It's True, IRONMAN Will Change You August 23, 2019 21:29 Updated Follow Not signed in? Log into your Purple Patch account for full access to your education program for coaches and athletes. You need to sign in to view this page. IRONMAN racing occupies a precarious space between two very polar messages. One: 'this is as tough as it gets', and two: 'anyone can do it!' It isn't an easy balance. While IRONMAN is a big challenge, it's also one that can have a tremendous positive impact on your health, daily energy and what version of yourself you bring to your family and work, as long as it is approached with the appropriate lens. Let's review some real-life case studies in which taking on the IRONMAN challenge has not only become a joyous personal experience, but also elicited very positive changes in the athletes' lives globally. Before we dive into the details, it's important to frame the mindset that each of these athletes took to be successful on their IRONMAN journey. Way too many athletes take on IRONMAN and the process and training quickly dominate an already busy life. Each of the athletes below committed to the following: A journey of many months, with a lens that involved making the training 'something that they do,' instead of a short-term ramp to get ready for a single event Integration: Each embraced only training the number of hours that life genuinely allowed in each of their cases; there was no magic number of weekly training hours to hit, and none looked for quick fixes Long-term adaptations which meant that they had to forge new habits in all aspects of life including eating and sleeping With this in mind, let's dig into some of their stories. Peter: Stressed-out executive to consistent athlete I would call Peter a classic Purple Patch athlete. He was highly successful in his professional life, with a lot of responsibility in his position as work, which included ample travel. He was very performance-driven and keen to retain fitness but was struggling to fit it all in. He had bounced around various approaches to fitness, including training for marathons, strength and conditioning classes, riding trips in Europe, and even a couple of triathlons. Nothing had stuck, and much of his challenge was that each adventure was met with vigorous initial excitement and commitment, but was unsustainable. With his oscillating fitness came wild swings in body composition, energy, and health. Simply put, he was a tired high performer. Outside of his success at work, he wasn't bringing his best self to his family or the rest of life. It wouldn't be uncommon to return home to that one extra glass of wine, and sleep was often disrupted or compromised. He was scattered and disorganized, and it ended up leaving him with wild variations of energy. At 44 years old he knew that he had to do something to commit to fitness and overall health. As with many who end up on the IRONMAN journey, Peter's start was gradual and incremental. In starting with me, I persuaded him of the benefits of a multi-sport lifestyle. Not triathlon perse, but integrating more than a single sport. Not only would adding swimming and biking create variety, but it would also force structure and provide a healthy blend of stimuli. While he was naturally confident in running, he was given a new challenge to improve swimming, a weakness. High performers tend to like to see improvement, so adding the swim and bike presented an element of fun. Swimming was wonderful cardiovascular training, riding included adventure and muscle resilience, and weight-bearing running was positive as long as it isn't overdone. We anchored his initial seasons of training around shorter events that fit his lifestyle and allowed challenge without overwhelming him with commitments. Peter found joy in the journey and had a blast racing sprint and Olympic-distance races. Improvements and increased confidence soon came. Peter's perception was that longer distances meant a huge increase in training -- an impossibility with his work and family commitments. We soon changed that! I asked Peter to reflect on his health, work performance, and overall energy a year into working with me. He had successfully added three disciplines into his life and hadn't failed yet. In fact, he reported elevated energy, improved body composition, and improved productivity across work and life. The old saying goes 'if you want something done, give it to a busy person.' This was the case for Peter. His new lifestyle forced planning and smart decision making around time management, while also eliciting positive new sleep and nutrition habits. It was the right time to turn up the dial a little and introduce him to a longer distance. While hesitant at first, Peter committed to an IRONMAN 70.3. This meant a little more training, but most of all, continuing to do everything he was already doing. The goal was to integrate training into life and avoid making the sport a monkey on his back. We took stock of the hours he truly had available, and built a consistent program of about 8 weekly training hours, occasionally sneaking up to 10-12 hours if life ebbed a little. He was consistent and structured. Guess what? Peter loved it. He improved and was