As a personal trainer for a decade or so I was often asked what the ‘best’ exercise to do was. My answer? The one you love. Why? Because it’s the one you will keep doing! Everyone has a different passion and ultimately, it’s not about calorie burn or numbers on a scale if you hate it. If you hate it, you will stop doing it and then will hate yourself for ‘quitting’ when you were setting yourself up to fail in the first place.
Unfortunately, if you want to excel at racing or reach a specific goal, you not only need to do the things you ‘hate’ but you have to do them a lot. It can be a total bummer but also fantastically rewarding.
Triathlon has a wonderfully magical way of revealing your weakest link. Mine has always been the water. Before my very first triathlon I was so afraid of the open water swim that I didn’t practice at all. I can see the lake, where the event was being held, from my house and I would ignorantly smile as I rode and ran past it, never once venturing in. Obviously, on race day, my swim was lacking and it took me forever to complete the .25 mile.
Fast forward five years or so and I have come to truly love the swim. How did I get here? Lots of drugs. Kidding! By consistently working on my weakness, it has become a strength. It has improved my overall fitness, reduced my risk for injury and has even opened my mind to not only following though on a commitment, but breaking though fears that were holding me back.
You need not have a goal of competing at a world or national level to get the same results from your fitness. Here’s some ways I’ve learned how to work on my weakness so hopefully you can too:
1. Buy Stuff. We all love shopping, right? Whatever your weakness is, there is “essential” gear you must purchase to make it tolerable. You know how runners always brag about running being the sport you need the least amount of stuff for? Bullshit. There is no runner on this planet who doesn’t own multiple pair of running shoes, at least two GPS watches (and probably a Fitbit) and don’t even get me started on the clothing and accessories. This is part of why we run – the stuff!!!
As you may know, because I cannot stop raving about it, I recently bought the Waterfi waterproof iPod to get me though the torture of running in the pool. Turns out it’s freakin’ phenomenal for 10 x 100s, 8 x 25s, or pretty much any set of laps you happen to be doing. Before that, I bought suits, fins, and even some things I can’t identify. This is the fun part. Indulge.
2. Find An Expert. You don’t have to spend money on a coach (although I highly recommend it) just find your local expert and chat them up. Trust me, if someone thinks they dominate a sport, they will love talking about it. They are probably so full of themselves that they blog about it…I’m guessing.
This advice works for two reasons – you won’t get injured if you know the basics and you may have a friend to actually
motivate you to do the workout with. Win. Win.
If all else fails, get on YouTube or just Google it and watch the results flood in. Just be careful who you take advice from. You actually want to get stronger, not killed.
3. Track Your Efforts. We have all felt like we are getting absolutely nowhere, no matter how hard we try at mastering a new skill. This is why it’s important to have a baseline so you can look back on what you did a month ago and die of embarrassment, followed immediately by shameless gloating. Better yet, sign up for a race or contest to test your ability and you will surprise yourself with your achievement – I guarantee it.
My first triathlon effort in 2009 my quarter mile swim time was 7:20 and I came in third in my age group. In 2013, the last year I competed in this particular triathlon, I brought it down to 6:31 and was the first woman overall. I would love to see what I could swim it in now!
The point is, if you work at your weakness, it will make you better in every aspect of your life. And no, I don’t think I’m overstating this. I had a true fear of open water swimming in 2009 and last week I swam a mile in open water. Did it take time? Yes. Did a lot of it suck horribly? You bet. Was it worth it? I would do it again 1,000 times over.
Conquering my fear and empowering myself though swimming has made me less fearful and more confident in everyday life. Now I look out at the lake below my neighborhood and think “I can’t wait to get out there and swim!” Ok, well my particular lake is a little seaweed filled, may possibly have a turtle and water snake problem, and I may drive 40 minutes past it to swim in a cleaner lake BUT, I could totally swim the hell out of it if my life (or schedule) depended on it.
Get uncomfortable, train your weakness and see what happens. It may change your life.
What is your weakness? It doesn’t have to be fitness related…
What is a weakness you have worked on? What was the result?