• Limits? What Limits?

    Originally published for Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex on August 29, 2013

    I recently completed my first Olympic distance triathlon. It has given me a lot to reflect upon, mostly centered around the question “why do we do these things?”

    While I don’t have all of the answers to that, what I do know is that I strongly recommend that everyone experiences a challenging race at least once in their adult life. After all, there’s an athlete in all of us … some of us just don’t know it yet!

    A “race” vs. a “challenging race”

    We need to begin by defining a race as any organized competition that covers a set distance. But simply completing a race isn’t necessarily enough of a challenge. Some highs and lows can only be experienced with a challenging race. This is different for all of us; that challenging race can be anything from a one-mile walk to an ultra marathon.

    The challenge can come in many forms – the chosen sport(s), the distance, and/or performance goals (i.e. completion time). Make sure the goal is also attainable. In my triathlon, a challenging yet attainable goal for some participants was to finish. For others, myself included, it was to finish under a certain time. Clarifying your goals can sometimes be difficult, and this is one of the most overlooked skills a person trainer can bring to your planning. Make sure you set yourself up for success.

    How racing is different than other achievements

    My next point is that in these challenging races (and in their preparation), you will experience such diverse and intense emotions that we may feel elsewhere but never all at once.

    There was something magical and beautiful about all that I experienced during those few hours of competition that I’d never known before. This is coming from someone who sets challenging goals with almost everything – with fitness, hobbies, work, and relationships. It’s just not the same.

    This wasn’t my first challenging race, or even my first challenging multi-sport race. But it was the first one that I poured my heart and soul into for six months. The race develops so much meaning over the training period that when it comes to fruition and completion, it’s a deep experience!

    Whatever race you pick will be inspired by your past, become part of your present, and play a role in shaping your future. That’s why I think it’s important that a challenging race is undertaken as an adult. Life is just different – the triumph and adversities alike are experienced from a much different perspective. The emotions as you hit the finish line are overwhelming and indescribable. They are linked to so much more life experience than we knew during youth competition.

    Invaluable experiences

    - Connection: One thing that I didn’t expect was for so many people to be part of the race that I completed alone. But they were. The amount of support and encouragement that I received was incredible (much of which came from people who have zero interest in triathlons). It really felt like a team event, which was the most pleasant surprise. Your “solo race” will bring you closer to your “life team.”

    - Adaptation: You know that even if you train perfectly, things will go wrong during the race. That’s part of the lure, yet can also be a little nerve-wracking. Just like in the rest of our lives, we have a choice to quit or to adapt. In a race, there isn’t even time to mull it over. You just go with the flow. That was the most liberating aspect … although I still kind of wish the water hadn’t been 90 degrees!

    - Resilience: When you set a challenging yet attainable goal, it forces you to make it a priority in a life that’s most likely quite full already. When life and training collide, it can be a struggle to stay on track, but you have months of learning how to maintain this delicate balance before you really put it to the test on race day. It’s not just physical training. It’s an opportunity to cultivate mental toughness. (As an aside, as someone who loves working out and loves working towards goals, there were still two days when I “quit.” Know that there will be hard days, and that’s okay. It’s part of the journey, and you will find the strength to overcome them.)

    - Learning: This was an endeavor filled with self-discovery too. Six months of my life were devoted to three hours of competition, but during all of those hours of training, you create a great opportunity to learn more about your self.

    - “Accidental fitness”: The race was my motivator in all workouts for those six months. That makes racing a great strategy for anyone who has a hard time staying in a routine or staying motivated. You don’t feel like you’re working on fitness; you feel like you’re moving closer to achieving your goal.

    Ideas

    Be sure to give it some thought before selecting a race and a goal. Bounce your ideas off of a trainer. Set up a training plan – my philosophy is that if you’re putting the time in to train, get the most out of it through structure. If you already race, make sure your goals are challenging. You don’t have to give up fun or inspirational races either. Every race teaches you something.

    In closing

    I would like to share a story about two of our SilverSneakers members. This couple participated in a 5K on a whim. Without any training, they had a very hard time finishing. But they did! That experience inspired them to join Body Zone and train on the track for their next 5K. They recently completed one in 45 minutes! In a matter of months, “challenging yet attainable” went from simply finishing to sub-15 minute miles! Their lives, like mine, have been changed by racing. I hope you too will know the same joys

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Reading Eagle article on Body Zone's
1,000 lb. Challenge, to which Ashley
contributed: click here

ABC 27 interview and article on Chia, to which Ashley contributed: http://www.abc27.com/story/17146441/chia-seeds-no-joke-to-the-health-minded

WITF Wednesdays article on Chia, to which Ashley contributed: click here

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