The physical and emotional benefits of exercise have long been documented. But have you ever thought about benefits that extend beyond those benefits? Can endurance sports help you develop character traits like perseverance, confidence, patience, pushing through adversity, and much more?
I have to admit that I am not sure I had given it much thought early on, but with each and every race and training session I have learned a little more about how endurance sports spill over into each and every part of being an awesome person in all areas of our lives. Here are just some of the lessons I’m learning.
1. You are limitless.
Most people have no idea what their true limits are. How far they can go and how much pain they can endure before giving up or continuing on. Endurance sports teach us that. The human mind will give up far earlier than the body will. I’ve learned to keep going just a little longer when I feel like I’ve reached a limit. And you know what? It’s always worked.
2. Expect the unexpected.
Anything can happen in a one-mile run or a 140-mile Ironman. How you handle it and react to the unexpected determines the ultimate outcome. Athletes develop an ability to bend and that allows them to succeed in all areas of their lives by letting the outcome take care of itself without overreacting or giving up in the moment.
3. Embrace challenge.
Being challenged allows you to grow and learn. At some point we are all faced with something we don’t want to do or feel we aren’t very good at. Endurance sports are all challenging and you are asked to push the limits of what you once thought was possible over and over again. Looking at that challenge with an open mind rather than an attitude of preconceived failure is priceless in all areas of life.
4. Focus on the journey.
The journey to a dream or a goal can seem really long and sometimes we want it to come sooner. However, the truth is that the experiences along the way are the ones that really matter. They are the ones that shape and mold us and the final result is just a sum of everything gained and learned along the way. Having this perspective has helped me pace life and enjoy the here and now rather than where I want to be in the future.
5. Embrace your crew.
Anything that you have ever accomplished has not been achieved alone by a long shot. I tell people all the time that Ironman literally takes a village — and most big things do. You need people to help you, value you, want you to achieve your goals, and want to help you exceed your wildest dreams. That can sometimes be rare so when you find people who offer that kind of support, let them be a part of your success.
6. Always reassess the situation.
High performers and achievers are the ones that work off of clear goals and timelines. They set a goal with a timeline that’s manageable and then evaluate how it’s going consistently and then improve it if needed. As an endurance athlete, I do this on a regular basis and it’s helped me to tackle goals in other areas of my life as well.
7. Have courage.
Sometimes we need the courage and strength to set a stretch goal or something that seems unattainable or makes us uncomfortable. The beginning is always hard and scary, but always worth it. I never would have thought I could have completed many things that I have accomplished personally and professionally. The first step was scary but it always worked out.
8. Stay humble.
When your dreams have come to reality and the hard work is realized it’s important to stay humble and when you can help someone else. I make it a point to take time to help someone who is where I once was. Putting good energy out in the world always brings it back to you!
9. Take care of yourself.
This includes your body, mind, and heart. We only have one body so fuel it right and take care of it every chance you get. YOU will always be the BEST thing you invest your time and energy into, so DO IT!
10. Attitude is everything.
Attitude can be helpful or hurtful. It’s important to pay attention to your attitude and how it translates into what you are doing and how others see it. Positivity will lead to success, every time!
All things in life and endurance sports take time, passion, and persistence. Endurance sports are not just a physical challenge but one that changes you. It changes your lifestyle, mindset, and character. You come out on the other side with determination, perseverance, and grit. And most importantly, the power to make any dream a reality!