Reason #10: The Pursuit of Sportyness

For me the biggest difference between going to the gym and playing sports is how hard I will push myself. When it comes to that one last set in the gym I will admit, if no-one else is around, I have been guilty on more than one occasion of just putting the weight down and walking away (yeah, yeah I know, all the benefit comes in the last few reps, etc, etc). But having played numerous sports for over 20 years I can count on one hand the number of times I have given up before the end of a game because I was tired. It just doesn’t happen, and is usually only in the days afterwards I realise how stupid that decision was at times!

But why is this? I don’t know my own psyche well enough to answer, my initial thought was the competitiveness of it, but then I realised that I often come away from victories (rare as they are) dissatisfied and dejected with my performance, analysing why I made certain poor decisions. So I imagine it is something to do with the pursuit of self-improvement. Sure, you could lift more weight or do a few more reps, but it just doesn’t feel the same as developing a skill, becoming more proficient in a sport. In developing your abilities you always have the chance that you might make that one tweak to your technique that will unlock several levels in performance. In the gym you are unlikely to double your weights from one session to the next but in sport your performance can vary dramatically from game to game.

Nir Eyal came up with a great model, called the ‘hook model’ that distils addictive/habit-forming products down to 3 components (huuuuge paraphrasing and bastardisation here): variable reward, social pressures, urge to complete. Now consider this:

In sport you have no idea really whether you are going to be on top form or terrible and when you will produce that surprise moment of skill you will forever remember — variable reward.

When you play in a team you are surrounded by people whose opinions you care about and who you want to do right by — social pressure.

By winning a game, a tournament or a league, especially doing so having gone unbeaten there is a definite ultimate prize that you are working towards in a defined number of games — urge to complete.

When I think about it like that, it is no wonder I sometimes end up craving my next hit (of a squash ball obvs).

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***This post is part of a series called ‘Tmup: 11 Reasons why…you should play more’, for more reasons why click here or on my profile.***

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