–By Elaine Sheikh
“When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful!” – Eric Thomas, in his Secrets to Success speech at Michigan State University.
This has been my MO for years. To paraphrase what Thomas said about NFL players, I agree that all athletes are created equal – but some work harder in the off season. I’ve never had the athletic background some athletes have. I didn’t run in high school. The only swim stroke I knew when I started triathlon in 2013 was the doggie paddle. My idea of a bicycle was my $175 Huffy from Wal-Mart. I started at the bottom and soon triathlon was quite truly the air I breathed. I fought for every success, every win, every pr. I collapsed after workouts, too fatigued to unlock my front door. I woke up at 4:00 am to train before work and get in a second workout after a 14 hour work day. Every workout felt like it was a performance. Every workout was make or break. Can you relate?
Triathlon attracts type-A, success-driven people. I’ve written in the past about balance in sport and balance in life. If you’re a faithful blog reader, you’ll remember that I firmly supported (and still support) living a life of overall balance, but with periodic imbalance to achieve your full potential. But sometimes, hard work doesn’t pay off in the ways you would expect. Sometimes, it pays off for what seems like everyone around you, and it seems like you’re an anomaly. Is this you right now?
Sometimes, it’s ok to stop. It’s ok to rest. I feel that now more than ever, there is pressure to avoid being labeled a “quitter.” Pain is weakness leaving the body, right? True, this sport is about natural selection, with many people coming and going and the strongest enduring year after year. But sometimes, you have to respect yourself enough to take a break. Before you drive yourself to the breaking point, through adrenal fatigue, through countless injuries, take a step back to rest and re-evaluate. If I had stopped sooner, if I had not tried to push through the pain, if I had not tried to come back for the end of the season – maybe, just maybe, I could still be part of this sport. Don’t be me. We are coming up to the offseason, and if you feel the symptoms of burnout, please, make sure to practice self-care. Success is an elusive, ever changing, ever moving target. Don’t let that target put your blinders on and distract you from the rest of your life. If you need help planning an offseason, I’ve found that having a coach is invaluable and I highly recommend the team at Athletic Mentors for year-round individual coaching.
During this early part of my triathlon hiatus/retirement, I’ve listened to many podcasts from injured professional athletes. Again and again, I hear the same theme that took place in my life. The constant push against your body’s limits will eventually lead to a breakdown. And one injury leads to another. It’s a vicious cycle. The only way to break it is to stop. Reset. Start from the ground up once again. That drive for success will never really go away, and your success may be just around the corner. Remember that progress is not linear!
Respect your off-season. Respect yourself.