Article by Robin White, Ironman Athlete

What is your passion?

Thinking about an exciting goal you’d like to accomplish someday is a lot of fun.  It’s fun to dream and plan, and fantasize about the day we finally write that book, cross that finish line, or win that job we really want.

For me, that was an Ironman triathlon.  It was one of those big goals in my life, and one in which the effort that would have to go into it was something I feared and respected.  I knew people who had done it.  I saw their commitment.  It wasn’t necessarily the race itself that held my fear, but all the work necessary to get there.  I knew that the race was notoriously tough, and required both physical and mental stamina, but what I didn’t know was what all of this daily training would be like to get myself to a place where I could cross that finish line. 

Commitment to the grind

We all have the same number of hours in the day; it’s how we use our hours that make our lives so different from one other.  Each of us has our own unique passions, skills, abilities, and favorite pastimes.  Some of us have more built-in commitments than others, such as young children, demanding jobs, health issues, continuing education, and social or volunteering obligations.  Each of us works with the hours we have to meet our commitments as well as pursue our dreams.

Training for a long-course triathlon, no matter what your current commitments are, is often about a little sacrifice along with a lot of the daily grind.  Shortly after my coach began my training build-up, it started to feel like day after day of early mornings, long bike rides, and runs on tired legs.  Sometimes I would be in the flow of an amazing bike ride in the sunshine with friends, or a run workout that just clicks, but mostly it was a lot of talking myself out the door for my daily workout.  I knew that I couldn’t live for just the great workouts that felt good and were fun.  I had to put just as much commitment into the workouts that didn’t feel good, or that I didn’t want to do.  I had to be committed to the daily grind.

Motivation follows action

Day after day of work when the race is a long way off is not easy mentally.  Everyone becomes unmotivated at times.  Lack of motivation can be due to repetition, not mixing it up, not seeing results, or losing sight of the finish line.  When I was training for Ironman Louisville, one of my subsequent Ironman races, I began, without really thinking about it, to do just the bare minimum necessary to say I did my workout today.  I grew tired of long rides, so I would unthinkingly sabotage them by delaying them so long that I had to cut them short to make it to a meeting or school pickup.  Finally, my coach messaged me and stated that according to our training software,  I was only doing 60% of my workouts, and that if I wanted to be successful at my Ironman, this would have to change.

Accountability

Having this accountability launched me back into my commitment, and respect for my goal helped me make a decision.  From that day forward, I decided to do my workouts, all of them, whether or not I felt like it.  And to my amazement, something happened to my energy level.  My motivation came back.  As I did one workout after another, my energy improved.  Soon, I saw results.  The time ticked along and the race inched closer.  Once again,  I woke up early and became efficient with my time.  I learned an
important lesson: motivation can follow action.  Take action first, and the motivation will come.

Support of others

My girls were in 2nd and 4th grade at the time I made the decision to jump in.  My work was flexible, and my girls were old enough to do some things on their own.  However, as training often required early hours and long blocks of uninterrupted time, which is hard to find with young children, I found that I relied on my family more than ever.  My husband picked up some of my usual activities like grocery shopping, and the girls learned how to make their own breakfast if I was on an early ride. 

We all learned some independence, too and mixed up our traditional roles.  I also experimented with shuffling activities around to make time, and the house became a little messy.  I wasn’t able to keep up with as much Netflix or reading in my shortened downtime.  But I believe that my girls saw me pursuing my passion, and realized that things you may want require effort and the support of your family.

Community support becomes important too.  It’s difficult to ask for help, but when you do, you can build your relationships with others.  Others are busy too, and trading childcare or running errands for one another helps not only in practical matters, but builds friendships as well.

We are constantly reminded to be who we are.  We each have passions, goals, interests, and a community to which we can contribute and from which we can receive support. 

What is your big goal?  Take the first step.  And, then take the next one.  And notice what happens.

Robin White is a 5-time Ironman and coach for Team PR Performance.  She lives in Sammamish, WA with her husband and two teenage girls.  She recently competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii. When she is not racing, she volunteers her time with Wine To Water, an organization which brings clean water to those in need around the world.