I have never considered myself an athlete, and I never thought I would be in a position where I could relate to one so closely. All my life, I’ve heard the conversations about grit, determination, and wanting it so badly that you are willing and comfortable with the sacrifices required. These themes are pretty well-established in elite-level sporting folklore irrespective of the individual sport.
For the last few weeks, I have begun to structure my exercise with an eye towards improving performance while getting more engrossed in the sport of Triathlon. It has completely change my outlook, and more specifically the narrative I had been telling myself about why I was exercising. I went from exercising to improve my health to training to get good.
I recently listened to a podcast featuring Gustav Iden, the brightest (and newest) star of the less-than-Ironman distance triathlon scene. What struck me about the interview was about why it is he loved the sport: training is inherently serious in terms of what goes into it, but the low-intensity nature of most of the workouts makes it easy to have fun with it. He goes on to say that he treats himself like an avatar in a video game, and that each training session is an opportunity to upgrade his attributes.
These remarks resonated with me to an unusual degree because even though I am nowhere near the level he is at. If he is operating at Level 100, I would say (quite generously) that I’m at Level 5. But I find the the approach and mindset to training is nevertheless similar, I just hadn’t quite been able to put it into words until I heard him say it.
Since I shook up the structure of my training, I have seen inconvertible evidence of a steady improvement in my fitness. Each week, I have been able to slowly increase my weekly distance while my average pace drops. From the first to second week, it dropped 18 seconds per kilometre; second to third, 41 seconds per kilometre; third to fourth, 20 seconds per kilometre. While this current week is only halfway complete, if my three runs are anything to go by, I am on track to drop at least another 20 seconds per kilometre in my average weekly pace. All I can say is that progress is one hella addictive drug. If there was any internal concern about whether or not I could be consistent about training, it has been comprehensively eliminated. While I don’t expect to keep improving at the rate I have been, I have found it tremendously motivating and strengthen my resolve to commit to the long-term.
I imagine this is what athletes go through, and for the first time I feel like I can truly relate to them.