Winter, especially in the northern hemisphere, can seem never-ending this time of year. With limited daylight and unpredictable weather, you’ve probably found yourself logging workouts indoors when you would much rather be outside. This sometimes comes with nagging uncertainty over whether you’re completing enough duration and intensity before your spring events.
Despite this, winter is a great time to self-reflect and remember why you compete. For some athletes, it’s solely to stand on the podium; for others, it may simply be a sense of achievement, self-improvement, or progress.
In my first years as a competitive cyclist, the chance of winning is what drove those arduous interval workouts and long days in the saddle. I quickly learned that landing on the podium was rare and that many factors in racing were outside my control. Over the years, my focus has shifted to my own self-improvement. I found the most important competition exists within myself — to be the best athlete and coach I can be with the talents I’ve been given.
After years of coaching, competing, and studying training, I now appreciate the motivation competition gives to me, and that I can give back to others. Below are some of the biggest lessons I have learned and applied to my everyday life—if you’re stuck training indoors today, they might provide some food for thought!
You’re Doing What You Love
Everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses, but the primary strength of all good athletes is their motivation, courage, and ability to train hard. Good athletes can toe the line in a race, then to go hop on their bike (or lace up their shoes) the next day, continuing to do what they love regardless of the result.
Adversity Creates Resiliency
As Gandhi once said, “strength does not come from winning; your struggles develop your strength.” Competition has taught me the ability to bounce back from bad races, mechanicals, and crashes. Each challenge reinforces the fact I am willing to push just a little bit harder. Adversity can create opportunities to be more accepting of who you are and clarify who you want to be.
Strive for Balance
Every athlete I’ve ever met or coached has had to juggle the demands of their personal lives with their sport. Maintaining a life outside of your sport (think family, friends, and work) will give your actions meaning and help you sustain long-term training and racing. To create that balance, I have to constantly remind myself to fit training into my life — not the other way around.
This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your athletic goals, but rather some prioritization is important. With the technology we have at their fingertips, we can train smarter (not harder) and maximize the time we spend both in and out of training. Do a little planning and you really can have the best of both worlds.
Take some time this spring to reflect on why you are an athlete and what you have gained from your sport. As we move through 2019, remember that competition, or even just the act of being an athlete, can give us all sorts of wins — even though we might not immediately recognize them.