Think about it. Are you eating clean, or are you just having two slices of pizza when your friends are having four slices?
Are you really strong, or just slightly more active than the couch potatoes around you?
Chances are, if you are new to fitness, you’re not at fit as you think you are. On the flipside, if you have been training for a while you are probably more fit than you think you are.
I can’t even count the times I’ve heard newbies at the gym exclaim "I’m so out of shape!" Fit people tend to say this more often than couch potatoes. Presumably, the reason this is such a common utterance at the gym is that we train as a group and we tend to compare ourselves to others around us.
We can’t help but check out the how many plates the guy on the next bench has on his bar, or sneak a peek during yoga class to see who looks best in their new lulus. In this setting, it’s easy to see how our perception of our own fitness is influenced by those around us.
Whether we’re willing to admit this or not, we are influenced by our social circle. How we react to events around us, how we perceive ourselves, and what motivates us is all heavily dependent upon our peers.
Once we train with skilled athletes, we get a glimpse of the possibilities, we are motivated to set bigger and better goals. The first step toward accomplishing those goals is to realize how far we still have to go.
As it turns out, our perception of our own health and fitness depends not only on whom we are comparing ourselves against, but our actual skill level. Several studies suggest that we aren’t very good at estimating our own health and fitness. In fact, the more incompetent we are at something, the more we tend to overestimate our skill level. In theory, we lack the appropriate yardstick to recognize competence or incompetence.
Conversely, the more skilled we are at something, the more we tend to automatically assume that others around us have those same skills.
Social psychologists call this the Dunning-Kruger effect, which states that for a given skill, and fitness is a skill, incompetent people will tend to overestimate their own level of skill and often fail to recognize genuine skill in others.
The good news is that if you are reading this and feeling worried that you’ll never know all there is to know about fitness, you’ve taken an important first step toward mastery. You’ve learned enough to know there is still a lot you don’t know about fitness.
You may not be as healthy as you think you are, but don’t sell yourself short. Don’t compare yourself to the average overweight sick Canadian. Instead, aim higher, keep learning, keep practising.
Tania Tetrault Vrga is owner and head trainer at CrossFit Winnipeg. Send questions to her at www.crossfitwinnipeg.com