Our series of fun workout debates continue!  Our first debate was: Do you acknowledge strangers when exercising outdoors?  Second up: When on a run, do you do a little jig at red lights or come to a complete stop?


Today’s debate will reveal your competitive nature…  The question:  When on workout equipment, swimming laps, or running on a track, do you ‘race’ the person next to you?


About a month ago, DadHTP and I were at the pool.  We were sharing a lane and leisurely swimming laps.  We’re rarely side-by-side, not only because we swim at different paces, but also because we try to time it so we’re not constantly splashing each other.  But at some point, we happened to hit the wall at the same time; thus we started down the lane simultaneously. 


For the first half of the distance, we simply matched pace.  Then, slowly but surely, we both started to speed up.  By the time we were 3/4 the way, we were both sprinting.  I hit the wall a mere second before Dad hit, popped out of the water, and laughed, “Hah! I BEAT YOU!”  He smiled and said, “Wait, we were racing?  Said who?”


I’m relatively competitive, I’ll admit.  So if I’m swimming, running, or even ellipticalling next to someone else, I’ll race them in my mind.  It doesn’t really matter if they know we’re racing or not!  But most people catch on rather quickly – maybe it’s the shifty side-eyes that I keep giving them – and race me back. 

Racing can be dangerous, of course.  I’ll never forget the time I went on a run with my buddy Meghann – we were doing an 11-miler in preparation for a half marathon – and instead of speaking up and saying I needed to slow down, I felt compelled to match her (let’s be serious, I can’t actually race Meghann).  I chugged on and on, but by the end, I was completely shot – and my darn knees were killing me.  It’s too easy to get caught up in the competition; there’s a point that you stop listening to your body cues.


As a side note: Did anyone else see the Mad Men episode when Don Draper swam-raced the guy in the lane next to him?  If Don and I swam-raced, I wonder who would win… Probably me because Don would be swimming three scotches deep. Sober advantage!


Do you race strangers at the gym?  Do you get irritated when you can tell others are racing you



  • Samantha Angela July 24, 2012, 12:11 pm

    I do notice than I tend to run a little faster when I’m on the treadmill beside someone else.
    Weirdly though, I feel like when I’m running with my husband I keep myself a few steps behind.

    I am ultra competitive but I try to make my “racing” looking discreet!

  • Jordan @ Bake Write Sleep July 24, 2012, 12:17 pm

    I don’t purposely do it, but yeah, I get competitive. I’m the worst about it.

  • Presley (@runpretty) July 24, 2012, 12:19 pm

    I try not to, but I can’t help myself. I think I just run faster in general if I’m around other people. So awkward when someone catches on, though.

  • Rachel O. July 24, 2012, 12:21 pm

    i don’t race anyone usually – but i always speed up when i’m passing someone going the other direction or passing by someone who’s in their yard working – i think i subconsciously (and consciously) want to prove I’m a pro and i’m not struggling

  • Cait @ Beyond Bananas July 24, 2012, 12:22 pm

    When I was in college, I always race those around me. There was one girl in particular – that I’d always wind up on a treadmill beside her.. and I think we raced each other.
    We were always glancing at the other person’s speed.. distance, etc. Who would get off the treadmill first?

    I have tamed my need to always out do another person when indoors.. and usually try to find a TM that is.. lonely.

    If i am running outside though and see a runner up ahead.. I do whatever I can to catch them 🙂

  • Kinley @ Better Off Barefoot July 24, 2012, 12:22 pm

    This is a good debate! I’m interested to see other comments on this… I don’t really TRY to ever race anyone at the gym but I have occasionally suspected others doing it to me and have also caught myself speeding up around faster people unintentionally.

    One of the worst times I ran into this, I was running outside and came up behind a guy who was running pretty slow so I passed him but then I could hear him speed up behind me and try to pass me! I finally just turned a corner because I was annoyed that he was clearly going slower than me but still trying to catch up for some reason…I would have suspected he was doing speed work or something except for the fact that he was wearing cotton sweatpants and a regular cotton t-shirt?! I’m still maybe making assumptions but I would think if you are doing speedwork, you’d have more running geared clothes but I could be wrong, maybe that was his story?!?

