Skip Nav
Popsugar Interviews
4 Expert Tips For Beating Belly Fat
4 Things You Should Be Doing to Lose Weight This Summer
Calorie Breakdowns
8 Exciting Oatmeal Flavor Combos — All Under 400 Calories

Fit Tip: Compete With a Stranger at the Gym

When I step onto a treadmill at the gym, some days I'm not feeling very motivated to push myself. I'm sure this happens to you too, so here's a suggestion from FitSugar reader smaine07. She likes to go to the gym when it's crowded so she can "compete with the person beside me."

So the next time you're on a treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, or other cardio machine, use someone else's drive and passion to pep you up. Find someone on a machine that looks like they're working hard and pretend you're moving right along with them. It's great inspiration to feed off their fire, and you'll be surprised at how suddenly you have a burst of energy. I find that I can go longer or faster when I'm mock competing with someone else.


Join The Conversation
irisheyes1212 irisheyes1212 7 years
I do this....I don't think i'm being terribly obvious. I don't completely turn and gawk or anything. I usually try for a machine away from poeple but if I cant, it tends to be a peripheral reaction. I am very self concious myself and always feel that people are staring at me (probably thinking geez that sweaty girl sucks). So I wouldn't be blatant about it to others. I guess it does kind of help me to work harder becuase I don't want to be that slow girl :-/ I need confidence boost boot camp lol.
TeresaB81 TeresaB81 8 years
I totally agree with kclulu that competition is not inherently negative. I don't look at people's machines but I use it as motivation that if the person next to me is still going--then it pushes me to keep on going. If I feel that I am really slacking, I'll use the pace of the person next to me to make me work just a little bit harder. I consider myself to be a competitive person not because I am trying to be better than anyone else but because I push myself to always work harder at something. Its not personal.
taralynnem taralynnem 8 years
I do this and it helps me push myself when I would have otherwise given up. I don't usually bother trying to look at the displays on other people's machines, it's more of a peripheral thing. Not necessarily even matching pace but time. In classes I try to keep up, usually with the instructor but if I can't then someone else who seems to be experienced with the class. Again, not overtly, just peripherally to keep myself going. I've noticed people doing it to me to and found it more flattering than anything else. If someone else is trying to keep pace with me then that means I'm inspiring them to some extent. I guess it's all in the attitude. :)
sandy82 sandy82 8 years
I'm guilty of looking over at the person next to me and checking out their speed on the machine display.I don't necessarily compete but it motivates me to go a little faster. At the same though, I hate when people obviously try to compete with me. Like constantly checking and trying to "beat" me. It's so annoying and I find it distracting.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
It always seems like I'm in the gym when no one else is really there to compete with. I suppose I could "compete" with the middle-aged nurses that walk on the treadmills at 2.5 miles an hour, but what fun would that be?
Chicagomarie Chicagomarie 8 years
and yes I know I misspelled somethings...sorry!
Chicagomarie Chicagomarie 8 years
To add to my comment earlier maybe it makes me irritated mostly because if I can tell that they are tying to be competitive and "show off" I feel I have to do the same and can get suck into going for way longer than I wanted or needed to (eg if I'm going 10 or 12 and am an hour in (ie at mile 8) and some guy or gal jumps on looks at my display and sets it a notch above, I usually counter them and stay on until they give up) I admit it, I am weak that way. It makes me upset because when I'm doing a long run I just want to chill, not focus on pace and just stay in my aerobic zone...but this ruins it, which is why unless it's an ice rink outside I stay outside (though you get annoying people trying to keep up with you there when they were clearly going WAY slower before you passed them, this happens mostly with guys for me) So it's a choice to get irritated...I'll admit. I also agree with others, competing constantly in the gym takes away the fun for all involved, espcially for the party who did not ask to get into a compatition. You want to compete, ask a friend, or sign up for a race or something. And stop comparing youself to others, I'm certianly no mster at this but it's a goal. PS. Tidal wave: if you're not walking you're running! :) it doesn't matter how fast or slow you are, being a runner a mindset and lifestyle as much as a pace ;) I only call bobbing cheerleaders or chick in Juicy Couture "joggers' lol.
