Are you a happy triathlete?
Sometimes I am, sometimes I’m not. In fact, I was actually a very unhappy, frustrated and discouraged triathlete until I quit these things.
I recently came across this article that talks about the 7 habits of people with remarkable mental toughness and I thought that article was so good that I wrote those things down and set it on my desk so I’d have a daily reminder to help me become more mentally tough.
But despite my good intentions, that piece of paper became one of those things on my desk that I glance over but never actually look at. Until today.
I looked at those 7 actions and thought to myself, “self, if you actually put those things into practice, you’d be a pretty happy triathlete… and person”. So, without further ado, here they are, but with a little triathlon flare:
1. Act as if you control the outcome
You signed up for this race and now although you can’t predict unforseen challenges or obstacles, bad weather or bike crashes, you can control how hard you work towards reaching your goal of completing a triathlon.
You can wish, hope and pray that you’ll be ready on race day or you can make it happen, do your swims, bikes and runs, and work hard to be as prepared as you possibly can be come race day.
When I act as if I control the outcome, then I am more likely to do all of my workouts, not take shortcuts, and take ownership of my training. So put in your ear buds, crank up the music and do all you can to make it to the starting line ready to have an amazing race.
2. Let go of things you have no ability to affect
The weather. A flat tire. A inconvenient ankle sprain. A last-minute change in the race course. All of these things will affect your race day but unfortunately, you can’t predict them, can’t change them or control whether they happen or not.
Worrying about them before they happen uses up a lot of your energy and emotions, leaving you exhausted, stressed and anxious. Try not to let things that you can’t effect take up any real estate in your mind. That way, if something out of your control happens, you only have to deal with it and overcome it once.
In the meantime, do what you can do to help prepare for those things. Practice changing a flat tire. Go for a bike ride in the rain. Incorporate some strength training into your routine to help avoid injury. Rehearse your transitions. Prepare for the unexpected, but don’t let it consume you. Let go of what you can’t control and you’ll be less stressed and much happier.
3. View past races, training mistakes and “bad workouts” as valuable training
We all have them. Bad workouts. Sucky training sessions. Low energy days. And sometimes, they’re really hard to get over. Instead of letting a rough day take you out of the game and leave you feeling frustrated and discouraged for weeks, be kind, give yourself some grace and move on.
Take the mistake, less then stellar race or bad workout and see what you can learn from it. Do you need to drink more water so you’re not dehydrated? Should you focus on doing more hill training on your bike? Maybe you need to get more sleep or find a friend to train with to help keep you motivated and accountable.
Whatever the case, use the past as a valuable training tool and then move on. Don’t let a past mistake or embarrassing moment define you. We all fall off our bikes when we’re standing still because we can’t clip out. Sometimes my swim cap snaps off my head when I’m trying to put it on. Have you started the run and realized you’re still wearing your helmet, been there, done that.
Learn to laugh at yourself and learn to get over your past “failures”. If you learn from them, they’re anything but a failure.
4. Cheer others on and celebrate their successes
I get passed all the time on the bike and run during a race. Instead of getting down on myself and becoming discouraged that I’m not as fast as the person who passed me, I cheer them on as they run by. I think this helps me more than it helps them because it forces me to stop my negative self talk in its tracks and maintain a positive attitude.
Similarly, in our last triathlon, Davey had a great race and got 3rd in his age group. My race, on the other
hand, was less than stellar with a run/walk time of 13:00/mile. But the minute I found out Davey got 3rd place, I ran over to the transition area to get my phone, texted our friends and family to tell them the awesome news, cheered him on as he went up to get his award, took lots of pictures and celebrated his success.
Instead of resenting him for having a good race when I didn’t, I focused on his awesomeness and it helped me stop moping around and made me a much happier triathlete.
5. Never allow yourself to whine, or complain, or criticize or compare
All of these things have something in common: they suck the life out of you and make you unhappy. I think the wording of #5 is clutch… “never allow yourself”. It implies that it’s a choice, something you let yourself do in hopes it will make you feel better. But it never ever does.
If you find yourself whining, complaining, criticizing or comparing yourself, stop and ask yourself why you’re doing this. Is something going wrong? Are you afraid you won’t be ready for race day? Are you feeling insecure because your training buddy just got a super nice tri bike and you didn’t? Did you get enough sleep?
There’s usually a deeper issue that is the root cause of whining or complaining and if you stop wasting time and energy complaining, you will usually be able to identify the main reason for your whining and then be able to fix it.
6. Focus on your own race, your own goals and on impressing yourself
They say that triathlon is an individual sport, but it’s not long before you’re comparing your race times with everyone else in your age group and turning up the dial on your spin bike because the person next to you just did.
Competition is great and a lot of times your friends and fellow triathletes help push you harder in your training, but when you start to compare and loose sight of your goals, then it’s time to pause and recalibrate.
You’ll be a lot happier when you focus on reaching your own personal goals then trying to keep up with everyone else. Remind yourself of your goals often and try your best to zone in on accomplishing them and impressing yourself, not everyone else. After all, once you crush your goals, everyone else will probably be impressed anyway. So go out there and be awesome!
7. Be thankful and grateful
I find that when I practice thankfulness by spending a few minutes every day listing out a few things I’m grateful for, I am a much happier triathlete… and person. When I know I want to make a thankfulness list, I start to look for, and notice, my blessings.
Ironically, those things were there all along, but sometimes it just takes a bit of determination to teach your mind to focus on the good and on what is going well in your training. When I’m thankful and grateful, I find that I tend to see the positive in tough situations and challenges and try to overcome them with much more optimism.
God has given us so much and it’s so easy to take seemingly small things for granted. The fact that I have a body that lets me swim, bike and run, or that I can afford to sign up for races, or that I get to spend lots of time training with Davey… I am so thankful for all of those things.
Want to be a happy triathlete? Be thankful and grateful.