    • Caitlin July 24, 2012, 12:29 pm

      Haha I often run in cotton these days 🙂

  • c July 24, 2012, 12:23 pm

    this drives me NUTS!!! i’m a twenty something rehabing from an injury, and I hate when I’m on the treadmill or something and whoever’s next to me starts looking over and racing. I’m injured, there’s a reason why I’m going slow and I’m not just lazy. I know you don’t do it maliciously, but I really wish people wouldn’t “race” complete strangers. It’s just uncomfortable, and nobody benefits

    • Tara July 24, 2012, 12:59 pm

      Exactly. Stop looking at my treadmill numbers.

    • Cathleen July 24, 2012, 3:11 pm

      Disagree. I’ve been there, and situations like that are a good opportunity to develop the confidence to do your own thing without worrying about everybody else. If it makes some guy’s day to beat me while I’m on an easy run or coming back from an injury, power to him. I learn how to swallow my pride and do what I need to do that day without getting caught up in being a warm-up hero, and he feels accomplished and satisfied by his run. If he’s trying to race me on a day that I was going to run fast anyway, then I get a built-in secret workout partner. I think both of us benefit.

    • Caitlin July 24, 2012, 3:13 pm

      I don’t think anyone believes you are lazy because you are going slow! At least I wouldn’t think that at all. I hope you rehab soon. Injuries suuuuck.

  • Chelsea July 24, 2012, 12:29 pm

    I’m a treadmill racer haha. I always think, “Ha I’m this many miles in this many minutes and they’re here and here! Winning!” don’t purposefully speed up my pace or anything ha I just talk to myself pretty much to give myself a boost. I understand some are going slower for particular reasons though.

  • Annette@FitnessPerks July 24, 2012, 12:33 pm

    I don’t really do it anymore–I used to! I am a competitive person by nature, but now I am training for a Half IM, and have my own fitness goals, so I could kind of care less what other people are doing.

    But in the pool I usually race people 😉

  • RunEatRepeat July 24, 2012, 12:34 pm

    I think THIS is part of the reason why I like running solo over working out at the gym. I want to enjoy exercise (and I do), but I don’t want to feel pressured to push myself or redefine my workout based on people around me. You do your thing, I’ll do mine.

  • Katie @ Peace Love & Oats July 24, 2012, 12:34 pm

    Haha sometimes I do! If I see the person next to me is going a bit faster, I’ll pick up my speed to be just a bit faster than them… haha

  • Nicole July 24, 2012, 12:37 pm

    I kinda like don’s workout

  • Megan@ The Running Doc July 24, 2012, 12:46 pm

    I always race the person next to me, I can’t help it and usually it makes the workout pass much faster because I’m focusing on beating them rather than on the fact that I can barely breathe, ha. The other evening my boyfriend and I were swimming laps in side by side lanes and unbeknownst to him, I would race him every lap! And the one time we purposefully raced, I totally beat him. 🙂

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More July 24, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Sometimes I race and sometimes I don’t. It’s definitely something that I think human nature makes it hard not to because we’re competitive by nature. But I also know sometimes, I don’t want to race someone, I just want to focus on me and what I’m doing and why I’m there and remember that we all have our own fitness journey.

  • Cheryl July 24, 2012, 12:49 pm

    I’m really competitive (but not very talented) but I always race – at least in my head. I notice I do it a lot in the pool where I will always try to swim a little faster than the person next to me. On the treadmill I never look at what the person is doing but try to pick up my pace a bit. I don’t think anyone actually knows what I’m doing though since I don’t look and I rarely win :-p

  • Amanda July 24, 2012, 12:49 pm

    Ugh, yes. I can get really competitive, especially about running, so I can’t really help it. And THAT is why I prefer running outside by myself! Haha

  • Michelle @ Eat Move Balance July 24, 2012, 12:52 pm

    I used to race the random people around me, but I’ve kinda gotten over it as I’ve gotten older. now I pay more attention to how I’m feeling and workout accordingly. 🙂

  • Emily July 24, 2012, 12:53 pm

    I am the least competitive person I know. Also very slow. So, no, I would never race anyone and no one would race me, because it wouldn’t be a challenge for them. I wish I had a tiny bit of competitiveness, because I think the lack of it keeps me from improving.

