What keeps you getting out of bed or rolling out the door for a workout? Why do you race? Through some recent conversations, observations, personal reflections and my current streak of devouring athlete autobiographies, it seems apparent to me that the more we understand the purpose behind what we do, and have a reason to race or compete that is bigger than ourselves, the more focus, passion, enjoyment and “success” we’ll have – of course that depends on your definition of what it means to achieve success. As Andre Agassi wrote in his autobiography, Open,
“But I don’t feel that Wimbledon has changed me. I feel, in fact, as if I’ve been let in on a dirty little secret: winning changes nothing. Now that I’ve won a slam, I know something that very few people on earth are permitted to know. A win doesn’t feel as good as a loss feels bad, and the good feeling doesn’t last as long as the bad. Not even close (p.167).
In other words, if we’re only striving for the next “win” or high that comes with completing our next goal, with expectations that we’ll finally feel satisfied, happy, or that its all been worth it, then maybe we’re missing the point. And if we don’t understand the purpose of what we’re striving do to on a daily basis we won’t get the most out of what we’re doing - and yes, I’ve personally learned the value of quality of training, intention, and focus, over quantity since my children have come into this world!
In my world of triathlon training the purpose behind each work usually includes one or a few simple goals. Some days I leave the numbers behind (e.g. heart rate, watts, cadence, speed, distance etc) and fully focus on listening to my body, going the pace it wants to, and enjoying letting my mind wander, or being social (a mental break as well!). On the other end of the spectrum, for some workouts, it is all about hitting the numbers with maximal efforts requiring every ounce of physical strength and mental focus. While other workouts are somewhere in between, the bottom line is that if I understand why each workout fits into the overall plan and how it is preparing me for my next race, then I will get the most out of it!
If you’ve trained with purpose, you can arrive at a competition confident you’ve done your best to prepare and race to your potential that day. But racing is often full of pain and plenty of discomforts when you’re pushing your personal limits, so why keep lining up season after season for another sufferfest? Long-term perspective on what you are trying to achieve can bring a bigger meaning to it all. On the broader perspective I race for my children, to be accountable to staying healthy and promote a healthy lifestyle, to be able to give back to the sports I love, to enjoy the outdoors, for those who can’t or don’t have the choice to compete in sport, and (half jokingly) for professional development towards my own mental toughness training :)