Find Your Why

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We’re two months into the new year. As you’re reading this, it’s estimated that 80 percent of the people who made resolutions have now bailed on them. This likely isn’t surprising, given the idea that some believe America is becoming a society of quitters, but it is disheartening. What makes it so hard for the majority of us to stick to our goals — and is there a secret to success the 20 percent­ who have remained committed to their goals aren’t sharing?

According to life coach Tony Robbins, the secret is purpose. "Having a sense of real purpose, like compelling reasons, will provide you with the drive necessary to make your desired result a reality. There is a major difference between simply having a dream, and having enough reasons to push yourself through the inevitable obstacles that will stand between you and your goals," he states on his website.

In terms of triathlon, it might seem easy to identify a purpose. Common goals for triathletes include "just finishing a race," or finishing in a certain time — perhaps to improve one’s performance in a particular event. The key word here is "performance."

So often we get caught up on the numbers associated with performance. We calculate everything: heart rate, watts, pacing, splits, the finishing time. In reality, thinking of your race as a numbers-oriented performance can rob you of the "data" you really need to go further, and feel better, in multisport. Training with purpose is about training with "all the feels."

It starts with knowing why you do triathlon, not how you do triathlon.

Getting to your why is important because it’s the gateway to a successful tenure as a triathlete. The "why" is what separates the 20 percent from the 80 percent in the race for New Year’s resolutions, and is a key ingredient to a long, healthy life. A recent study by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) supports this idea.  APS Lead researcher Patrick Hill explains: "Our findings point to the fact that finding a direction for life, and setting overarching goals for what you want to achieve can help you actually live longer, regardless of when you find your purpose." Simply put — whether you find your why at age 25 or age 65, you reap the same benefits.

In triathlon, finding your why doesn’t have to be a linear process. Triathlete Tanya Gesek started doing triathlon on a whim. "I’d been running for years," the Huntington, NY child and family psychologist says. "When I turned 40, my spinning instructor said I should try IronGirl, so I figured why not?" Today, the 45-year-old is a newly-minted IRONMAN athlete heading into her fifth year as a triathlete. "I didn’t go into triathlon to find a why,” she explains. "I found a why after I went into triathlon." For Gesek, who left her marriage at the age of 38 and grappled with her identity as a newly single mom, triathlon offered an opportunity to open her mind. "I didn’t care about getting fit, looking good in a bikini, or winning. My why became proving to myself that I did not have to stay stuck because the establishment said I had to." In a 2014 WSJ essay, 58-year old triathlete Kathleen Hughes echoes these sentiments. "If you’re feeling somewhat adrift or have experienced a series of disappointments, entering a triathlon can lead to instant glory."

For some women, the "why" is about finding their stride in a world where they can define the parameters for success. In a 2014 interview with USA Today, Montgomery triathlete Meagan Cutler shared her thoughts on women in triathlon. "I think a large part is due to the fact that you are against yourself, and against a clock, and for the most part, you’re not compared to other women, which is a break from the everyday struggle women feel."

As female participation in multisport continues to grow, women are realizing that swim, bike and run can bring more to the table than physical wellbeing and finisher medals. Those who align training and racing with a focus on overall wellness and holistic growth will outlast the weekend warriors and find longevity not just in their experience as triathletes, but as women.