Posted On:
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: YOU are the Captain of Your Ship

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A wooden ship wheel is pictured in front of a setting sun.  The photo is largely in shadows due to the brightness of the sun, but the silhouette of the wheel is clearly visible.

And just like that….it’s March again.  Can you believe it?  And it’s also time for Coach Tip Tuesday again! :)

This week, I want to have a conversation with all of you out there who feel like you have to race the races that you had deferred to 2021 from 2020 due to the world-wide response to COVID-19.  

Over the last six months, I’ve heard many variants of this same phrase, “I have to do these races because I already paid for them” or “I didn’t get to make a choice about my goals for this year since my races are already chosen for me since they’re deferred from last year”, etc.

In response to this, one of the (many) things I've been encouraging folks to do is realize that they are the captains of their own ships and to "take back control" of their own lives.

What does this mean?

Well, for one thing, it means that while we acknowledge and aim to embrace that certain things are far beyond our control (such as whether or not an event actually happens), there are far more things that we are in control of.

Outlining any/all things that you are struggling with and that you are having a hard time mentally with right now is a good thing, as it allows you to chart a path that is less of a struggle for you.  Putting pen to paper and getting your thoughts out there can be a really therapeutic and calming exercise.  Often, we fear things we cannot fully grasp or understand.  Thus, when we “name” something - by transforming it into something more tangible by putting it into actual words - it often doesn’t make us feel as scared, intimidated, or anxious anymore.

Many, many people feel compelled to race their 2020 races in 2021 because they were deferred.  And to those of you who feel this way, you didn't make that choice to defer to 2021.  Someone else did - the race organizers, the government, the Universe - you name it.  But it wasn’t you.  However, I want to say something in response to that that is rather revolutionary to a lot of folks:

Just because they were deferred for you does not mean that you actually have to do them.  You DO have a choice here.  (But maybe you just didn't see it that way before.)

I know, I know.  GASP OF HORROR.  “But Coach Coach Laura Henry, I already PAID for it!  I can't waste my money!”  (Believe me, I can hear the thoughts being projected at me, and I've heard this in-person when I’ve said it to someone directly as well. :) )

While I certainly respect the financial investment in race fees (particularly when it comes to very expensive events such as IRONMAN), I want to share something I learned about this situation with you:

Whether we go and do the event or not, the money is spent. So if the pursuit of this goal/event is not making us happy, why are we spending the money to be unhappy? We could just as well not show up, do something else, and be happy. But either way, we've spent the money.

I have been here; a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I was registered for IRONMAN Lake Placid and I did not start the race.  I've chosen not to start two IRONMAN 70.3s over the years as well.  So, just on those three events alone, I spent $1,200 on races that I never completed.  But not starting those events was the right choice for me, and ultimately resulted in better mental health and happiness for me than if I had continued training for them and done them.

Now, do we just want to go be Oprah and say, “You get my money, you get my money, everyone gets my money!!” when it comes to registering for races?  No, no we don't.  We do want to strive to only register for and invest in events that we truly want to do.  That being said, it's important to acknowledge that we evolve as athletes and people, and sometimes what we thought we wanted isn't actually what we end up wanting.  In other words, our dreams/desires evolve along with us.  And this, my friends, is VERY OKAY.  It is - (dare I say it?) - normal.

For events such as an IRONMAN (which require you to register SO DARN FAR in advance), this presents a conundrum.  We sometimes need to financially commit to them before we're 100% sure we have the mindset or life circumstances to see the entire thing through.

With all of these factors considered, my advice is this:

Create your own certainty.  If the uncertainty of your race(s) actually happening is impeding your motivation to complete workouts or is zapping your joy when you do complete workouts, make the choice not to pursue it this year.  It's okay, really it is.  (Maybe you need someone to give you that "permission", so here I am, giving you that "permission" :) ).

If other things ARE more exciting to you, are making you feel happier about doing them, and fit better into what you have going on in your life, isn't that a better trade?  So for instance, if you want the flexibility and freedom to pop into whatever local events that end up happening near you over the course of 2021, then you could train for general fitness and be ready to pop into events like that.

I challenge each and every one of you to fill in the blank in this sentence: “In my endurance/athletic life, what I really enjoy is _________________.”  Once you actually write that down, my advice is to dial-in on that.  Focus on what you ENJOY, not what you feel that you “must” do.  And make sure that any races/events you are targeting fall in line with what you are currently enjoying.

Make your choices for YOU.  Don't hand over the reins to a race organizer or to any other entity.  YOU are in the driver’s seat of your own life.  And as such, you DO have the power to choose what you want to do. :)

Embrace your role as the captain of your life ship.  It’s as simple and as hard as that.


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

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