Typically, when discussing fitness, sport and competition, we are commenting on the physical nature of these endeavors. On the surface, the physical component is obvious, but I have explained that my interest in these activities stems from a desire to overcome psychological limitations, as opposed to a measure physical performance or outward appearance.
My experience has proven that training sessions, not races, are where the suffering and growth occur. For me, the race is structured and planned; a kind of scientific experiment. I know what my heart rate should be, when I will speed up, slow down, eat and drink. I figured out the complicated stuff during training. The race is where I put it all together, but in a sense I already know what will happen even before I start. Truth be told, I prefer training to racing.
So why do I race?
Whoa! When free writing about this topic and that question came up, I have to admit that I stumped myself. I had to put the pad and paper down and walk away. I train to learn about myself, my body and my mind; to embody commitment, discipline and conviction for success in life, not a race. So then why race?
Although I was always active, I did not become the overzealous, type A endurance athlete you know today until after my dad passed away following a courageous battle with brain cancer. Looking back running, biking, swimming, and training were an outlet of sorts. At the onset, triathlon was a saving grace. Unfortunately, at some point all of the training and racing, planning and analyzing became detrimental. Seeking to fill the void that was left with the passing of my dad, I was not running toward any type of finish line, I was running away from the reality of my loss.
In an effort to protect myself from the pain of losing my dad, I was training so hard, so often that I had to race to justify the training. Let’s be honest, no one works out 6 days a week, twice a day just for the heck of it. I would train for the sake of training. I would run and then run again. Injuries were ignored, and so were rest days, along with obvious signs of over-training. I had lost the ability to rationalize what I was doing and why. I wasn’t improving, I wasn’t faster or stronger. I was literally running myself into the ground so I would feel the physical pain and forego the emotional distress.
It was not until after I took the time to identify the underlying reason for my actions that I was able to apply the lessons learned. Only after asking myself the hard questions was I able to admit that I had hit rock bottom. Confronted with that realization there was only one thing to do and I have been doing it ever since; I would use the experience of losing my dad to drive me in everything that I do, each and every day. It has been the lessons in adversity, mental toughness and perseverance that have since led to success in sport, business and life
Yep, in a backwards and mixed-up way I had gotten exactly what I asked for; training had taught me more
about the mental and emotional aspects of life than any race could reveal about my physical abilities.
So now that you know my story, why do you train and race?
I want you to think about why you do what you do. What motivates or drives you? Have you ever thought about it?
If you find yourself in a similar situation as my own, know that you will never find what you are looking for if you are running from or chasing after something. You have to search within yourself for meaning and purpose; no amount of training or racing will provide you with what you need.
The Stoic philosopher Seneca tells us that we would be better served by “a change of soul” instead of running from our fears or shortcomings because “Though you may cross vast spaces…your faults will follow you whithersoever you travel.”
Take a moment to reflect on what motivates you to train and live. Be sure your actions are in line with your intentions. Are you living in accordance to the principles and convictions you hold in the highest regard? There is no escaping the issues you choose not to address. If you continue to focus your attention straight ahead, searching for a new challenge or the next finish line instead of looking within yourself, you will never find true happiness.