Coach Tip Tuesday: Create Your Own Certainty; Control Your Own Destiny
So many things are different in this world right now, but every seven days, Coach Tip Tuesday remains the same.
I don’t need to tell anyone reading this that the last several months have elicited changes in all facets of our lives. In the endurance sports world, the elimination of “real” in-person races globally since mid-March has been a change that has shaken endurance athletes to their core.
As a full-time, professional endurance coach, I have seen first-hand how impactful these widespread cancelled, postponed, and rescheduled races have been on the minds and hearts of athletes. The athletes I work with have ALL been significantly impacted by these changes, and their responses to this have been as diverse as they are. That being said, one of the recurring themes that has been popping up with a large number of the athletes who I work with is this: they feel unmotivated to do anything once their goal race is off the table, whether it’s because it’s cancelled, postponed, or because they don’t feel that it’s in their best interest to participate in the race if it does end up taking place.
Humans are not wired to exist in perpetual uncertainty. We are creatures of habit, right to our core. We like routines. Routines bring about comfort. How often do you hear of people existing in a situation that makes them miserable all in the name of sticking with “the evil that they know” rather than taking a risk toward something that isn’t as familiar or comfortable??
In the endurance sports world, races and other endurance events (such as social rides, charity events, etc.) provide very real, measurable, tangible “check-in” points that we can use to guide our training and how we plan our goals. Honestly, these things are “easy” in the sense that someone else does the planning for us; someone else determines the event type, the event distance, the location, date, timing, etc. We don’t have to do any of that “leg work” when we decide that doing XYZ race is important to us. We just say, “Hey, that is what I want to do,” put it on the calendar, and get to work with that very tangible and firm end goal and date in sight. And sometimes, they even give us a medal!! :)
The current pandemic and the worldwide response to it has flipped this model right on its bum. Events have been cancelled or postponed into the future, and that future feels very far away right now. The fact that a race has yet to happen worldwide has planted seeds of doubt as to whether those “real” events that we so love will ever return. And without a “real” event happening, many people have lost hope that any event will. This seed of doubt has not only been planted in many people’s minds; it’s germinated and has now taken root. More questions have come up than answers, and that has lead people’s doubts to grow.
Right now, we are all being called to exist in a holding pattern for an indefinite amount of time. No one can actually tell us definitively when it will end, or what that end will look like. Being creatures of habit, this feels downright terrible to many of us. And the fact that races are not happening is disorienting for athletes who previously constructed all of their goals around races.
What I have encouraged the athletes I work with to do is this:
Create your own certainty in the midst of uncertainty. Take back the reins. In the midst of a time where it may feel like a lot of things are not in your control, the reality is that YOU are actually in control of your life, not some company that happens to own a race.
WHY did you get involved in endurance sports in the first place?? Why is this significant to you?? In other words, what is your core “why”??
Do you need external validation for your goals?? If you cover 26.2 miles in a run, but only you and possibly your closest friends know or saw that you did that, does that mean that that is less significant than someone who raced at a marathon with 25,000 strangers at a specified day, time, and place??
I present this view: You are all worth so much more than what a race says you are. I have said for years that you are all worth more than what a finish clock says, and now what I’ve always said is really being put to the test since there literally are no finish line clocks right now. :) Yes, races are cancelled. Yes, a “real” race has yet to happen anywhere in the post-/current COVID-19 world. But I promise that there are very real goals that can be set and achieved.
What this DOES require is this: You need to decide that YOU are going to set the endpoint of your path. No one is going to do that for you right now. No one is going to present a race in a shiny package ready for you to sign-up for and to do. So you need to step up and do that for yourself. You are WORTH doing this for.
So now I ask you: What excites you?? What fills you with joy?? What lights you on fire?? What part of yourself do you want to see?? What part of yourself do you want to test?? Do you want to test a limit to see if it actually exists?? What part of YOU do you want to honor??
Yes, things don’t look the way we thought they would this year. While it’s VERY OKAY to mourn these losses and to pause to grieve the loss of what we thought 2020 would be, it’s also SO important to move on from that momentary grief. Despite our love of routines, we actually are adaptable creatures. We can re-frame our thinking, and revise our goals. Lamenting what could have been and what we wanted things to be takes away from the beauty that IS. Just because things look different does not mean that they are bad or unimportant or 100% gone. It just means that they are….different. And different is okay. Different can be beautiful...if we choose to see it that way. :)
YOU determine your reality. YOU determine what is significant to you. Embrace this, and set your sights on a goal that is meaningful and that matters to you. You CAN do this. Yes, it’s work. But it’s possible to achieve something that matters to you, even if the way you achieve it doesn’t look the way you thought it would. Maybe this means doing a virtual version of the event you were originally training for. Maybe this means thinking outside the box and coming up with a creative way to challenge yourself. It may not seem like it right now, but races will return one day, and we will be ready (and TOTALLY PUMPED!!) when that happens. But until it does, I encourage each and every one of you to chart your own course (pun intended), and realize that at the end of the day, you do this for YOU, and no one else. While we’re in this holding pattern, you CAN accomplish things that are meaningful.
So: what goal speaks to you during this time and will bring you joy, even in the midst of what this world is right now?? Name it, and work toward it. You can do it. :)
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.