zen habits : breathe

Six Life Lessons Learned from Triathlon Training

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mark Hayward of MyTropicalEscape and Train for Humanity.

Do you like to exercise? Or, would you rather be doing just about anything else?

As creator and co-founder (along with Leo, Andrew Flusche, and Dan Clements) of the non-profit humanitarian organization Train for Humanity, this past Sunday, November 9th, I had the privilege of competing in the Miami Man International distance triathlon in order to help support the cause.

I have always enjoyed exercising, mostly as a recreational runner, but during the past couple of months I have taken on additional workouts as I prepare for my very first triathlon. Let me just state for the record; training for this triathlon has humbled and educated me.

Unlike the Iron Man triathlon where the distances are extreme (swim 2.5 miles, bike 112 miles, and run 26.2 miles) the International distance triathlon segments are a bit more manageable with a .6 mile swim, 24 mile bike, and a 10k run.

Nevertheless, having only competed and raced previously as a recreational runner, I needed to spend quite a bit of time working on my swimming and biking. Lucky for me, I am not at all concerned with winning the event, but I don’t want to place last either.

Training Regimen

Over the past couple of months my training has been fairly consistent and while not too taxing, still required a level of commitment both in terms of time and effort. My workout schedule during most of the weeks leading up to the event included the following:

Monday: swim 1/2 hour, run 4 miles

Tuesday: bike 15 miles

Wednesday: swim 1/2 hour, run – various speed work

Thursday: bike 10 miles

Friday: swim 40 minutes, run 6 miles

Saturday: off

Sunday: bike 25 miles, run easy 5 miles

While I did enjoy the training on most days, sometimes it was a little difficult to get motivated because I live on a very small island and did not have the luxury of a coach or any training partners. However, the reality is, if I wanted to be in shape for the triathlon then it was up to me to get up off the couch, get out there, and put in the time required.

Life Lessons

All of the extra training did afford me plenty of time to myself for reflection and contemplation. Many a day, whether swimming, biking, or running I would think about my life, how lucky I have been, and some of the of the major events (changing points) that I have been through. Additionally, while training I would ponder life lessons that are analogous to training or really hard work and dedication of any kind. Listed below, are lessons that are somewhat universal, and as such, you might already know them. But I have not trained this hard in a VERY long time and as such, feel like I was re-educated:

  • Get started – I have been fascinated with triathlons ever since the 1980’s when I witnessed the true meaning of human strength, determination, and courage when Julie Moss collapsed and then crawled across the finish line to place second at the Hawaii IronMan. That was over twenty years ago! If I had pursued my interest in triathlons then, who knows where I would be now. Likewise, if you are thinking about making a life change; a new job, a trip around the world, or launching a small business…don’t wait. Get started today!
  • You have to do the miles (yourself) – some days during my training when it was rainy, miserable out, or I just felt lazy I really wished there was someone that I could have paid to go out on the bike for me, or perhaps to swim my laps. However, as with any worthwhile goal, you have to get out there and put in the hard work in order to get to the desired end result. If you are studying at university or trying to run 3 miles for the first time it’s not always easy or pleasant, but being persistent and doing homework or running when you don’t feel like it WILL payoff in the long term
  • Some days it’s going to rain – actually, it might not only rain but you might get two flat tires at the same time, too. Pursuing personal goals is not always “flowery” and perfect. In fact, some days are going to downright suck.
  • Take a break – throughout my various training runs and bike rides I would often find myself winding up at the beach as a halfway point during a workout. Many days I would stop for five or ten minutes to think about what I have done, what I need to do, why I was doing it. If you’ve been working hard, don’t be afraid to take a break and give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back or to reflect on your goals.
  • When you reach a hill put your head down and take it one step at a time – Most days of my training I was either running or biking and I would always come across hills of varying magnitudes. Though, there is one hill in particular on my route that begins as a slow grade and continues to get steeper and steeper over the course of a mile. Frequently, especially in the beginning of my training, I would arrive at the base of this hill and want nothing more than to give up and walk. But, invariably I would put my head down and keep telling myself to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and before I knew it, I would be at the top. Have you hit any rough patches in life lately? Even though it is not always the solution sometimes you just have to put your head down, take what comes, and plow ahead one-step at a time.
  • Find sources of inspiration – As stated above, I like to exercise and workout but I did reach certain stages where I felt burnt out. During those times I would frequently read an interview that I did with Scott Rigsby, the first below the knee double amputee athlete to complete the Hawaii IronMan triathlon. Also, I would think about the orphans and refugees whom we are trying to raise money for with our Train for Humanity efforts. Most likely, whatever your goals, there are people out there who have overcome and triumphed in the face of adversity and have done what you would like to be doing. Seek them out when you are feeling overwhelmed.

In closing, there are probably countless other lessons to be taken away from extended periods of hard work, dedication and commitment. Ultimately, even though it is not scientifically proven, I truly feel that if you are determined, have a proper vision, and a positive mindset that you can accomplish almost anything that you set your mind to.

How about you? Have you been dedicated to a particularly difficult project or increased your exercise program lately? What “life” lessons have you learned or rediscovered?

Mark Hayward is the co-founder of the non-profit humanitarian organization, Train for Humanity. If you would like to sponsor him (or Leo) you still have time. He owns a B&B in the Caribbean and blogs at MyTropicalEscape.

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