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Coach’s Note By Lance Watson: Triathlon, Do You Live And Die By It?

  • By Lance Watson
  • Published May 2, 2014
  • Updated May 5, 2014 at 1:19 PM UTC
Photo: Janos Schmidt/Triathlon.org

Many athletes live and die by their triathlon racing and training. Are you one of those athletes? Do you believe that your self-image is tied to your performances in racing, training and workouts, your body composition, what kind of equipment you have or the number of Ironman tattoos you have?

Consider the type of personalities that tend to “tri” the lifestyle commitment it takes to train for triathlons, especially the Ironman distance. It takes huge commitment. Most people think we are crazy or Type A+ personalities. One must dedicate a huge amount of effort to training, focus on an extremely regimented diet, commit to early mornings to the pool, limit the social life and often deal with a roller coaster of emotions. It can take a toll, year after year.

You don’t necessarily need to be a consumed tri geek to be a great triathlete. In fact, some of the best triathletes I have coached have balance in their lives. I note that as they mature with age from their 20s to their 30s, their performance improves. You can have relationships, family and a social life, eat junk once in a while and skip the occasional workout without becoming obsessive and still have great results.

Alternately, once you get hooked into extremely high expectations and base “who you are” and “what you stand for” completely on the outcome of a sporting event, triathlon quickly stops being fun. If it isn’t fun, you have to question why you do it.

I challenge you to sit down and write down 10 reasons why you do the sport and ask what would happen if you were not able to continue. Would your life fall apart? What is the big picture?

Most people have their personal reasons for being a triathlete. For some it’s social, for others it’s enjoying solo time alone. Another reason could be for weight control; to be able to fit in their favorite jeans. For others, it might be purely for feeling fit and healthy regardless of body composition. Some may choose the sport because they love competing against others and for some it’s a race against themselves. Triathlon may provide an opportunity to travel to destinations they may not have had the chance otherwise or to simply be happy at home and race locally with friends.

RELATED: Can You Be Too Much Of A Triathlon Perfectionist?

The end point is that when your sport or hobby becomes your life, it can be a dangerous obsession. Even at the pro level, where performance in a race means a paycheck, you can never count on anything for sure. You can be the fittest, fastest, leanest and have the most expensive equipment, and then when it comes to the day of the race, things go terribly wrong. Then what? Is all that time training wasted, money spent gone, you feel like you suck and everyone is going to talk about you behind your back? The reality of the situation is that most people truly do not care and are not going to judge you whether you win or lose the race, PB, get a Kona slot or look like a super model on the cover of Triathlete swimsuit issue.

What is most important is one’s attitude going into, and during competition. When you relax and shift your focus to being excited to race, treating your other teammates and iron-mates with respect and thankfulness, cherishing each moment, being prepared for unexpected occurrences and having a general plan on how to deal with them, your enjoyment in triathlon competition will be that much more enjoyable.

The big picture to keep in mind is that we are so lucky to be able to train and race at the level we do. I think as athletes we take a lot for granted and sweat the small stuff. Yes, racing can be stressful and traveling can turn into a nightmare of lost luggage or missed flights. Stuff happens. It’s just being aware and taking control of what’s controllable and letting the rest go. As Mike Reilly, the voice of Ironman, said at the start of the Ironman World Championship, “The only thing you can control at this moment is your ATTITUDE.” This was as competitors looked out to the ocean with large swells and unusually windy conditions on the bike that day. Thing was, everyone had to deal with those conditions and the people that didn’t let them affect them had a successful experience.

As you journey through this season, from practice to practice and race to race, ask yourself, “Do I live and die by this?” Consider if that is the experience of sport you signed up for in the first place. If not, take positive action to affect some change.

RELATED: Are You Too Competitive?

LifeSport head coach Lance Watson has coached a number of Ironman, Olympic and age-group Champions over the past 25 years. He enjoys coaching athletes of all levels. Join Lance to tackle your first triathlon or perform at a higher level. 

More “Coach’s Note” from Lance Watson.

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