Published on May 4, 2009
I am going to be frank with you.
In return, I ask you to be frank with me.
I have been in the triathlon world, teaching triathlon classes and clinics, coaching triathletes from all ages and abilities, eating and selling triathlon nutrition products and doing triathlons myself for more than five years, so I’ve asked (literally) thousands of endurance athletes about why they do this sport.
So my radar is fully dialed in to sniff out any “cookie-cutter” answers. Be completely honest. Ready?
What motivates you to do triathlons?
Why in the world do you bother riding your bike for 2 or 3 or 4 hours? Why would any person bother going to a pool and swimming back and forth in the middle of the day?
If you said anything to the extent of “improve my blood pressure,” “relieve stress,” or “set a good example,” I’m not buying it. I call these logical motivators. There is nothing wrong with those motivators and I agree they are excellent benefits – but let’s get real. I asked you to be frank with me. You don’t swim, bike and run multiple hours a week for the sole purpose of improving your health profile.
You do triathlons for emotional and irrational wants and fears.
You do triathlons so you can prove something to yourself. What is your worth? Do you have what it takes? Can you conquer your personal Mt. Everest? Can you show everybody who was better at you in sports growing up that you're just as good, maybe better?
You do triathlons to prove something to other people. I really am that good, that fit, that motivated, that focused. If my neighbor did it, I can do. I'm better than them. I'll beat them this year.
You do triathlons because you did just one, this one time, and then you got sucked into the vortex and you had to keep coming back and trying to beat your performance from the previous year. In other words, you want to prove to yourself that your body is getting better, not worse.
You do triathlons because all your friends are doing it and who will provide your social support if it's not the triathlon club?
You do triathlons because running is boring and you don't have that kind of attention span.
Dare I say, some of you do triathlons because you want to look good naked?
What are some types of irrational and emotional motivators for triathlon? Here are some examples:
Being able to wear your Ironman or triathlon race t-shirt in public to impress people.
Wanting to be able to eat whatever you want, but not having the control, so finding a sport where working out too much is OK.
Being able to fit into whatever style of clothes you wish.
Having nice legs and feeling confident when you put on spandex.
Telling people at parties that you're an athlete, maybe even an Ironman.
Comments like, “You're really slim. Do you workout?”
Not dying early so you can travel with your grandchildren.
Having an honorable excuse for not doing yardwork on the weekends because of your “training”.
Contrast these with logical motivators for doing triathlon:
Improve your health.
Good role model.
Clothes fit better.
You see the difference? Sure, the irrational wants (compared to fears) are conceited and superficial. I get it. But guess which individual gets better results? The person motivated by irrational motivators or logical motivators? Irrational, hands down every time. The secret to achieving success in these type of sports is to figure out the true WHY – which is some always an irrational desire, fear or want.
Here’s how to figure out your irrational want:
1. Ask yourself, “Why do I do triathlons?” If you said, “To feel better…” then ask the same question to your answer.
2. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to feel better?” If you said, “To be more productive at work…” then ask the same question to your answer.
3. Ask yourself again, “Why do I want to be more productive…” So that I get a job promotion and earn a bigger salary. Continue the pattern…
4. “Why do I want to get a bigger salary?” So that I can provide for my child’s education so they can have a future.
Notice how your reason for swimming, biking and running went from a very logical to emotional fear and want the more you asked why? The more honest you are with yourself, the faster you’ll get to your true reason why you work out.
Your “why” will be the difference between success and failure. This is a topic rarely discussed in the triathlon world and can create unstoppable motivation by uncovering the truth about yourself. There is no right or wrong answer. I only ask that you be honest with yourself. Now it’s your turn.
I want you to ask yourself, “Why do I really do triathlons?” until you discover your irrational and emotional want or fear. You might be very surprised to discover the real reason and what you really want. This exercise might take you a few minutes.
If you’re comfortable with sharing, in one sentence in the comments for this post, state the emotional and irrational why behind your motivation for doing triathlons. What do you really want or what is your greatest nightmare?
I look forward to your comments…