feedback.


Internal feedback is much more useful to us. Knowing that we gave it everything we had is how we build true confidence in our abilities. But if we hold ourselves accountable only to winning the WOD, or if we always stay under the weights of what the ‘strong’ people in the gym are doing, we lose that opportunity. If we leaderboard ‘where we are supposed to’ then we were good enough, and that’s the end of the conversation we have with ourselves after the WOD.

Good enough is not good enough. As your coach, I want more for you.

Learning to analyze our performance internally is a skill, and it starts with goal-setting.

Coaches set goals for us by talking about the intended stimulus of the workout. Goals we set don’t have to be targets for weights or finish times, but can instead be specific to what our weaknesses are, whether mental or physical. As we practice, we can ask ourselves questions during and after our workouts:

1) Did we meet the intended stimulus of the workout that the coach laid out for us?

2) Did we get uncomfortable and hang on anyway?

3) If we’ve chosen a skill to challenge ourselves on, did we meet the challenge? If so, how can we push ourselves more next time? If no, what techniques can we use to do better?

Better Habit Challenges:

-Don’t look at the leaderboard for a week. Acknowledge if it makes you uncomfortable. There’s an opportunity for growth there.

-Don’t look at the leaderboard during competition. Your best effort is your best effort. Where it places you in the moment doesn’t matter. It matters after the competition, when we’re ready to look at what our weaknesses are and can work on them.

-Set a personal goal for a WOD and hold yourself accountable to it. Accountability to yourself is just as important as your accountability to others.

-’Stay in your lane.’ Put blinders on and focus on yourself during training and competition.

Physical weaknesses are easy to notice, but mental ones can be much more difficult to pin down. This is a mental toughness quiz developed by sports psychologist Dr. Alan Goldberg.

I recommend it highly, as it puts in very simple terms what the facets of mental toughness are and which ones we can work on. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid to look yours in the eye.

Let’s say we fail during training or competition to stay focused on ourselves. That’s Ok-- never finding failure means staying the same. Take ownership of what you do and find a way to do better next time. Don’t think about anyone else. What they are doing is theirs to measure up to.

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