6 Ways to Train To Compete At Any Age

Missy Cornish, wife of Col. Barry Cornish, 99th Air Base Wing commander, leads a warrior trained fitness workout on the field at the track behind the Warrior Fitness Center Sept. 26, 2013, at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The warrior trained fitness, high intensity interval training promotes the “Life of a Warrior” idea. The “Life of a Warrior” concept is about living a healthier lifestyle (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Tam).

Do you want to “Up Your Game” in everything you do? If you have a healthy competitive mindset, you will find motivation in the strangest of times and places. There is a saying I created nearly 30 years ago as a Midshipman at the Naval Academy when it came to meeting and exceeding standards – Train to Compete – Not Just Survive. 

I noticed people that were exceeding the standards in anything (academic, PT tests, work tasks, and little things) were competing either against themselves, a clock, the established record, or others tasked with similar jobs.

On the flip side, I noticed people who were striving for the minimum standards were either hanging on by a thread, failing, or quitting. So, if you are in the mindset of winning or performing better than previously, you will NEVER think about quitting. Competition drives you to work harder and push yourselves with everything in life.

Here are some ways to add a healthy dose of competition to your life:

1. Train to Compete, Not Just Survive – Too many of us are in survival mode – just getting by one day at a time with no real personal challenges to make life better.  An easy way to start changing this mindset and “upping your game” is to try it with physical training. Let fitness be the catalyst to helping you find the energy to make further changes to other areas of your life. Challenge yourself by training when you do not feel like it. You will start to see it affect your mindset and work and home. You can even take this to your relationships - strive to be the best spouse / parent ever when you walk in the door after a long day. This works – you just have to remind yourself you are compete to live a better life – not just surviving on the minimum standard.

2. Workout Partner or Group – Working out with people can increase your abilities and you are almost guaranteed to work harder with a group than by yourself. We push each other. We hold each other accountable to workout sessions or other tasks such as manual labor, chores, and any work or school project. There is obviously nothing wrong with doing things by yourself, but you may need to find other ways to push yourself – competing against personal bests or time itself.

3. The Clock – Time is a big stressor and it seems we never have enough time to get a job done. However, if you challenge yourself by trying to beat the clock or last as long as the clock at any activity, you will surpass minimum standards easily and the be pushing next level standards – maybe even maximum scores. In other words, if you have a 2 minute test for some physical event, practice doing that event for more than 2 minutes and it will make 2 minute tests easier. The clock is our prime conditioning marker.

4. Project deadlines – Time is also a standard in many types of work and scholastic projects. There is always a deadline when something needs to be accomplished.  However, you can ensure a better grade, show professionalism and excitement to superiors, by turning a project in early to have teachers or your boss review prior to the deadline. If you can give your teacher or boss an extra week to consider your approach, recommend changes, or quickly approve, you will stand out as an eager participant. If I have a long term deadline, I always try to bump my deadline to complete at least one week in advance. You can turn some B’s to A’s just by doing this deadline challenge with yourself.

5. Chores / Yard Work Challenges – Setting a goal with manual labor, chores, or yard work can make the mindless process mowing the grass, raking leaves, or maintaining a home a little more fun.  For instance, I always time my self when I mow the grass, bag leaves, or clean a section of the house. Striving to beat old times or just set a timed goal to complete the tasks actually energizes you  to push yourself a little harder to not just get the job done, but get the job done quicker.

6. Exceeding the Standard is the Standard – This is another way of saying “Train to Compete – Not Just Survive.” If there is a standard to meet, there is a maximum effort to strive for. Face it, most professions – especially Tactical Professions - are competitive to get into. You need to train hard to get to the training, through the selection process, and reach the goal of being an active duty military, special ops, police, or fire fighter.  Chances are if your goal is the minimum standard, you will not meet the cut or get injured due to being out of condition to handle the strain of selection.

You may need a progression to start this process.  One recommendation is to start moving – even if it is just for 10 minutes after every meal you eat. Eating for energy is also a consideration that enables you to have the ability to push yourself harder while meeting height / weight standards. If you are over 40  and looking for a change in your game, start off by treating yourself like a beginner with the Tactical Fitness (40+) Foundation Rebuilding – for Beginners or Recovering from Injury. Phase two is Tactical Fitness (40+) Taking It To The Next Level and Phase 3 – Tactical Fitness (40+) Ready to Compete – Preparing for the Next Challenge that is out next month.  But the goal is to remember, “Compete – Don’t Just Survive.”

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