The multisport racing season has come to a close in many parts of the country. If it was your first season, it’s time to revisit just what you’re doing in the sport. Let’s say you had a great first year. You are already looking forward to next year and possibly starting to plan for it. But perhaps you have tried a few races and are not sure of your place in the sport. In either case, to help you focus and make sure that what you are doing is right for you, I would suggest that you think about the following questions: Where am I now? What am I getting out of the sport? What, perhaps, am I not getting out of it that I thought I might? What should I be doing this winter?
Whether you are gung ho for next year, or perhaps a doubting Thomas or Thomasina but still in an exploring mood, with these questions I am suggesting (surprise, surprise for those readers who know me) that first and foremost you take a look back at the goals you set for yourself before you did your first race. Did you come into multisport racing from a non-racing background out of curiosity, with the goal of simply satisfying it? Did you come into multisport from another racing sport in which you did well in terms of speed, looking to do well in this one also? Did you look at doing the sport as an opportunity to get into cross-training on a regular basis with the primary goal of improving your health and physical fitness, using racing as a motivator? Did you know something about this sport from a friend or two before starting out, and then said to yourself, “this looks like a good way to have fun”?
My bet is that whether your goal was one on the above list or one of the many others that folks come into multisport racing with, if you are feeling good, feeling good about yourself and feeling good about the sport, you set an appropriate goal for yourself, and have achieved it, in one way or another. I would also bet that if the opposite is true, you chose one or more inappropriate goals, in terms of, say, skill-level, available time and life-balance. I suggest that you consider these 10 words: “Do my goals work for me? Why and why not?”
Ask yourself whether you chosen the right multisport? If you really don’t like to swim and you have chosen triathlon for the challenge and are not having fun, time to reconsider. There are duathletes who never touch the water and have a great, long, fun career in the two-sport variety. If you are having trouble swimming but want to stay in triathlon, now would be a good time to look into attending a fall/winter swim clinic. If you are not inherently fast (like me) and you have chosen to engage simply to have fun (like me), and you are, you have achieved your goal. However, if you are not inherently fast but nevertheless have set as your goal going fast and are spending hours on speed work getting nowhere, I suggest thinking again about why you are in the sport and perhaps change your focus to — that’s right, simply having fun. To achieve the latter you need train a lot less and a lot less intensively (just like I do) than you need to achieve the former. On the other hand, if you are doing speed work and you are picking up the pace (the good news) but feel like it’s something of a struggle (the bad news), you should take a look at your particular program and then look at some others, either in print or at a fall clinic. You might also consider engaging a personal coach.
And so, as the season comes to an end, I suggest that you take a deep breath, literally and figuratively. Life is long and so can your stay in multisport racing be. From the beginning, I set out to have fun and become a regular exerciser, going slowly all the time, and I just finished my 31st season in multisport, having fun and exercising regularly the whole time. The key to staying with it is to make sure that you set goals that work for you and work for you now. You should also know that as your life circumstances and your athletic abilities change, you can always change your goals and continue to stay in your sport of choice.
This column is based in part on a column entitled “A Late Season ‘Where am I?’,” originally published in the summer 2006 issue of USA Triathlon Life.
This series of thoughts and recommendations for beginner and recreational triathletes and duathletes by Dr. Steve Jonas is drawn in part from his book, “101 Ideas and Insights for Triathletes and Duathletes” (Monterey, Calif.: Healthy Learning/Coaches Choice, 2011), text used with permission. Steve’s most recent multisport book is “Duathlon Training and Racing for Ordinary Mortals®: Getting Started and Staying with It” (Guilford, Conn.: Globe Pequot Press/FalconGuides, 2012). His original book “Triathloning for Ordinary Mortals®” can be found at Amazon.com, and BarnesandNoble.com.