Boom! It’s already time for Coach Tip Tuesday again!
The last two weeks of my life have been more jam-packed than normal (if that’s even possible). My most recent adventure was to Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin to work as a coach at Dare2Tri’s Learn2Tri Paratriathlon Camp. We had about 40 athletes at this camp (all with some sort of impairment) who at most had completed two triathlons in their life or since their impairment. They were all beginners trying something new, and it was AWESOME. On the final day of camp, they crossed the finish line of a triathlon and now can call themselves triathletes!
As almost all of you know, I almost joined the para-sports world between 2015-2017 when Vader Arm was facing amputation. I had a deep respect and appreciation for the para-sports world prior to my injury, but I came off of that injury with an even deeper understanding and respect for what para-athletes go through on a daily basis.
I’ve been coaching para-athletes for a few years now, and while they are all unique humans (as we all are!), there is a unifying thread that weaves through all of them: they all are exceptionally grateful and their complaining is virtually non-existent. I have to be honest: I cannot say that that same thread weaves through every able-bodied athlete that I’ve worked with, and that includes myself back in the day.
What I’ve learned as I’ve grown over the years, and especially since the Vader Arm Accident is this: gratitude will never serve you wrong, and it will enable you to make the very most out of all of your experiences. Sure, the Vader Arm Accident catastrophically broke my arm and significantly altered my life. Some of those days were extremely rough. But throughout all of it, I was grateful that it was just a broken arm. That accident didn’t take my life. It didn’t take my memories. It didn’t take my ability to control my attitude on a daily basis. And even if it did take my arm, it wouldn’t have taken my ability to be my very best in whichever areas of my life I chose to focus on.
This mindset is something I’ve seen in each para-athlete who I’ve had the honor to work with. They focus on what they can do, not what they can’t. They test their limits mindfully to see what they are truly capable of. Honestly, the 40 athletes I worked with this weekend could all have complained about how they couldn’t see, are wheelchair-bound, are missing limbs, or have trouble controlling their Central Nervous System. But they didn’t. They focused on what they could do, even with their impairments (which were significant).
So drawing from these experiences and observations, my Coach Tip for this Tuesday is this: practice an attitude of gratitude. As my hometown friend Ken Halaby said so long ago to us: Attitude is everything. Your brain is a powerful ally, my friends. By taking a moment - literally just a moment! - each day to think of something you are grateful for, you practice that attitude of gratitude. When it seems easy to lament your woes, I challenge you to seek out something to be grateful for in the midst of what you are discouraged by. I can tell you from experience that this type of mindfulness can truly change your perspective on all things - in life and in sport.
I used to hate the indoor bike trainer. HATED IT. This held true until December 2015, when I was cleared for indoor trainer riding only 12 weeks post-Vader Arm Accident. I was SO FREAKING HAPPY that I could get my butt on a bike! It was a wonderful tool that enabled me to experience something that I love so much and that could have been taken away from me completely. I haven’t ever felt those same negative feelings toward the trainer since then. One mindset shift took changed those strong feelings.
So this week, please go out there and practice an attitude of gratitude. Is there rain in the forecast for your long run? Give thanks for the fact that you have the ability to get out there and experience ALL of the wonderful weather our planet offers. Are you rehabbing an injury and only cleared for certain activities? Be grateful that you’re not 100% restricted. Are you 100% activity restricted while rehabbing an injury? Be grateful that you have a team working with you that wants you to get stronger, not regress and stay injured by doing things unnecessarily.
An attitude of gratitude goes a long way, my friends. I promise. :)
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” -Zig Ziglar
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.