  • Tara July 24, 2012, 12:57 pm

    The time for racing is during a race. I actually think if you are so focused on another person during your own workout, especially if it’s supposed to be an “easy run” or something like that, you have serious issues. Focus on yourself.

  • Natalie July 24, 2012, 1:03 pm

    This post reminded me of the Jenna Marbles video a while back which talks about the same thing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh_yc6AKXLI

    I’m not a good runner so I don’t like to “race” in that way but I always do in group fitness classes, such as “must hold this plank longer than everyone else” etc. Besides it’s easier to race when everyone around you is there to do the same thing.

  • Brigid July 24, 2012, 1:04 pm

    I don’t race people at the gym. I can totally tell when people are trying to race me, and it usually makes me want to slow down or raise an eyebrow at them. I consider myself a pretty competitive person, but I’m also a realist. I exercise to be in good shape and to race myself, but I’m not athletic.

  • Liz July 24, 2012, 1:06 pm

    As a former competitive swimmer and current swimmer-for-fun, I have to say, this is the most obnoxious thing to see in the pool. I don’t go to the pool to race the person next to me, or try to out-exercise anyone. I go because I love to work out, it makes me feel incredible and it is good for my body and mind. Seeing someone next to me in the lane or on a treadmill/elliptical watching me and trying to beat me or keep up takes away from the “me time” that working out is. If you do this in the pool- seriously- cut it out. It ruins everyone else’s experience and it just makes you look like a self absorbed child.

  • Danielle July 24, 2012, 1:18 pm

    Haha! I have a double standard – which I will readily acknowledge – love to race people, but I don’t want to be raced back 😉

  • Kristy Doyle July 24, 2012, 1:42 pm

    I try not to race people, mainly because I rarely win! But honestly, I do get a bit competitive in that if someone else is running near me, I won’t stop, even if I want to.

  • Kate July 24, 2012, 1:43 pm

    I love rowing in sync when on a rowing machine. The person beside me often doesn’t notice I am matching their pace on purpose. It makes me feel like it is easier for some reason…like we are both pulling and pushing together.

  • Sam @ Better With Sprinkles July 24, 2012, 1:50 pm

    of course I do! Even if I don’t actually race people when I’m next to them on the treadmill, I do take a peak at their speed and feel a little proud of myself if I’m running at a higher speed then them. But if I’m going slower, I’ll likely crank up the speed a little bit – I refuse to lose the race I just made up in my mind, so it acts as good motivation to push myself a little bit harder.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat July 24, 2012, 1:51 pm

    Hehe nope, I’m not a big gym racer. Sometimes I find myself casually looking over to see what speed someone else is running at, but I don’t intentionally try to race them. Funny story though… once I was at the gym and a guy who clearly thought he was pretty hot stuff jumped on the treadmill next to me. He saw how fast I was running and cranked his treadmill up about .2mph higher. He probably didn’t anticipate that I’d be going at it for a good hour, and about 5 minutes into his run (at which point I was about 45 mins into mine) he had to stop and was breathing so heavily I almost asked if he was ok. Definitely left a smile on my face!

  • Hillary July 24, 2012, 1:58 pm

    Have you ever seen that e-card on Pinterest that says, “If you’re on the treadmill next to me, the answer is, yes, we are racing”? Because that is totally me. And I don’t consider myself competitive at all. Haha!

  • Lexi @ You, Me, & A World to See July 24, 2012, 2:04 pm

    Hahah this definitely happens to me on the elliptical! I don’t know why, but I almost can’t help it 🙂

  • Breanne July 24, 2012, 2:09 pm

    I definitely race and compete with the people around me… whether it’s speed (“ha! faster!”) or distance in the pool/on the treadmill/the road/etc (“well, sure they beat me to the end of the lane but they had to stop and I kept going…”) or in Group X (“oh you’re going to do air jacks, I’ll raise you one with tucks!”). You’re right though, you definitely have to keep your own body in my and not overdo it.

