I had the amazing fortune to be selected by my company as a Win4Youth ambassador to compete with 70 of my global colleagues in an Olympic-distance triathlon in Spain last September. I had never competed in a triathlon previously, but I was ready to take on a new challenge while promoting an amazing cause that supports disadvantaged youth around the world. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience will forever change my life.
5 Lessons I Learned Participating in the Win4Youth Triathlon
1. If it doesn’t make you at least a little uncomfortable, it’s probably not worth doing
Training for my triathlon gave me an opportunity to be uncomfortable 6-7 days a week. I can’t say that I ever looked forward to a 3+ hour bike ride or 5am run to beat the summer heat, but I loved how I felt after I was finished.
“Now I realize that some of my greatest accomplishments in my career were a result of initially stepping outside my comfort zone.”
I absolutely dreaded hitting the pool initially, but I learned to look forward to those workouts the most. Now I realize that some of my greatest accomplishments in my career were a result of initially stepping outside my comfort zone, and I don’t ever plan on shying from a challenge in the future.
2. Take advantage of your mornings
I’m not going to lie – regularly having my alarm clock go off between 4:30–5:00 am was not something I loved. I did, however, learn to appreciate having that early morning time to clear my head and mentally plan the day ahead.
I found myself exceedingly more productive those days compared to waking up later, getting ready and rushing out the door with my family in a race against the clock. By taking that extra time to set priorities in the morning, it set me up for a much more organized and productive day.
3. It’s ok to have a bad day
Your body talks to you, but I can’t think of many times in my life when I’ve actually listened to it. I beat myself up early in my training program if I had a bad workout. Over time, I realized that was my body’s way of telling me I just needed a break.
I also realized there were things within my control that could likely have prevented me from having that bad workout – not drinking enough water throughout the day or eating properly are examples. My lesson: If you control the things you can control, bad days are only temporary and tomorrow is a new day!
4. Worry about yourself
Full disclosure: it’s always bothered the competitor in me when someone passes me while driving. I have a natural urge to hit the gas and catch up to them when this happens. I struggled with the swim segment initially, so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I completely lost focus when better swimmers swam by me during my first two Sprint Triathlon’s I participated in over the summer.
My breathing and technique became compromised and it caused the swim to be exhausting. Once I learned to race my race, this eventually became a non-issue for me. Our lives are full of distractions and variables and the time that we spend worrying about them usually works against you. I know I’ll certainly do a better job of managing this in the future….including those times behind the steering wheel!
5. Feed the right wolf
You may be familiar with this old parable:
One evening a grandfather told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.
He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.
“One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, inferiority.
“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”
The grandfather simply replied, “The one you feed”
Training for a triathlon gives you a lot of time to talk to yourself (admittedly, out loud sometimes). Fatigue sets in, nagging injuries start to mount and it’s really easy to believe that voice in your head that tells you to stop, turn around and go home. Laboring through a run is difficult, but I learned that when your mind is telling you that you’re done, you can continue on a lot further than you think.
It’s natural to set limits in our minds and in our lives. I swam a single length of the pool and nearly hyperventilated during my first attempt to train in March. Thanks to my training plan, I just swam a mile in the ocean a few weeks ago.
Work goals are often set for us, and can sometimes seem unrealistic. With the right plan in place, though, anything can happen.
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