successful, all without defusing his productivity, health or energy. He was a better version of himself. Toward the end of that year he took the final step to IRONMAN, and without training too much more continued to love the journey. He is now a three-time IRONMAN. This is a great accomplishment, but not the primary reason for celebration. The key for Peter was the evolution from thinking that his work and life were too busy to be able to successfully integrate fitness and training. This thinking has changed; he now realizes that he's actually not able to perform to his full capacity in work or life without the structure and commitment of training! Success in the most important elements of his life are dependent on the structure that the sport provides him. He is now a true high performer, not an aspirational high performer. Peter has remained flexible and dynamic in his mindset and in fact, has no IRONMAN events scheduled this year. His daughter is heading to college, and work is particularly busy, so we've deiced to retain consistency, but include only IRONMAN 70.3 events. "Quitting" is not an option, not because of obsession, but to foster his continued health and high life performance not just in an 'IRONMAN' year. This is a helpful and appropriate lens, and I can assure you that Peter will be back on the start line of the full distance in 2019! Marina: Emerging from heartbreak and fatigue Upon starting to coach Marina, I had never seen such a low performing athlete. Marina couldn't even walk up a flight of steps without stopping for breath. She pulled her frame, more than 100 pounds heavier than it is today, with great effort and deep overall fatigue. She was overweight, tired and underperforming, but not because of laziness. Marina had recently lost her daughter in a car crash and had navigated the grief and stress of being a single mother to her surviving daughter while retaining her job and trying to navigate the unimaginable stress of the loss of a child. She slipped into health oblivion and couldn't see a path out. Every step a challenge, with food carrying an emotional burden. I met her at rock bottom, or perhaps just past that low point, as she was now ready to make a change. Her initial words to me have been etched into my psyche ever since: "I am an athlete. I want to be an IRONMAN." Marina would not resemble most people's vision of an athlete, but this is truly how she saw herself. She began with that mindset and was going to do what it took to make it happen. While she stated IRONMAN as her goal, I realized quickly that it was going to take time. She couldn't walk up stairs, she had never swum in her life, and she didn't own a bike. 'Walking before running' was more than a saying for this athlete, it was an essential fact in her approach to training. We began the journey with strength training (mostly body weight), and treadmill walking. Within a year, Marina owned a bike and was learning to swim. Within two years she had completed two sprint triathlons. She had also begun to lose a large amount of weight and was learning the art of training, sleep, and appropriate eating. She grew in confidence and began to join our squad sessions in San Francisco. She was becoming an athlete. Marina missed the cut-off at her first IRONMAN 70.3. Her second ended the same way. The third was successful in making the swim, but she missed the bike cut off by a single minute following tremendously windy conditions. In attempt number four, Marina finished her first IRONMAN 70.3, well within the cut off and with a big smile on her face. She has since completed several more and is on track to finish an IRONMAN in the near future. She is an athlete and displays many of the same characteristics and qualities that my professional athletes do. She will soon become an IRONMAN. The key for Marina is that the challenge of the journey and the evolution has been and continues to be about much more than the label of "IRONMAN finisher." Instead, it has been about reducing fear and depression, refining joy and purpose, building confidence, and reestablishing a community of like-minded supporters and athletes. Her IRONMAN journey has paved the way for her to re-discover who she is and to once again meet life with vigor. This is Marina's journey. IRONMAN has simply provided the framework. More than results I feel that too many people get drawn into an obsession that IRONMAN must involve a complete commitment to PR's and going faster and faster. This is great for some athletes (we all want to improve!) but it's also essential to remember that the successful integration of triathlon can play a much larger role in your life than what's measured by the stopwatch or age group podium. I urge you to resist getting pulled into the obsessive side of the sport and instead lean into the real reasons for doing the sport in the first place. Embrace the journey and understand that your best is always going to emerge by integrating the multi-sport lifestyle into your life year-round over simply obsessively training for a single event. Consistency in the journey is where you can find all the joy as well as most of the benefits. 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