    I’m actually really good at pacing myself and NOT racing… during races. Haha. I know what I’ve trained to do and I know that more often than not my friends and the people around me will be faster so I have to keep my goal of FINISHING first.

  • Mary @ food and fun on the run July 24, 2012, 2:23 pm

    I will sometimes try to pick people off if I am doing a running workout, but not when I am doing an easy run. I will let anyone pass me at that point! I think I am just so happy to be running slow and not being speedy!

  • Michele July 24, 2012, 2:25 pm

    I hate it so so so much when people race me! I find it to be one of the most rude things you can do to a person. It makes me feel like I’m being picked on because they normally just go faster than I’m going to make themselves feel good about themself. I hate competition at the gym for it makes it a place of judgement because i like going my own pace and I no longer feel comfortable doing what I want to be doing, and I hope this can act as a PSA — PLEASE STOP RACING OTHER PEOPLE.

    • Michelle July 24, 2012, 3:54 pm

      Agreed! It actually makes me feel pretty terrible about myself when I notice someone doing it. (and it usually pretty obvious). I’m at the gym to make myself feel strong and good not to boost your ego because you’re bored on the treadmill. If its so boring, find someplace else to workout!

  • Christina July 24, 2012, 2:28 pm

    I typically giggle to myself when other people try to “race” me. Not because I’m faster (I’m definitely NOT), but because I think it’s funny that they try to ‘one-up’ someone else instead of focusing on their own workouts.

  • Morgan @ moments of mmm July 24, 2012, 2:33 pm

    Whenever I am on a treadmill or elliptical I cannot get off until the person next to me is finished. A good motivator to push myself longer.

  • Erin @ erinberries July 24, 2012, 2:55 pm

    Oh I totally race the person next to me. I rarely win though. I remember this one time I started racing this guy swimming next to me. I was dumb and naive – of course a big, strong man will beat me. Oh well! 🙂

  • LeeAnn July 24, 2012, 2:57 pm

    If you are on the treadmill next to me…then yes, we are racing 😉

  • Court Star @ StarSystemz July 24, 2012, 3:02 pm

    I have a problem with “showing off” at the gym! It makes a challenge for me but yes at the same time I end up either hurting myself or being so exhausted working out the next day is just not happening! I guess its the competitive nature in us. I try to go now when no one else is there, that way I am working out to my extreme not someone elses! Love and Shine CourtStar

  • Jennie @ While My Button Sleeps July 24, 2012, 3:45 pm

    This post makes me laugh. I have a similar issue as a previous commenter, Danielle. I love to race others but hate to be raced back! Once at the park I tailed these two older guys for six miles 🙂 they caught me and were super nice about it but I was mortified!!!

    Since then, I’ve been better. I race myself because I’m so obnoxiously competitive (Monica from Friends, anyone?) so I’ll tell myself things like “bet you cant get to the fence by the end of this song” or “you have five seconds to sprint your hardest.” I look “a fool” but it’s fine by me!

  • Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy July 24, 2012, 3:54 pm

    i purposely try to go on a treadmill that’s not next to anyone, so I don’t have to feel like I’m racing anyone

  • Morgan July 24, 2012, 4:36 pm

    No offense to anyone, but I think it’s so rude to do this. If you are at the gym you should be working out for yourself, not involving other people who didn’t ask to take part in your “race”. What you might be doing is making someone feel very self-conscious just to pump your own self up. Which is, kinda gross.

    • c July 24, 2012, 4:59 pm

      Exactly how I feel. We should all just focus on our own workouts. If someone gets on a machine near me and starts competing, I’ll usually switch machines. The gym should be a positive experience for everyone, and I think it’s nosy and inappropriate to look over at someone’s screen and start racing

      • Michele July 24, 2012, 8:55 pm

        Agreed. This is really annoying and makes me not enjoy my workout.

