The Comparison Trap
The innate human desire to learn about others—and for others to learn about us—is a well-documented social psychology phenomenon. It is through this learning process that we can begin to resent others’ lives and accomplishments—and resent the image of ourselves that we feel we need to continuously maintain.
Social media exacerbates this resentment by providing us with an addictive feedback loop of comparison. Instead of having to wait to hear about a friend’s recent race or training when you saw them in person, the smallest details of our lives can now be shared in real-time on social media and reach audiences all over the world.
Social media often shows us only the very best of someone's life.
It used to be that you could only compare yourself and your running to those people you ran with and trained with on a daily basis. But, nowadays, thanks to apps like Strava, Instagram and Facebook, we can now compare ourselves and our training to runners and friends several states away—opening that circle of comparison even wider.
It’s Not the Whole Picture
Social media often shows us only the very best of someone’s life. We don’t often hear about that mid-week tempo that they bombed, or the bad race where they had to walk multiple times. Those amazing mile splits that they post may not include the two minutes where they stopped their Garmin and rested. Seeing post after post of only the quickest runs, the PR races, and the hardest workouts can lead us to believe that no one ever has a bad day. We all know this isn’t true, but it’s easy to forget.
All Runners Are Not Created Equal
After scrolling through the posts of both friends and the elite runners I follow, I’m often tempted to take their workouts and try to fit them into my own training regimen. I catch myself thinking: “That 22-miler with 15 miles at marathon pace looks like it was a great workout—surely it would help me be super prepared for my race! Maybe I should try that this weekend.”
This is an easy trap to fall into, but I am not Desi Linden or Matt Llano—or my friend Brett, for that matter. Each of us is created differently and we are all unique in both running style and what our own individual bodies can handle. A workout that Desi routinely crushes could leave me injured or fatigued for days, while trying to duplicate a different friend’s workout may not give me enough of a training stimulus. Those who seem to run every day at a fast pace may not currently be training for anything in particular—or perhaps they are training for a much shorter race.
Comparing your own workouts and runs against others is useless. You are most likely at a very different place in your training than they are.