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Lynn M. Lombard: Competitive spirit keeps me on my toes

I’ve always been a bit competitive. Back in high school, I pushed to be the one whose chest hit the string as I crossed the finish line on the track. I fell short a lot, I will admit. I often watched as others won the blue ribbon. And though I was happy for those victors, inside I was cringing, berating myself for not doing better.

After graduation, that competitiveness subsided. I was no longer part of a team, and there was nobody running next to me. As an adult, I gave up running and turned to speed walking. Not only did I love it, but I had only myself to please.

That’s when my inner voice piped up loud and clear. There was something else to beat now: the clock. So I would wear a stopwatch every time I set out on my 3-mile journey.

What a mood changer it was when that watch glowed numbers telling me I had just finished with a faster time. But when the numbers didn’t change or (gasp!) went up instead of down, that good mood got squashed.

It was a roller coaster, but it worked for me. It was keeping me fit, trim and healthy. And I was enjoying it.

Then, a year ago, my mom bought my sister and me a step-tracking device. I wore it (like a watch) all day, every day. I slept with it. I took a shower with it. And it would add up every one of my steps.

I set a goal of 10,000 steps a day, and when I hit it, the device would do a little “vibration dance” for me. The real bonus: I realized I could connect to friends who had the same device.

After a few months, I was friends with several people who I would now be competing with for the top spot. Sayonara, stopwatch! I was now back on the track, in a race with people who were virtually right next to me. My sister was hundreds of miles away, but each week, I saw her steps soar to the top, leaving me “in her dust.”

At first, it was just a game. It was cool to periodically compare my steps to those of my other friends. I quickly got used to being in the No. 2 spot (because my sister is a ridiculously active exerciser) but I could not, would not allow my other friends to get ahead of me. If someone did, I felt defeated once more.

As I watched my name slip down a spot, I’d begin to plot how I could get ahead. Did I need to take another walk? Run up and down the stairs at work? Dance around my living room?

I saw myself relax in the summer, since my goal was reachable because of my daily walks. It was when the winter weather prohibited me from going outside that I started to get crazy. My tracker does not process my inside workouts well. Apparently, sweating to a DVD does not always equal steps.

It is what it is. But what it’s becoming is a sickness.

I feel like I have grown as an athlete and as a person. I have learned the purpose of being a “good loser.” If I had always come in first place, then no one else could feel that same glory of being a winner. Everyone should get to experience that feeling of accomplishment.

Perhaps first place isn’t as important as it once was to me. Maybe it’s time to put the inner voice to rest. Oh, wait! My name just jumped ahead a spot …