  • Alex @ Healthy Life Happy Wife July 24, 2012, 5:02 pm

    I won’t necessarily race (& I always cover my treadmill numbers with a magazine so I can’t watch the time which means no one else can look at the pace or anything) but sometimes I will find someone who is running & run as long as they are running. It’s not a very fun game bc I normally run longer than most at my gym anyway lol.

  • Claire July 24, 2012, 5:05 pm

    I’m loving these debates!

    I’m definitely a racer. I always pick up speed if someone is near me. I try so hard not to but my garmin doesn’t lie! One sunday I was out for a recovery run as I’d done a long run the day before. I was planning to run 5.20ish kms. A girl caught me early in my run and I decided to stay with her and we ended up running 4.25s and I was completely shot. Ridiculous! And just the other day I was doing 20k at 5.15s, and a girl ran up beside me so I had to stick with her until she turned off at 5.00s. Silly.

  • Amanda July 24, 2012, 5:07 pm

    It drives me up the freaking wall when people do this to me. I am definitely a long, slow runner and swimmer, so feeling like someone is trying to outdo me, when I am just doing my thing drives me crazy.

  • Lisa July 24, 2012, 5:14 pm

    Sometimes I do that in the pool. If there is a fast swimmer in another lane, I’ll race them (and beat them). 🙂

  • Heidi July 24, 2012, 5:15 pm

    I absolutely race the person next to me-both running on the treadmill and when swimming laps. In fact, I had a treadmill “race” with the person next to me just this morning (although they didn’t know it…well…maybe they did because I kept giving their treadmill sneaky little sideways glances!) 😉 I don’t do it because I want to “beat” that person, I do it more to motivate myself. I prefer to run or swim with a buddy that helps me to push myself. When left to my own devices I can be a bit lazy. Secret treadmill racing pushes me to run faster when maybe I would have only jogged if I was all by myself!

    • Breanne July 25, 2012, 12:09 pm

      I agree with this sentiment! I do it to motivate myself and it’s easier to be motivated by other people. There is an occasional ego boost if I am fast or do go farther (a raaaaaaare occasion), but in general it just forces me to keep up and keep going.

  • K @ Finding a skinnier me July 24, 2012, 5:29 pm

    I have raced someone once or twice, it is really good motivation. There was once this girl on the elliptical next to me, same size, going a lot faster, so I started stepping up my game, ended up giving me an amazing work out!

    But normally I am so much in my own world, I usually don’t even notice the person next to me.

  • Julia H. @ Going Gulia July 24, 2012, 5:30 pm

    I’m loving these workout debates…makes me realize that everyone does the funny things I do when I work out! I wouldn’t necessarily say I race when I work out, but if someone is next to me, I am much more likely to not slow down if I’m starting to feel lazy. Even if I’m not physically racing them, though, I definitely do have a tendency to always peek over at the numbers on their treadmill/elliptical/bike & see what level/intensity they’re at!

  • Abby July 24, 2012, 6:06 pm

    I don’t necessarily compete with other runners speed but use them as a tool for motivation. If I’m on the treadmill, chances are I’ll be counting down the minutes, so I try to stay on the treadmill longer than my neighbor (clearly this is stupid – who knows what they’re training is and what happens when they get off!?). I also do this in races… if someone passes me and I commit them to memory, I try to catch them later. Or if I’ve been trailing someone for the majority of the race, I make it my mission to get ahead of them.

  • Coco July 24, 2012, 6:24 pm

    I absolutely race anyone in the lanes next to me.. I just can’t help it 🙂

  • Kim July 24, 2012, 6:27 pm

    I used to think it was cool when I had the 50 meter pool to myself, but now I realize I prefer it when there are a few other swimmers because it is motivating. I’ll “race them” if it isn’t obvious. I also do it on the bike or while walking – it is mainly motivation for myself rather than “beating them”.

