Chasing Your Athletic Goals and Appreciating the Sacrifices
Athletics is one of those things where people tend to specialize. There might be some all around strong athletes who can pull their weight in multiple sports, and of course there are triathletes, heptathletes and decathletes, but even still they specialize in that one multisport regime. In athletics, just as in so many other aspects of life, one needs to prioritize their goals and be completely committed to them, before they ever have a chance of fully achieving them. And this applies to all sports, disciplines and hobbies. In order to become great in any endeavour in life, there will inevitably be some sort of sacrifice in order to make room for those goals, and that is what I want to talk about here.
Chasing a goal, chasing a dream, chasing greatness, its worded in such a way that seems entirely achievable by pushing through your limits, fighting your fears, breaking down barriers, doing whatever it takes to thrive ahead of the competition. But when was the last time you heard about a great athlete’s family issues, or their financial struggles, or anything else they may have had to sacrifice in order to achieve such a high level in whatever sport they are in. Big or small, in the athletics world, there are constant sacrifices, giving up something to chase something else.
1) This might be physical, no olympic powerlifter will ever run a sub 2:30 marathon, but at the same time how many world class runners can press up into a handstand?
2) It might be related to your relationships, there are countless marriages and families that have struggled severely or even broken apart as a result of one spouse’s goals and the time and effort it consumes to chase them.
3) And of course, it is often financial sacrifices that need to be made, because in order to take your athletic performance to the highest level possible, you need the top level gear and you need the top level training, so this doesn’t always leave room for other lifestyle luxuries.
I’m not a psychologist, I’m not a sports industry guru, and I’m not a sports therapist or trainer in any way, but from my experiences over the past year or so, I’ve gone through some changes and shifts in my priorities which have lent me some great insights into this give and take balance that athletic people needs to understand and find.
In 2012, I ran my first ultra marathon, and over the next two years I was joined by my now wife, Melissa, as we took on these ultra distance running races all over the world. But when looking back, this sort of racing required miles and miles of run training, which inevitably led to a decline of all the strength and upper body muscle I had built up over the past couple of years in the Crossfit world. (Read Why I don’t do crossfit anymore) This was difficult for me to accept, and shortly after competing in an ultra marathon in Madagascar, I noticed I had become quite thin and to be completely honest, was not happy with how I looked or felt. Sure I could run many kilometres for many days straight, but I did not feel as much of an all around athlete.
I ran into a similar situation this past summer when Melissa and I attended the Acroyoga Teacher Training in Montreal. Over the month long intensive course, I developed quite a bit of strength, boosted my flexibility, but to no surprise my running muscles struggled a bit. This time, the situation felt familiar, a change that I needed to accept in order to be present and happy in the now.
Shortly after this training, we jacked up our endurance training to prepare for our first multi-sport adventure race, 100km of kayaking, mountain biking and trail running in the Bruce Peninsula. This grew back some of my lost running abilities, but also developed my passion and musculature that’s needed in mountain biking and kayaking. To no one surprise by now though, my flexibility dropped again.
I’ve gone through quite a number of shifts in such a short period of time that I feel it was easier for me to realize. Some people slowly make their way into running and don’t realize how inflexible they become, because it changed over many years.
My hope in sharing all of this is not so much to display my lives events, but to spur others to look back over changes that have happened in their lives, especially changes in their athletic lives (maybe you took up yoga, started biking again, etc) and be aware of what you had to give up, in order to gain something else. Take this and check in with your passions and goals for your athletic life, and simply see if they are aligned. Maybe you’re happy with how things have changed in your life, or maybe your surprised at what has happened, but you will be much more capable of making choices in moving forward if you are AWARE of these changes.