Friday, August 30, 2013


Before I go into this post, I just want it to be known that I'm not pulling a Nick Frank and specifically questioning motivations in a negative, "I don't like this anymore" kind of way.  I got a first-row seat last weekend to get a chance to see WHY people want to train and ask myself that same question.

At it's most simple I suppose I work out because it is a phenomenal time-filler.  The thought of having 20-30 hours each week of additional "free time" actually scares the crap out of me.  I have no idea what I'd do.  I'd probably have to work on all those "responsibilities" that people seem to harp on and that heretofore I haven't had any problems with.  So that part is scary.  Idle hands are the devil's something or other and I don't wanna be the devil's something or other.  

I think describing "why I train" it is important to dive backwards a little bit.  I've always been an athlete but I really wanted to be good at ball sports when I was growing up; I wanted to be a good outfielder and I wanted to be a good sweeper.  That was what I WANTED.  Now what I actually got was bad eyesight and mediocre touch skills.  Womp womp.  I had a great arm, but no accuracy.  I had speed, but relatively little coordination.  I had eyes, but they needed strong contacts.  I had feet, but not much ability to tell them apart.  So I was decent at both sports (actually in college I was somehow a much better soccer player participating in intramural sports than I ever was when playing at the club/HS level).  As life moved on I discovered golf and realized that you didn't just need to have talent to be good at something, you needed to also put in the hard work.  

Ball sports are "talent sports."  It is pre-determined that you need to have been gifted with some serious athletic abilities to truly excel.  You can train all you want but that will only take you so far in the baseball/football/soccer/basketball (we're talking mainstream sports here) world.  Golf, on the other hand (and maybe is not the best example because it requires talent and the means to play, which can be very expensive), is more of a "hard work" sport.  Vijay Singh is probably the most famous example of extreme dedication to the craft.  He used to spend hours on the range every day, working on some little thing each time. It made him great.  

When I first discovered triathlon I sort of "sensed" the same thing.  There is very little talent involved in 99% of triathlon (the 1% is the WTS level racing).  What makes you better at SBR is a heckuva lot of SBR'ing.  Hard work.  The DESIRE to improve becomes easy to "make good on" because to improve you simply have to work at it.  There are no short cuts, no magical workouts, no training aids...absolutely nothing...that makes you better faster.  It's just not out there.  Never let a coach tell you anything different.  Never let a salesperson sell you something like it.  Never let a friend tell you about their secret methods.  Because they do not exist.  

"Once a Runner" is a relatively famous book in the circles of...running... and it does a really good job of discussing (through narrative) the "feelings" associated with training.  For Quenton Cassidy, an elite miler, one doesn't just train to train.  It is about the feelings it inspires in you, the camaraderie among training partners/teammates, and the desire to improve.  The "constant quest for betterment" is what made him and others like him wake up every morning and lace up their shoes.  The ever present desire to be better than you were the day before.  Where you can finish a workout and say "I am better than I was yesterday." Those are all things that motivate.  I feel similarly; I go through lulls and peaks but for the most part, I can look back and say that I am BETTER than I was the day before.  I am BETTER than I was last year.  I am BETTER than I was three years ago.  I WANT to improve.  I WANT to put in the work to improve.  I do not want short cuts.  What appeals to me is the fact that short-cuts don't work.  It is a simple process of improvement.  THAT motivates me.  

Because of that inherent factor in my motivation, I frequently find myself questioning other people and their desires.  I can think of countless examples of athletes that are very negative, in general, about training.  If I didn't enjoy swimming, biking, and running I just simply wouldn't do one or any of them.  It's pretty simple.  I want to improve but I also ENJOY doing all three and racing all three.  I guess because it's so ingrained in me (the desire to improve, duh) when I see other people floating along, talking about getting better but never doing the work to do so, it makes me question all motivation. 

I know that my reasons for doing things are in no way representative of the way or whys of other people's reasoning.  I realize that and am completely comfortable with it. Everyone should be comfortable with their own reasons for doing things.  But still, what is the point of doing something if you don't want to do it better as your experience grows and matures? Isn't THAT the right attitude to have in all aspects of life? Whether it be as a person, a father, a brother, an employee, an athlete, etc, the desire to improve is - I feel anyway - completely ingrained in human nature.

Swimming is a good example of this, especially among triathletes.  Many, many triathletes want to improve their swim.  It is their weakness.  It happens and is easily predictable when it comes to adult-onset-swimming.  The time management aspect of swimming is definitely tough, but there are 2-3 months out of the year (maybe more, maybe less depending on where you live) where you are just simply not going to be biking or running as much.  Isn't that a great time to really INVEST and improve?

It is, unless you are not motivated to improve.  You can talk the talk all you want but if you really WANT something you will find a way to get it done.  It is simple.  So if you don't enjoy swimming but somehow feel compelled to do it because you consider yourself a triathlete...what's the point?  Either make yourself enjoy swimming (trust me, it's possible) and actually put in the time to get better when you have the time, or stick to duathlons.

I think everyone should search themselves a little bit and increase their general sense of self-awareness.  I am pretty aware of WHY I do things. Why do you do things? Why do you train? Why do you ENJOY training? (hopefully you do) Why DON'T you enjoy certain things?  What can you do to make yourself enjoy them more? What motivates you and makes you enjoy the things you do? Simple questions, complicated answers...

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