  • Katie July 24, 2012, 6:36 pm

    I hate feeling like other people are racing or competing against me at the gym. I think it’s the worst when I’m lifting- just because I’m doing x exercise with y amount of weights doesn’t mean you need to bump up the amount of weight you’re using…it just makes you look silly when you can’t do it. It took a lot for me to start going to the gym, and feeling like other people are “racing” me on equipment makes me feel REALLY self-conscious all over again, haha

  • Bobbie July 24, 2012, 7:01 pm

    If I am doing a speed workout at the gym I will most def. “race” the person next to me. However, if I have a long, slow and steady run on my schedule I try to ignore how the person next to me is doing or sometimes I look for someone who is obviously just walking so I won’t be tempted to push it.

  • Lauren @ Sassy Molassy July 24, 2012, 7:04 pm

    Hey Caitlin, I’m just curious how your former neighbor (Tonya?) is doing? I have just been thinking about her and hoping they are doing okay.

  • Caitlin July 24, 2012, 7:31 pm

    When I use to go to my college gym and run on the treadmill, especially when it was super slow, I’d set a goal to be the last one there still running. So I’d try to continue running until either everyone was no longer running and now walking or until there’s no longer anyone on the treadmill. Of course, at some point this would have to stop because I couldn’t run all day there.

  • Tracy July 24, 2012, 7:42 pm

    Not to mention the cigarettes Don Draper smoked on the way to the pool!!!

  • Jessica @ New Girl, New City July 24, 2012, 10:45 pm

    Awww I love baby feet!
    Despite running for over 2 years, I have never been fitted properly for running shoes <- NEEED to do this!

  • Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 25, 2012, 7:05 am

    I’ve raced someone on the treadmill next to me once or twice before when I was needing a bit of extra motivation to push myself! But for the most part I like to just go at my own pace.

  • Katie July 25, 2012, 2:45 pm

    I don’t really try to race others, because my cardio on the treadmill or bike is usually just a warm-up or cool down thing, and I don’t want to over work my muscles when I’ve already done a tough workout/have one ahead of me.

    When I go to my gym’s Saturday morning boot camp, though, I’m definitely motivated to keep pace with/race with certain people. It’s kind of the motivation I need, since I’m working out at 10 AM in the morning (I’m a teenager– that’s early for me! 😛 ) and because it puts some fun into the workout. I try really hard to listen to my body cues, though, and WILL usually slow down when I realize that I’m pushing too much.

  • Amber K July 25, 2012, 3:23 pm

    I don’t actually race the person next to me, but if one of the gym employees is giving someone a tour I totally pick up my speed.

    If they point at the type of machine I’m on to explain how it works, I’ll start going faster. I don’t even realize I was doing it until I’m done, and then I feel like such a goof when I slow back down once they’re gone. lol

  • Allie Q July 25, 2012, 5:39 pm

    I don’t really try to out-race people at the gym because I don’t do too much cardio. But I definitely try to out-lift other women.

    • Allie Q July 25, 2012, 5:44 pm

      Well, to clarify, I don’t try to outlift them, per se. I just notice how much weight the other women are lifting (I do so as subtly as possible). I might move up to my what I know is my upper limit, but I never try to lift weights that are out of my league. But I’m pretty good at gauging that kind of thing.

  • Shannon July 26, 2012, 11:46 am

    I only (secretly) race people when I swim (as opposed to when I run) because I swam competitively for 15 years and can smoke everyone at my pool. I’ll never be the fastest runner (or even close to it!) but swimming is my jam! I love beating all the dudes.

    • Katie July 28, 2012, 2:02 pm

      I also race while I swim & I love beating the guys! LOL. But I have tried to lessen my competitiveness when I am swimming in a lane with someone who is beginning to swim, but if you’re swimming pretty good, it’s a race!

  • Ashley July 26, 2012, 2:22 pm

    I 100% race anyone who hops on the treadmill next to me. Or if I get on the treadmill next to someone I’ll try to catch up to them or something. I’m sure they figure it out since I’m side glancing, but I think it keeps the treadmill from being so dang boring. And I’m not really racing to beat them, just to keep me entertained and motivated to push harder.

    But for the most part? I try to put at least one treadmill between me and everyone else.

  • JennyV July 26, 2012, 9:24 pm

    Yet another reason why I love intervals on the treadmill!! That way no one can try to race me too easily 🙂

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