Are you racing out of fear?

Why do you race? I have been asking my friends, teammates and clients this question for years. Yet, I have not heard a satisfactory answer. Recently, I had a conversation on this topic with a client. This caused me to write this blog.

Let me elaborate. There are many motivations that may be behind your athletic pursuits. While some are positive and beneficial, others are negative and harmful. When you race for the right reasons, it can be rewarding and fun. You can be an inspiration to others, challenge yourself, achieve a goal, focus your exercise program, feel joyfully alive and improve your fitness. However, if you race out of fear, it can be destructive and become an obsession. Additionally, it can also undermine your relationships, career and health.

Clearly, the racing lifestyle can become a habit. After all, it is just what we do. Rarely do we stop to consider why we race and whether or not we even wish to continue. Now, as the seasons transition, is the time to take that pause and gain an understanding of your racing motivation. While you’re thinking about your racing season, look at the questions below. When you answer the four questions that follow, you can determine if fear is driving you. When you have this new awareness, you will be able to make the best decision for your athletic future.

First, ask yourself, are you racing to gain approval, respect or admiration from someone else? This represents a fear of not being accepted by others as you are. In essence, you feel you must race to prove yourself to others. Being liked and part of a community is important to you. Actually, you many not even enjoy racing. Instead, you might just succumb to peer pressure and your desire to impress others through athletic results. If this is an issue for you, think about this. The only person’s opinion that matters is your own!

Next, ask, are you racing to defy aging by proving that you can still meet the challenge? Maybe you are afraid of getting older, so you think that racing will stop the ticking clock. If you think about it, it’s clear that our society is obsessed with staying young. We are bombarded with messages that tell us aging is bad and should be avoided at all costs. Obviously, plastic surgeons, supplement makers and hormone distributors are reaping the benefits of this fear. As a result of this fear of aging, we believe that if we can still finish a marathon, we aren’t getting older. However, let’s be real! You’re still aging. It’s natural! It’s part of our life cycle. Because our bodies change as we age, our race times slow down. That’s why there are age groups in races! When you stay active, you will keep you feeling young, but you will not stop aging. Embrace your life instead of fighting the natural process of growing older!

Third, consider: are you racing to validate your identity as an athlete? You fear not meeting your own self-imposed expectations about who you are and what you should be doing athletically. For example, having an Ironman tattoo is a strong statement about your identity. When you look at the tattoo, you remind yourself and others that you are an Ironman. So, an Ironman is expected to be racing Ironman triathlons! If you aren’t doing Ironman races, who are you? If you aren’t doing Ironman races, you feel that you are a disappointment to yourself . . . But you shouldn’t. Keep in mind: you have multiple gifts and talents to give–ones that go way beyond your athletic contributions!

Finally, ask: are you racing to feel superior to people who don’t race? Being normal, “just another mountain biker, runner or skier,” is scary. In other words, you want to stand out. Racing gives you the opportunity to elevate yourself above others who don’t cross the start line. You race and believe that racing is what makes you better than those who don’t, regardless of your results. Racing strokes your ego and builds your self esteem. It makes you feel you are good enough, you are worthy and successful. But . . . You don’t need to race and be better than others to love yourself!

Related Posts

Am I okay to move and play?

Am I okay to move and play?

This is a question many of us ask ourselves and may struggle to answer. Put more simply, we might say, should I go out and [fill in the blank with your planned exercise/sport] today, or should I stay home and take it easy? Our response depends on the origin of the...

Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour

Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour

Last month I mentioned one of my "strong professional yeses was a super cool adventure that combines a couple of my passions." This is it: the Pain Revolution Rural Outreach Tour! This is a cycling tour in Australia that’s meant to spread advanced pain science...

About the Author


Jessica uses an integrative approach to help you overcome chronic pain. She believes in treating the whole person utilizing the biopsychosocial approach to healing. Her offerings include posture therapy, online exercise classes, pain science education, and individual or group wellness coaching. She is certified by the Postural Restoration Institute® (PRI), Egoscue University®, National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), American Council on Exercise (ACE) and Wellcoaches.