Have you ever seen someone training hard and looking strong and determined, or crossing the finish line of a race with a look of joy and accomplishment on their face? Someone reveling in the hard work and the feeling that comes from striving for and reaching a physically challenging goal?
Have you ever been that person?
Do you believe that you could be that person?
For a long time, it didn’t even occur to me that I could do something like that. I began doing triathlons when I was out of shape, feeling depressed and bad about myself, and knowing I needed a challenging goal to get myself to start exercising. I’d never been particularly athletic, and had never consistently exercised in my adult life. Honestly, I don’t know what exactly it was that prompted me to do a triathlon, since I (literally) could not make it from one end of the pool to the other without grasping for the sides of the pool and gasping for air, but at some point I decided that was what I was going to do. I think I knew I needed a big (and somewhat scary) goal to turn my health around.
And it ended up turning my whole life around.
That’s not an exaggeration. It went way beyond the more active lifestyle that improved my health and energy level. Reaching these goals, improving my fitness, and having an empowering, fun and challenging hobby led me to an increase in confidence and happiness that I didn’t even realize I needed. It truly changed me from the inside out.
If I can do it, believe me, you can do it too.
Realizing that I was capable of much more than I gave myself credit for, and wanting others to have this realization too, is one of the main reasons I became a coach. You and I, normal people with commitments and responsibilities that can seem to take all of our time and energy, can achieve a high performance level in training and racing. And of course, high performance means different things to different people. I’m pretty sure at this point in my life, no matter how hard I trained and how much time I dedicated, that I would not be able win the Olympics against lifelong athletes. But I CAN reach challenging and seemingly far-fetched goals that are right for me and my life. I can push myself beyond the limits of what I’ve previously achieved and continue to improve and set even higher goals.
So…what is it that holds you back?
Lack of time? Lack of energy? Fear of failure? Being overwhelmed by all of the logistics that would go into even beginning to work toward that goal? For me it was (and still sometimes is) a combination of all of these things. And yes, it does take hard work and sacrifice. But I’ve seen, time and time again, with myself and others, that if you make a decision to do it, you will find a way. And the hard work and sacrifice make reaching that goal even sweeter.
Still thinking this might not be for you? When doubt creeps in, there are a couple reminders I like to give to myself and my athletes.
1) Remember that you are not alone. Everyone, whether new to a sport or a seasoned veteran, coaches, elites and professionals, has moments of doubt in themselves and their abilities. It’s how we respond to those doubts that matters.
2) Ask for help. Don’t know where to start or how to begin training? Talk to a coach or another athlete who can help you balance your other responsibilities with training for your goal.
3) Everyone starts somewhere. Wherever you are starting from, whatever your experience or ability level, that is ok. Your goal might be to finish running a mile without stopping. Or it might be to complete a marathon. Start with what is right for you.
4) Now is the time. There’s no better time to act than now. You don’t have to feel completely ready or prepared to begin working on a challenging goal. You just need to begin.
5) It is worth it. If you feel like you’d like something to change; if a part of you wants to reach for something new, you will not regret going for it. And when you do reach it, the rewards will surpass simply checking the accomplishment off your bucket list.
So this year, take the plunge.
Set a challenging goal that might seem just beyond your reach. See yourself as an athlete. Strive to reach a new performance level. Talk with an experienced athlete or a coach and have them help you figure out what a challenging but reasonable goal is for you. Give yourself the gift of working hard to push your limits and crossing that threshold. Give yourself the reward of achieving something you never thought you could.
It will change you forever.