It may seem silly to list all the reasons a sport means something to me. First you have to understand that sports contribute greatly to society because they resemble life in various ways and teach participants valuable life lessons. Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I saw how much my sport reflected other aspects of my life. There is a positive correlation between effort put into training at practice and the results I saw at a meet. This is true for school, work, and any other aspect of life that involves goals. Aside from goal setting, swimming taught me discipline, dedication, and determination.
At eight years old, I had tried multiple sports and never loved any of them for more than a season. For one thing, my hand eye coordination was a joke and even at a young age I knew why I played outfield for my baseball team. I actually hated swimming when I first started. I joined a summer league swim team and swam two laps before I got out and told my parents that I never wanted to go back again. They promptly told me to get back into the water. After all they had paid the season registration fee already. I fell in love and eventually joined a year round competitive team, the Blue Dolfins.
My life became swimming. My favorite part about swimming were the practices. “Glutton for pain” is a suitable phrase for how I liked to train. I simply couldn’t understand not trying your hardest at practice and would get frustrated with people that worked less but swam faster. Swimming best times and qualifying for certain meets consumed me. This level of intensity caused me to burn out right as I was making the decision to swim in college or not. When it was too late to turn back I regretted my choice to not swim…despite being burnt out at the time I genuinely loved the sport. Fortunately, I was able to stay connected as a swim coach for the Blue Dolfins.
My favorite phrase when talking about why I enjoyed coaching was, “When I walk onto the pool deck now it’s not just for myself, it’s for 50 other people”. I was given the opportunity to pass on my love for the sport to so many different people. The competitive side of me was still unfulfilled in college. Triathlon presented itself in the form of a TriKnight member who lifeguarded at the UCF pool. He kept telling me I had to do triathlons. After a few months, I went out and bought a terrible bike and started to train. A few months later I was hooked.
Triathlon gave me an outlet for the side of me that loves being a competitive athlete. In some ways it’s an opportunity to compete the way I wish I’d competed in swimming…with a balance of joy and intensity. My obsession with constantly doing better in swimming took the fun out of it. With triathlon, however, I’ve worked to maintain that balance. Balance is key to being happy in life. Triathlon is a new opportunity to me.
Another thing I feel love is having a reason to get out of bed at 5:30 AM to workout…I am training for a race. For the first two years in college I swam and ran a few times a week to stay “in shape” but I still ate like a swimmer and my weight crept up. I gained almost 25 lbs! People that can work out purely to keep their weight down impress me. So whenever anybody asks me for advice on how to lose weight the first thing I ask is if they’d be willing to train for a 5K run or a sprint triathlon. If you are going to get sweaty and smell bad you might as well have fun doing it right? I hate leaving my warm bed to jump into a cold pool but once I start working out I forget about the extra hour of sleep and enjoy being able to move.
When you spend one to two hours at the point of exhaustion side by side with another person, you develop a strange bond. Triathlon has brought so many interesting people into my life from completely different athletic backgrounds leading different lives. I love hearing about people’s children, job, and of course triathlon experiences on a long ride or run. I love being able to look forward to somebody else’s race and supporting them throughout training. Triathlon is a community where almost anybody can fit into. That gets me really excited. You don’t have to be nationally ranked to be friends with each other…your bond is the sport not your ability. There is a certain level of respect that passes through two people if both have completed a triathlon no matter what the distance. Of course there are those that feel otherwise…but they will stick to their crowd. On the whole the triathlon community is extremely accepting and diverse.
It’s so much fun for me to see somebody get introduced to the sport especially when they start out not thinking they can complete a triathlon let alone “compete”. If you are even considering doing one you should just to try it. You’ll have this great sense of accomplishment regardless if you get “bit by the tri-bug” or not.