When I discovered the wonderful world of triathlon, other than being completely hooked from day one, it completely transformed my understanding of sport and the way in which I approached my life. What it has taught me in the past 11 years is invaluable.
Triathlon has taught me that the key to self acceptance comes from our ability to persistently grow, improve and challenge ourselves. I have realised that taking on a triathlon does not just involve swimming, cycling and running but an unwavering commitment to having concrete, clear, intelligent and rigorously pursued plans to achieve the results that we wish to obtain.
It has taught me all about discipline and that it requires two fundamental values – rigour and consistency. Rigour means doing things thoroughly, accurately, precisely and with firm and demanding standards. And consistency means maintaining these standards over a long period of time. I have learned that these two values form the basis for success in triathlon as well as in my own life.
Then without a doubt, triathlon has taught me the underlying meaning of passion. Not just personal, dynamic drive or charisma, but rather the real meaning of the word “passion” which emphasises how much we are prepared to sacrifice or suffer in order to reach our goals. That’s what passion is all about. And then there’s resilience too, that quality which sets people apart. It’s that ability to bounce back in the face of fatigue, setbacks, disappointment and heartache; that capacity we have, that inner strength to cope with stress. It is not about sulking for a week or being devastated by failure; it is about bouncing back and never giving up.
Then there’s independence and taking control of my life. By taking control of my own life it has given me the ability to feel pride and satisfaction when I have accomplished my goals and dreams, not because other people have told me that I am amazing but because I did something that I love to do, chose to do for myself, took ownership and seized the opportunities that came my way.
It has also bought me closer to nature and made me appreciate all the beautiful things in the world, be it the breathtaking views from the top of a mountain to an early morning sunrise or even excessive heat during a run and gale force winds on my bike.
Triathlon has educated me in humility, teaching me to realise that you are only as good as your last race and never to become too arrogant when you are on a winning streak but to enjoy it and relish the satisfying feeling, as there will unfortunately be tough times ahead.
If I am upset about anything, I turn to triathlon to help guide me and my most creative thoughts occur when I am out there by myself, extending myself physically. The satisfaction of competing in and training for a triathlon is very difficult to describe, it provides me with solitude, allows me to simply be myself and produces feelings of competence and utter enjoyment.
But most importantly, triathlon has taught me all about living my life with no regrets. It has taught me to always remember to keep being me and as long as I keep staying true to myself and the passions that move me, it does not matter how many mistakes I make, how many times I fail or how many times I have to pick myself up. None of this matters. What matters most is that I continue to live my life with meaning and with no regrets.
Originally published in the January/February 2013 issue.