At Poppy Sports we often talk about how sports are a metaphor for life. For women, applying the principles of endurance sports elsewhere in our lives can have a positive ripple effect.
As International Women’s Day is upon us, we asked female endurance athletes/triathletes what their sport has given back to them. What are the life lessons they have embraced. All stated the impacts of endurance sports have been immeasurable in their lives. From the obvious fitness benefits to confidence, deep friendships and an added zest for life.
As the saying goes you are the sum of the five closest people around you. Khem S. states triathlon ‘weeds out the fair-weathered people in my life and brings in non-triathlete high achievers that inspire me in so many ways.’
Take note, if you want to be inspired and inspire others, watch out for the magic five people in your inner circle! Read on to learn more about what women have gained in different areas of their lives from their adventures in multi-sports.
6 Life Lessons from Endurance Sports
Courage is a common theme in endurance sports. It’s the showing up that counts. When you’re standing at the start line funneling into a swim start, there’s literally no going back. We’ve all had those thoughts. Trusting our training is one thing, but the courage it takes to trust it is even more.
Navigating this scenario a few times in a race situation makes it easier to adapt to this mindset elsewhere.
Sophie S comments about how proud she is to stand on a start line representing women. She has competed in races where only 11% of the 4-5000 athletes are women. ‘Life is always a challenge,’ she says, ‘but to me I know whatever is thrown my way I am strong… I know I can do what ever I want.’
Laura B shared, ‘Triathlon is so much more than swim, bike and run. I think one of the biggest benefits that comes from training and racing is the confidence to try new things and be ok with being uncomfortable when things get hard.’
Changing mindsets about how people perceive us also comes up in our survey. Kara D commented she had grown up being seen as ‘little, delicate Kara’. She has taken this head on going after ultra running and Ironman goals, while showing her daughters that anything is possible. She also notes when she’s struggling in difficult times, she revisits the fact she has ‘reached all those finish lines.’
Stress relief and mental clarity appear to be a natural benefit from endurance sports training. From coping with a son’s drug addiction, experiencing the emotional burden of a partner’s breast cancer as well as the everyday grind, triathlon creates a different mindset. Anxiety and frustrations can be calmed by a long workout and it’s the bad workouts that make us the strongest.
Katie C comments how grounding triathlon training has been. ‘Triathlon quiets my mind and connects me spiritually to my authentic self. The rest of the world melts away when I’m swimming, biking or running and what’s left is just me. And I love that person.’
As women, it’s a fact we are the ones who bare children. Post-partum well-being and endurance sports was a repeated theme. Likewise, was that of having an identity beyond motherhood.
‘When I crossed the finish line, my oldest son (then 4.5) held my face in his hands and told me he was proud of me. I will never forget that moment,’ comments Sarah V. Having suffered from post-partum depression, she acknowledges racing makes her a better mom and makes her feel she has part of her life that is her own.
Perspective and Mindset
Lindsay from an online triathlon group shared, ‘Triathlon helped me realize my biggest obstacle – and asset – is my mind. If I can learn to control my mind, I can conquer a lot.’
Following a panic attack during a swim, she started meditating and practicing positive visualization techniques twice a day. Getting through her next race without panic, she realized she’d been able to hack her mind.
This moment for her was one of the most empowering experiences of her life and she credits triathlon for opening up that mental strength.
In tech terms an MVP – minimal viable product – is launching a product with basic features to bring it to market. Triathlon teaches us it’s just fine to launch an MVP. ‘[Triathlon] helped me learn to be okay being not perfect at something,’ says Mary V.
Triathlon helps us understand how to achieve long-term goals and what is required for successful execution/launch.
Jolene D. sums that up nicely. ‘Getting out there and doing the workouts I really don’t want to do helps establish a precedent for [other] things I don’t like doing elsewhere. The sooner you start the sooner it’s over!’
‘The discipline required for training keeps me disciplined in other areas of my life. My time-management skills are top,’ comments Lisa H.
‘Triathlon training has taught me how to prioritize and do better scheduling my life and eliminating things I thought were important but really aren’t,’ says Cheryl-lyn V
Many women have seen a direct correlation between their endurance sports and professional lives. Many have pivoted their careers to be directly involved in the sport itself. They’re living and working as coaches, running destination training camps and with associated sports companies.
Karen commented ‘I started out with an amazing [tri] club, became a club coach and then a tutor.’ She now runs a triathlon coaching and camps business and is ‘so much happier now.’
For others, the skillsets and mental clarity that triathlon training and competing provides, gives them confidence in their professional lives.
‘Knowing I am one of the small percentage of the population who has completed Ironman races, affords me a confidence when I walk into another gender-skewed board room,’ comments Lori, eleven-time Ironman.
‘I am confident and assertive in expressing and backing up business strategy recommendations as a COO. I kno the data analysis I bring to the table is the same approach I have taken in knowing my training data.’
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