Do competitions help you get healthy?

This week marks one of my favorite times of the year – the US Open. The New York Times had a couple of articles this week that got me thinking about how competition can fuel (or harm) health. The first was a great photojournalism article in the Sunday Magazine about how much harder the women are hitting than in years past. I love seeing a discussion about how increasing strength is pushing women to do more. Strength training has lots of benefits and we’re seeing more and more discussion of them (the Times also covered the role of strength training in aging-related muscle loss). The need to keep or get a competitive edge is pushing women to start strength training at younger ages — I remember this being a really novel part of our pre-season soccer training when I played in high school (aka, the old days). However, we didn’t get any instruction on proper form or how to progress safety and not injure our growing bodies. It is nice to see so many programs now for youth addressing these issues.

The other article is about a “friendly” wager (of $10,000!) between Andy Roddick and Justin Gimelstob as to whether Gimelstob can complete the New York City Marathon this November. Gimelstob’s motivation isn’t health – it is competition with Roddick – who isn’t even running! Lots of sites that offer tips for getting healthy and starting (or maintaining) exercise programs suggest friendly competitions or reward systems to keep you motivated. Gimelstob and Roddick have pushed it a bit beyond this, with friends and family worrying that Gimelstob has progressed to a significant risk of injuring himself. It got me thinking about whether friendly wagers and competitions can help or do they push us past where we should go in our pursuit of health?

What do you think? Do you use rewards or competition to motivate yourself to get active?

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