Before life got complicated with things like marriage, kids, dogs and a house, I thought I knew exactly what it meant to be a competitor. Being a competitor meant pushing myself to the limit—racing for a personal best, an age group win, or to outkick my nemesis at the finish line. With age, though, comes wisdom.
At first by necessity, then later by choice, my perspective has changed. I gave up weekly races a long time ago; runs don't always hurt. I’m not always racing against the clock and I don’t care as much if someone passes me on the trails. I love running with my dog and stopping to let him make a new friend. I’m still a competitor, though, perhaps even more than I was in my younger years.
I’ve come to realize that being a competitor isn’t so much about physical prowess or building an impressive athletic resume, it’s about character. You are a competitor when you decide you’re not going to let life’s uncontrollables bring you down, or when you pull yourself off the couch and get moving when you’re already depressed. It’s about finding ways to make a visit to the park a workout too. Just enjoying an easy bike ride, resisting that temptation to push hard, can be a significant accomplishment for some of us. It’s all about knowing what you need to do, and then doing it.
There will be times in your life you need or want to race hard and often; at other times it's best to use that energy to attack the mudane. Take a look at where you are right now and then figure out where you want to be, where you really want to be. Start taking steps in that direction—Olympic fast or small baby steps—just get moving. Do that and you are a competitor.