I’m a firm believer that every experience in life can teach us lessons – the good and the bad. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences from failed job interviews to conflicts with friends, but today I am not here to talk about a bad experience I had. Today, I wanted to talk about the great experience I had completing my first triathlon.
Last week I wrote about my journey training for the event, the hurdles I faced and the joy I felt crossing the finish line, but what I didn’t touch on were the valuable lessons I learned throughout the process. Yes, I learned things like how to make the most out of your swim, how to run faster and how to set up your transition area for success, but the most important lessons I learned were the ones I could apply to my life out of the water, or off the bike.
You never know what you’re capable of until you try
For years I hoped to one day do a triathlon, but never thought it would be possible. Aside from playing a bit of field hockey in high school, I was never what you’d call an athletic person. I surprised a lot of people when I told them I was planning on doing a triathlon. It seemed so out of reach to go from zero to a hundred, but I’ve only ever known one way to set goals and that is high. All I wanted to do was to finish (I also really didn’t want to be last, but finishing at all seemed more important). Yes, I finished the race and I didn’t come in last place, but it was during the training that I truly surprised myself. Each time I went for a run or a swim or a bike ride, I’d check off personal bests and that made me feel empowered to keep going. I could see and feel myself getting stronger and, for the first time in my life, I actually felt like an athletic person.
Your self-talk can make or break you
I think in just about every post that I’ve mentioned the triathlon, I talk about how working on my mental game was the most important part of my journey. The way I framed my mindset during each training session dictated how successful I would be that day. If I focused on my aching muscles, how hot it was outside or how difficult it was – you know, the negative stuff – I was more likely to quit early. In contrast, when I spoke kindly to myself and encouraged myself to push a little bit harder, focusing on something positive, I was able to run further, longer and faster. Your mind thrives in a positive environment, so do what you can to feed it love and kindness.
Let it go
Now that the Frozen song is stuck in my head and probably yours, I can explain what I mean by “let it go”. I mean, let it all go: fear, doubts, insecurities, worry, judgement – let all that negative energy go because once you do, you realize you have so much more space for all the amazing, wonderful, positive things in your life. Things like hope, joy, acceptance and love. I had a lot of fears and doubts throughout my training and even on race day, but holding on to that wasn’t going to get my through it. I also thought to myself, when I look back on this experience, do I want to remember feeling afraid, or do I want to remember feeling joyful? I had to choose. I don’t mean to say it’s easy, but I’ve come to believe that happiness is a choice and if happiness is, then why can’t it be a choice to be brave, strong and determined?
Amazing things happen outside of your comfort zone
Some say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. If you think about it, venturing outside of your comfort zone is what it’s all about – Trying new things, seeing new places and challenging yourself to do things that are outside the realm of your norm. Not only did I learn that I absolutely love cycling, but I got to know myself a little bit better. On the road and in the pool, with nothing but my thoughts to occupy me (I don’t exercise with music), things come up and it’s amazing what happens when you give yourself permission to listen and take note.
You don’t have to do tough things alone
There seems to be a need for some people to want to shelter others from their difficult times. I get it – it is really difficult to be vulnerable and let people see you go through something challenging. Whether it is trying to stay strong for your kids or putting on a brave face at work, not letting others help you out can be really lonely. Most good friends and family will want to be there to support you. Every step of the way, my family and friends reached out to lend their support, offer encouragement when I was having a difficult week and check-in on my progress. Sharing experiences, the good and the bad, with the people we love reinforces bonds and brings you closer together. Support from the most important people in your life makes doing something challenging that much easier. Plus, those people are in your life for a reason – not only do they want to help you when you’re having a difficult time, but they also want to share in your triumphs. Seeing my mom cry as I crossed the finish line showed me that it was as much a win for her as it was for me.