I want to ask you an important question about the role of sport in your life. It came to my mind recently when I heard a podcast conversation between Gordo Byrn and Brad Kearns about coaching. Here it is:

Is triathlon making you a better person (and how would your loved ones answer that)?

In other words, is it making you better at living? Not just making you happy, but making you better in your work or personal life? Here is why this is important: Triathlon will magnify the personality flaws you already have. If you are impatient, that will be magnified in how you train and race. If you are emotionally reactive and moody, that will be magnified in how you train and race. If you are immature or insecure, that will be magnified in how you train or race. There is no way to avoid this – it happens to everyone. As the saying goes, the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. 

What does change from person to person is whether you will gain strength in any of your weak areas through sport. Not everyone does. Some people become more confident when before they were insecure. Some people become more patient, some people become better organized and focused, some people become more self-aware, some people become better educated, some people develop true humility, some people become more grateful. But some people keep pushing up against their faults and never see it. It’s painful to fail in races because your faults are being magnified, but it’s also tragic if you never get better at managing that fault because you never see them! You’ve just added one more thing to your life to be bad at!

The great thing about triathlon, especially long-distance, is that it forces change in your life, almost like having a baby. Making huge commitments can be, paradoxically, very freeing. If you are training for an Ironman (or you have a kid), there just isn’t room for fluff and distraction anymore. You must follow the path you’ve set for yourself and there is no room for the poor decisions you had the time and freedom to make before. It’s that forced commitment that can help people make lasting positive changes. But it doesn’t work out for everyone. Some people don’t make the changes in the other areas of their life that need to happen to make room for Ironman training. These folks are just adding one more log to their fire and wonder why the fire gets out of control.

So how do you recognize faults? You must have times when you step back to reflect (btw, if you don’t have time to step back and reflect, then you know you have an issue you don’t want to face). Are you frequently having the same problems in races? Do you have the same excuses for yourself over and over? If so, it might be that you aren’t learning from mistakes. For example, if you are always missing workouts because your life is too hectic, that’s really a failure to prioritize or set boundaries. There is a failure to recognize that YOU are the problem and that it can be fixed.

As Coach Gordo said in the above-mentioned podcast, some people don’t want to get better. Even among our coached athletes, we occasionally see this in people. They are paying us to help them get better at the same time that they continually sabotage themselves. So ask yourself, is triathlon making me a better person? Hopefully you have a few examples of how it is. If not, you probably won’t realize it. Try asking your loved ones, if you dare!