Posted On:
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Be Sure to Have a Solid “Why”

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Green question marks are spray painted on several trees in a forest.

Why do you participate in endurance sports?

Really, why do you? Do you know why? Can you articulate an answer succinctly and quickly when and if you are asked that question?

I’ve coached hundreds of athletes over my 10+ seasons of coaching, and I’ve met literally thousands of athletes out on race courses or during training sessions.  From that experience, I can tell you that very few athletes can quickly and succinctly provide an answer to the question “Why are you doing this?” when I ask them.  However, if I’m being honest, I shouldn’t be the first person who asks an athlete this question.  The first person who should ask this question is the athlete themselves.  Yep.  That means that you should have already asked (and answered!) this question yourself.

So this week, I want to encourage all of you reading this to think about it: Why do you do what you do?

Time (and by extension, life) is a zero-based budget. We have a finite number of hours in the day to spend on all the things that make up our lives. This can include: family, friends, work, training, and any other hobbies and/or commitments you may choose to partake in. But no matter how you choose to spend them, there is a set amount of time you have, so you can’t do all the things. By saying yes to some things, you will inevitably be saying no to others. You need to make choices about how you are spending your life.

With time being a finite resource, I believe that there is a need for all humans to be clear about why they are choosing to spend their time on what they are doing. In the realm of endurance sports: Training (and racing) takes a lot of time and energy and can be challenging (to say the least) to layer in among the other things that are important to you in your life. For new athletes and seasoned athletes alike, it’s very important to be clear about why you’re spending your valuable time training for endurance sports. If you aren’t clear on this, you will struggle (and likely fail) to prioritize training when you (inevitably) hit a time crunch, when you get tired, and/or when something unexpected pops up in your life.

What we spend our time on reflects what we value, plain and simple. Your “why” for participating in endurance sports is the foundation from which everything in this realm is built on. It is what will enable you to have breakthrough performances, push yourself when things get dark, and achieve things you may never have before thought were possible. Without a why, you shortchange yourself and the potential you could have.

My yoga teacher (Becky Lloyd of Blue Feather Wellness) has always encouraged me (and the rest of her students) to set an intention at the beginning of a yoga practice (class). This intention is a commitment to ourselves, and reaffirms why we made the choice to come to class on a particular day. At the end of our practice, Becky always encourages us to circle back to our intention, to revisit it and honor the space we’ve carved for ourselves.

To some of you reading this, that may sound new-agey and out there. However, I can tell you from personal experience that this practice - one of reflection, mindfulness, and groundedness - really works. Speaking our intention to ourselves and then circling back to it enables us to remember what we committed (aka promised) to ourselves keeps the “why” of what we are doing present in our minds.

So in that same spirit, I encourage you all to do the following:

  • Identify your “why” - your intention.  It doesn’t have to be a five paragraph essay; it can be as short as one word, or it could be several sentences.
  • Don’t just say your why to yourself inside your own head.  Write it down.  Yes, on real paper with a real writing instrument.  (No phones!)
  • Every morning when you wake up and/or before you begin each workout, remind yourself of your intention.  Speak it out loud.  Read it from where you wrote it down.  Do not let yourself lose sight of or forget your why.

If you need to really think about your why, I encourage you to think about your core values. For maximum effectiveness, enjoyment, and success, what you do should be tied to your core values. Plainly put, what you do shouldn’t just be something you do; it should truly be a reflection of who you are.

So ask yourself the question: Why do you do what you do?  And then revisit that why each and every day.  No matter how you do it, this process and this consistency of reminding yourself of why you’re doing what you’re doing well help pull you through the harder days and will show yourself that the sacrifice and effort that it takes to reach your goals is worth it.

About

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.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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