Two ways to win in life (And win a Triathlon!)

A few weeks ago, my family took a trip down to Houston to visit my husband’s dad and stepmom. While we were there, we saw our friends Edward and Istra. They’re one of those couples who create this amazing synergy in their pursuits – which, in their case, is doing (or rather conquering) triathlons.

Edward got into them first, and he actually went professional for a while. His wife Istra started doing them soon after, and now, she’s just finished her third Ironman.

If you know me, you know that nothing fascinates me more than people performing at their best. Overcoming challenges, digging deep into their mental and physical resources to accomplish amazing things. Having a done a few sprint triathlons myself, I can appreciate how much stamina, dedication, and strength it takes.

So of course, I spent the week peppering Edward and Istra with questions. How do you do it? What motivates you? What are your tricks for pushing through the hard parts? What are your secrets?

Two things in particular struck me as motivational gold. And not just for winning a triathlon, but anytime you’re working toward a goal. 

Here they are:

  • It’s a formula, not magic. When Edward described his methods, he talked about it as a science. Everything was a number to him.  “You have to figure out the right formula for your body, your race. What is it you want to accomplish, and what exactly do you have to do to get there?” he said.

“For me, I want to win the race. So, starting months ahead of time, I eat certain things. I train a certain way. I make a training schedule and I don’t cheat.”

It was so objective. He didn’t struggle through emotion and self-doubt, because he wasn’t focusing on that. He was focused on his list of objective, actionable, evidence-based tasks.

“Of the hundred triathlons that I’ve done,” he said, “95 worked out because I followed the formula.”

“What about the other five?” I asked.

“I miscalculated,” he said. “Didn’t bring enough water on a hot day. Didn’t train correctly. Somehow, somewhere, I got away from the process.”

  • Rest, but don’t quit. Istra had a different perspective. Her goal isn’t to win so much as to beat her previous time.

When she first started, she said, the hard parts would make her panic and want to quit. But now, she doesn’t do either. Instead, she rests.

“Now, I’ve learned I can take a minute to myself,” she told me. “I slow down, but not stop. I’ll walk if it’s during the run. I find a way to settle my nervous system, so I don’t go into panic mode. I give myself a little space to recover, and then dive back in.”

I like that because those beliefs and doubts can be really convincing. So can physical pain.”I should stop,” “I won’t be able to do this,” “I’m not good enough,” “I should just quit now” – all those gremlins like to swoop in and attack us, sometimes, we believe them. But to Istra’s point, we don’t have to fight them off tooth and nail. We can step back. We can honor the feelings of doubt and hardship by resting.

One way to do this is to actually rest while running. I know it may sound weird, but resting doesn’t have to mean sitting. I know a runner who says when he gets tired, he “rests without stopping.” He keeps running, but goes easy on himself.

“Your body can go way further than your mind thinks,” he said, “so sometimes I let my mind think I’m taking a break, while my body keeps going. That gives me time to get a second wind. Or third, or fourth or fifth.”

I’m a feelings-driven person, so I like to use Edward’s method to work around doubt or overwhelm. I remind myself that there’s an objective process I can follow, and I can make it happen by breaking down the steps, figuring out the numbers, mapping out my progress toward a defined destination.

Istra’s method comes into play during that process. If and when those pesky feelings come up and threaten to derail me, I can take a mindful, restorative rest. That helps me calm the emotions, step into a powerful place, and return to race, stronger and ready to cross the finish line.

Notice that these two strategies address two different intentions. Edward’s goal is to win, and Istra’s is to beat her last time, and to enjoy the process. I find that I can use both of these in life and in business, depending on what I need in the moment. Sometimes I need to figure out the formula, and sometimes I need to rest.

What’s an area in your life where you could use one of these methods?

Does either one surprise you?

Tell me your thoughts below!

And then go out, rest when you need to, and shine. 

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