As a culture, we’ve become increasingly absorbed by products, services and experiences that promise instant gratification.
In the world of endurance sport, maybe this translates to taking supplements (legal or illegal) to lose weight quickly, to build strength quickly, to boost endurance overnight, to eliminate fatigue.
Maybe it means we expect unrealistic results, before we’ve put the time in, before we’ve done the work we need to do in order to achieve the goals that are worth achieving.
Maybe it means we compare ourselves to others, thinking if we do exactly what they have done, we’ll have the same results.
But, in endurance sport, there is no instant gratification, no get-fit-quick schemes that produce any type of lasting results.
There are only long and/or challenging workouts that bring with them a sense of satisfaction when you complete a session that seemed impossible, when you achieve a goal you once thought only a pipe dream.
When I began racing triathlons, I didn’t have a history of swimming and cycling, yet I wanted instant gratification. I thought my run fitness would translate automatically to the water and the bike.
I thought wrong.
I did my first sprint with limited swim training. I wondered why the swim was such a sufferfest. I went from my first sprint to my first half iron distance within 3 months. My first Ironman followed 10 months after that. I wondered why I wasn’t competitive.
Despite the fact that I had never swum freestyle before triathlon, I wanted to be Michael Phelps – or at least half as fast as Phelps. That would still do the trick in triathlon. 😉
I had never ridden a bike seriously, and had never even been on a road bike or tri bike before I started triathlons. Yet, somehow, I thought that after minimal training, I’d be ready for the Tour de France.
Silly me, part deux.
I’ve since realized that any success worth having is worth working for – no matter what it takes.
Now, I coach budding new triathletes and runners, and, just as I did, many of them want instant gratification.
There is one method to build success in endurance sport. Put the time in, and do the work. Allow for recovery to bring about the adaptations in strength, speed, and endurance. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Unlike the finely tuned sports car, we can’t go from 0 to 60 – or from novice to elite – in an instant. We need to put in the time to reap the training benefits.
The more aggressive the goal, the more time may be required to achieve that goal. The more or less general athletic experience also influences how much time you may need to put in. So, when you think of setting goals, think not only about the current season, but multi-season goals. How is what you are doing this season helping you to build for your future seasons?
But, what about those genetic freaks, you ask. You know, the ones who seem to be able to go fast and long right out of the blocks – they get instant gratification, right?
I live with one of those genetic freaks (my husband), and he has to put the hard work in, too.
All of the talent in the world won’t make a bit of a difference if you waste it on the couch. All of the talent – or lack thereof – won’t make a difference if you don’t have the heart to go all in for as long as it takes to achieve the goals you want.
Lasting success in sport–indeed, lasting success in life–doesn’t happen in an instant. You have to put in the work – consistently.
It’s easy to stay motivated when the gains come quickly, when we are hitting PRs, and when the workload feels effortless. But, when those gains don’t happen overnight, and the work is hard, yet seems to have no effect, that’s when we need the motivation and the will to keep pushing the most.
I’ve been racing Ironman for four years. Have I put in the time I need in order to grab the golden ring in ultra triathlon: the KQ?
I don’t know. We’ll see.
Many factors go into a Kona-qualifying performance – some of which includes a little luck. But, I’ve learned that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. And, with 5 weeks to go until the big show, I’m prepared for whatever opportunity comes knocking.
But, no matter what the outcome is on July 28th, in the instant that I cross the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid, I’ll be gratified. That single moment of gratification comes from the accumulation of moments when I chose to keep pushing my limits instead of accepting them, when I realized that the best things in life don’t just come in an instant.
I don’t mind working for that one bit.