My legs were warming up and we were on just the slightest hint of a downhill so my legs were like, "OK, we're running now," and I inadvertently started to speed up. My husband grabs my arm and gives me a gentle pull back to him. I say, "Oops, sorry," and something like "that's why it's good I'm not running alone today- because I'd go too far, too fast and hurt myself." Boom. Insulted. The rest of the run was completed in silence.
I waited 8 hours and a nap (for him, not me) to hash out what had upset him so. I mean, I know guys' egos are fragile, but come. on.
Well I guess it was humbling enough that even with a cough and raging plantar fasciitis that I was still holding myself back while running with him, so to speak, but that's not to say that if I was running normally he couldn't keep up. But then I had to say something about it, which is what really pissed him off. He felt like I was telling him, in so many words, that he slows me down.
So I tried to explain things to him in terms he could understand.
For starters, I think we ALL have a tendency to get sucked into comparing ourselves to others. The gym and the track can be the hardest places to keep from falling into that black hole of competition, worry, or self-doubt. My husband's the competitor. He sees a guy bench 265, and he thinks, "I should be able to do that, too." In fact, I'm pretty sure I am too. "Paula Radcliff can run a 7:38 pace when 7 months pregnant. I should at least be able to do that for 13.1 without a human growing inside of me."
The trouble with being competitive is that if you take it beyond just trying to outdo yourself, you'll never be satisfied with your performance, even if you're doing the most you can at a given moment. This is why for certain drills, I tell my class not to glance at the person riding next to them to see how fast they're pedaling or how high their resistance is. I tell them that each ride is their own ride, and if they're sweating, aching, and pushing themselves outside of their comfort zones, then they are doing exactly what they need to be doing.
Moving on to self-doubt; if you constantly compare yourself to others and allow yourself to think things like, "I'll never move that fast," or "I'll never lift that much," you will run the risk of limiting yourself because you're afraid you won't succeed. You don't want to drive yourself based on the performance of others to the point that you'll break, but you won't accomplish anything if you hold back, either.
I asked my husband, "If you are lifting with buddies and you know one of them benches less weight than you do, do you put less weight on the bar for yourself spare his ego?"
"No..." he replies.
I continued on to say that he can lift a certain amount because he's trained himself to that point. And just like he shouldn't hold himself back to avoid hurting someone elses' feelings, he shouldn't expect me to pretend I'm not a naturally faster runner than he is. And if I run with him for an easy run, he needs to just swallow his pride and deal with it because 1) I don't train to run a certain pace to insult him- I do it to push myself, and 2) He knows exactly what he needs to do if he wants to go on a tempo run with me.
We all out there doing our own things- climbing our own mountains, finding our individual finish lines, or simply looking to check things off of our bucket lists. If you want to compare yourself to the person working out next to you, then just realize that you don't know how hard he or she has worked to get to where they are. With time and training, you might be able to do the same thing, or you might reach your physical limit before then. And that's OK too. Just do you.