kclulu kclulu 8 years
stumbler1001 I think there is a way to be competitive that can be very healthy. Years ago I ran my first marathon and I may never have done it if I hadnt seen a girl at the gym training for one. I saw what she was doing and thought that I was in good of shape as her so I could run a marathon too. It might have initially been competitive in nature but seeing someone else do something like that made me want to try something that I never even dreamed I could do. 4 marathons later and if someone at the gym sees me and wants to be competitive with me than I would be flattered. Competition isnt inherently negative, it can be very inspiring and push you to levels you didnt think you could go which is positive in my book.
smaine07 smaine07 8 years
Maybe I shouldn't have used the word "compete".. It just helps keep me motivated to stay on the machine and keep my pace up when there are others working out beside me.. I definitely don't look at their display or try to race or anything.. lol I definitely know my limits and if someone is running a 6.5 for 20 minutes on the treadmill, I don't even think about trying that. Like fitsugar said, it gives me extra energy to "feed off their fire"..
kclulu kclulu 8 years
Tidalwave, it doesnt matter how fast you run, just that you are running! And I definitely do this, but I dont see how anyone else would know that I am "competing" with them. I also see it more as motivation than competition. If I see someone running faster or further I think well if they can do it so can I! Actually I am thinking I can go longer and faster and then I have to prove it to myself so I guess that is competitive;)
darc5204 darc5204 8 years
I don't know... I think this is pretty annoying in a gym. It's really not subtle when someone is glancing at your display, and I find this advice surprising considering all the articles about etiquette and comments about rude people.
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I've read a lot of things that say NOT to do this (compete with people when exercising). Others who've written about this seem to think that shadow competition can lead to more stress [if you really can't keep up] or even injury from pushing yourself too hard. Everyone's different. Personally, I'm not competitively motivated. I don't give a crap if somebody else next to me is going faster than I am. That's them. All my motivation comes from within - I have to exercise because I want to (or want to achieve something). If it's not there, it's just not there.
DivaDivine DivaDivine 8 years
I'll admit I'm a swagger jacker when it comes to getting hyped up at the gym. I'll look on someone else's machine and set my pace to a notch above that. I'll try to do higher kicks or more reps than the person next to me in kickboxing class. So what? My body looks awesome as a result.
TidalWave TidalWave 8 years
I like to do this when I'm running. Since I'm the slowest runner in existence (oh sorry, I shouldn't call myself a runner. oh sorry again, I should just be walking), I don't try to keep up with strangers, but I do measure my pace by keeping them within sight. That way it's not obvious at all what I'm doing but does keep me a bit more motivated.
jessy777 jessy777 8 years
I have done this before and had it done at me. It is a great motivator but it helps to not be obvious about it. It is a good way to push yourself harder. On a side note, I actually met one of my best friends this way. We apparently were "competing" with each other.
Chicagomarie Chicagomarie 8 years
I hate it when this is done to me. At college in the winter I would occasionally have to do treadmill workouts because was too cold or icy out to have practice (I did track/cross country). I could tell when there where people trying to go faster or longer than me, and it was annoying and stupid...and they only looked stupider when they ended up dead because they couldn't do 6 miles at 6:15 pace, or do 12 miles continuously or whatever...just made me roll my eyes because clearly they had no way of knowing they were "competing" with a little girl who was a varsity athlete. But I guess they did push themselves hard, which, good for them I guess. I guess it is a good tactic, but be aware it might very annoying to the other person. and, though I am clearly a competitive person, always competing with people isn't healthy mentally or physically. Just sayin'
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 8 years
Not into competition in the gym, but when I'm running a 5k or something, I'll definitely use other people to pace myself as it's a great motivator to NOT stop. Gym competition drives me nuts and is why it took me so long to join one.
Personal Trainer Inspired by Track and Field
Alessandra Ambrosio's Best Workout Outfits
Best Tank Tops For Summer Workouts
How Do I Help Someone With Anxiety?
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds