As part of my athlete community giveback, I volunteer as an ambassador for the Canadian Fast and Female program. This spring, when I helped lead an F&F event, one of the girls asked a really great question to the panel of athletes I was a part of. It was the same question Oiselle founder and athlete Lauren Fleshman has asked, “What advice would you tell your younger self?”
I think everyone on the panel took a deep breath and took a moment to prepare the honest piece of advice they would share. As it turned out, we went down the line and I was grateful to find myself near the end of said line. Mainly because I was able to hear their aha! moments, but secondly it also gave me time to think and consider my own younger-self advice. After hearing the panel’s personal advice to: enjoy the every day moments, embrace setbacks, and know you’re good enough, I realized it was my turn. I suddenly felt nervous to be vulnerable in front of a gym full of girls. I took a deep breath and the answer I gave to the gymnasium that day was, “Dear ten-year-old Adrea, the advice I have for you is be competitive, not comparative.”
What does this mean?
In an individual sport like athletics, it is easy to compare times, rankings, number of wins, races, etc. But that isn’t what winning is. When I first joined my training group in Victoria, I was very privileged to have an amazing training partner who taught me the difference between being comparative and competitive. We learned very early on being comparative was not going to make either of us better. We figured out the respect and benefit of being competitive instead. We are able to see ourselves as equal, we, us, being our best, together. When we were shared a race start line, we were excited and fully motivated because the obvious goal was we are taking #1 and #2 spots. Between us, whoever was #1 in that race, great you ran well! Whoever was #2, equally great. #2 means you have the best training partner possible. It meant we did well. We did our best that day, and every day leading up to the race.
This genuine respect for the other person meant there was no room for comparing. Sure, some days she ran faster times, and other days I ran faster times. We didn’t get mad and wallow as a loser because of it. Nor did we look at the times and start creating comparative narratives where we rationalize who is better. Creating a hierarchy was not conducive to achieving our goals. Instead we became competitive. Which meant we also became supportive, were kind, laughed, cried, travelled, ran, and formed genuine friendship. The days I dragged behind, her lead forced me to stay competitive and do the best I could that day. The day’s I felt great, I knew I could return the favour and pull her through a tough session. But in order for it to work we both trusted the other person to show up and be competitive. Together. Empowering each other to be our best both on and off the track.
As I shared this lesson learned, I was lucky enough to have her sitting a few chairs down the line on the panel with me. We have always had an unspoken bond, but to give her the recognition she deserves for making me into the athlete I am today was a real privilege. There are many stories and advice I learned both on and off the track with her, but this is by far the most important:
Be Competitive. Not Comparative.
And don’t forget to have fun! 🙂