THE BLOG

Is Comparison the Worst Form of Self-Abuse?

01/07/2016 16:25 | Updated 01 July 2016

When I first heard that statement on a podcast the realisation that I have been abusing myself without knowing it hit me pretty hard. Sit tight for the next paragraph; my reason for sharing what I'm about to is not to brag about how busy I am, but to provide some context.

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IPC European Swimming Championships with the British Team

At the time of listening to the podcast I was on a plane flying to Madeira for the International Paralympic Committee European Swimming Championships. The week before I had been at the trials for the Paralympic Games in Glasgow. Week to week I spend 3 days in Manchester and 2 days in Nottingham leading the strength and conditioning support for over 20 athletes who will compete at the Paralympic Games in September. I'm running and developing 2 businesses, exploring a new product idea, creating content and trying to build an online profile. I'm responsible for preparing a holding camp facility in Brazil and I fit in some part-time lecturing on a sports science degree. I'm also committed to spending time with those who are on 'my team'; my wife, my family, close friends and my dog. In all this, I'm guilty of comparing myself to other people, especially when it comes to my calisthenics training.

If you are engaged with technology it doesn't matter what your endeavor is, whether it be work, life or training, comparison is almost unavoidable due to the huge amount of instant and real time information available at our fingertips. We follow our interests and as a result can't escape being confronted with people who we deem to be doing it better than us. It's easy to get jealous, envious and beat ourselves up that we're not operating at the level they are. I'm sure many of you reading this also have busy schedules and agendas, so I'm going to put something out there that is often unspoken. I hope you can relate to it and find some solace that you are not alone.

There are times when training is not a priority.

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Doing calisthenics when you're tired is hard

Calisthenics is a form of training that is worth capturing on camera and because of the digital world we live in, it gets shared. My social media feeds are overloaded with people whose nutrition and training look to be on point, doing cool stuff that I can't. But the reality of my situation right now is that training needs to fit in when it can and I have to accept that I must do it with whatever energy levels I have available. I've learnt that thinking I can go in the gym and smash a hard session is sometimes unrealistic. It's not just the physical cost of my schedule that makes it hard but the mental fatigue that accumulates from week to week as well. All in, I'm often running on empty so training sessions become a 'just get something done' affair.

But let's get some perspective. Whilst I'm not doing what the people I 'follow' are, the possibility also exists that they are not doing what I am. My situation is different to theirs. My work life, family life, ambitions, entrepreneurial desire, my two previous shoulder surgeries, a dislocated hip and the bolts in my finger that pinned it back together are all unique to me. So what sense is there in comparing myself to others? I'm now learning to say 'Fair play, what you're doing is cool, I wish I was there but I can't put in the time it would take right now and I'm ok with that'. I'm trying to commit to doing me, not them.

No doubt it's a difficult pill to swallow and it's a constant battle that becomes magnified by tiredness and the overwhelming intensity of my life in 2016. But the frustration of not feeling like I'm improving or looking how I want to stems largely from what other people are putting on Facebook and Instagram daily. Yes it's motivating, but that needs to go in the bank and used as an occasional reminder not a daily slap in the face.

So here is where my head is at:

1) Training should be fun so why should I beat myself up over it. 2) Training alone doesn't pay the bills so it needs to be ordered appropriately on the priority list. 3) I have ambitions that are invested in a number of projects that exist in opportunities that are right in front of me, right now. 4) Therefore when I have to work, I work. When the time comes that I can train how I want to, with the intensity and consistency that is going to make me a better calisthenics athlete, I'll smash it.

I hope there is someone out there who can find some encouragement from this. We talk a lot about enjoying the journey, well this is all part of it. Training is always there in my week even if it is just a 30 minute session with a bit of structure to remind the body that there is no need to ditch any muscle or strength. You can maintain strength for a long period of time by ensuring there is intensity in a session so fitting in 1 max set of a few exercises once or twice a week is going to keep things ticking over. I think that should be achievable for all of us who are trying to keep a few too many plates spinning.

So let's not abuse ourselves by making comparison to other people. Instead focus on doing 'you' to the best of 'your' current ability. Life has a certain seasonality to it so things will change. Just roll with it. As Theodore Roosevelt said 'comparison is the thief of joy' and I am 100% committed to enjoying my life, the opportunities I'm presented with and all the other awesome things in it.

If anything in this blog resonated with you and if you enjoyed it please share it. We need to encourage other people to stop abusing themselves too. For more about getting started in calisthenics and progressing in the most natural form of training find us on twitter, facebook or instagram or go to www.schoolofcalisthenics.com.

Enjoy the journey

Tim

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