Month: May 2012

Journey of A Triathlete : Are you a Super hero in hiding?

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“It is like life. You go through different stages and different challenges. You think you are prepared and you know how it will feel, BUT you have no idea. You do not have to win, you just have to cross the finish line smiling.”

That is what I tell people when they ask me about the triathlon and what it means to me.

Yes, the summer is almost here and so is “race season”. For triathletes and those intrigued by the physical challenge, race season starts for many in early April. It is the time of the year we dust off our bikes, get the courage to acclimate our bodies to cold temperatures in gyms or lakes and start timed runs again. Every time race season begins, I get little butterflies of excitement, and as uncomfortable as the few beginning minutes are, I am pumped to challenge my body to the next level.

For those of you who are unaware of what a triathlon is, let me give you a brief introduction.

The proper definition of a triathlon is “An athletic contest comprising of three consecutive events, usually swimming, bicycling, and distance running.”  The history of triathlons dates back to 1902 in France where a race consisted of running, swimming and canoeing.  I can assume that that race was predominantly raced my men.

I did my first triathlon two years ago, and after my first one, I committed to do one every year for the rest of my life absent any medical limitations. I immediately realized how valuable the experience was for me, not just as a person, but as a woman.

I have met many women in my life that have impressed me in different capacities. Women are exceptionally strong beings, after all they bear children! What bigger sign of physical and mental strength is there?  Unfortunately, I have also met women who are facing difficult challenges in their life and through facing these challenges sometimes forget their own strength. They forget they are amazing pillars of strength with the capacity to face anything and come out victorious while immersed in the most challenging of situations.

The amnesia does not only happen to women facing difficult situations, but also to women who are facing daily tiring routines. All the errands, family responsibilities, professional and personal obligations can make any woman feel that she has nothing left to give. Quite honestly, she feels completely weak.

This is why I believe that triathlons are races designed to help a person remember their physical and mental strength. And more than anyone, I think women around the world have the most to gain from experiencing one.

Now, I know what all of you are thinking as you read this:  I, the author of this post was probably an athlete and triathlons are for athletes, so this blog post does not relate to you. Yes, I have been an athlete all my life. And yes I hate to break it to you, triathlons ARE for athletes.

But here is the question you have to ask yourself, “Are you an athlete?”

For those who have been playing sports and competing all their lives, this is a simple question to answer. For those who had knots in their stomach during gym class and anxiety when you were timed for your mile in junior high, the question is probably also easy to answer, a resounding “no”.

Well, I am going to challenge you to ask that question again and push yourself to say, “Yes!”

The definition of an athlete is “a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance,  that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive contexts”.

Notice the definition states an athlete requires that you possess natural traits such as strength, agility and endurance.  Not that you have actually used them.

What if you were never given an opportunity to explore your natural traits? Perhaps your parents sent you straight to the chess club and debate club. Maybe the so-called “cool kids” in high school made sports and athletics an uninviting clique for you. Perhaps your parents never experienced the joy of physical activity. All these factors could have designed your personal experiences for you to actually believe that you are not an athlete. When, in reality maybe you always have been. You are a living, breathing daughter, wife, mother, grandmother running around for your family, jumping through obstacle courses and bouncy houses for your kids, developing great guns in your forearms as you carry your baby and cook at the same time.  Have you ever considered looking at yourself as a pretty good athlete??

When I started training for my first triathlon, I had running on my side since I’d been running track since I was 12. It had always been a passion for me, but swimming and biking were not a given for me. My swimming experience was hanging out with my friends at the pool, doing what I needed to do to pass with a satisfactory in gym class. Biking was even worse.  I thought I could bike but for some reason did not take into account that I had not been on a bike since I was 10.  I had lied to myself so badly about my biking and swimming skills that my husband said to me on our honeymoon, “Hey why are you holding on to me so tight, let go and enjoy the water!”  I did not have the heart to tell him that I could swim to survive for a short time but could not  tread water!  In addition to that, he had excitedly planned an early morning bike ride for us in Maui.  But I took one look at the mountain trail and finally confessed. 

I share this story because even athletes have fears and limitations. Did I mention I played rugby in college and surfed on the coast of Costa Rica? Yes, I could tackle someone down at the knees without fear, work a surf board

 (which I used to lean on to not drown)  and a paddle board, but could not make a bike move.

I needed to learn how to swim and bike correctly to be able to finish a triathlon. I had made the decision to complete a summer triathlon and train for it at my LIFETIME Fitness gym.  I confessed my aspiration to my trainer. I also told her I could not swim or bike, I just wanted to go for it.  The race was in June and it was already mid-April. You can imagine the look on her face. I was asking for a crash course. But because I believed in me, she believed in me.

She taught me to swim and helped me during my first swim in a lake.  She taught me bike mechanics and took me on long bike rides. My first bike ride without her was with my husband.  He made me ride along with him on a country road while he rode along with our daughter in our car. He would yell, “Change gears! Change gears!” as cars passed by us. All I remember is me yelling, “I can’t stand you right now!!!” Now, I laugh at all these experiences.

I share these stories to awaken and inspire the athlete in you. Would it not be great to add triathlete to your personal resume?  Would it not be great for your loved ones to be waiting for you at the finish line with pride? My first race I surprised my family by having their names on my shirt. The second race, I crossed the finish line with my daughter in my arms for the last 20 meters. These are memories that will last a lifetime and I honestly felt like a superhero.

Lastly, I reminded myself of my physical strength. I reminded myself of my resilience as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, and as a woman.

 If every woman carried the knowledge of her own limitless strength, what else could they accomplish?

 I am about to do my third race this summer —-will you join me? Lifetime Fitness Sherox triathlons are all over the country, throughout the year.  Register now and awaken the triathlete in you!