TRIATHLON LEADS TO PASSION, OVERKILL, AND SUFFERING

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The etymology of the word passion comes from Latin pati, meaning to suffer. How appropriate!  The positive aspects of suffering seem to appeal to people when they start training for multisport endurance races.  The importance of suffering, to the new athletes, seems to rank higher than using metrics for performance improvement so we tend to ignore the real science of training…we’d just rather mindlessly suffer.

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With the [apparent] benefits of suffering, the new “passion” will often take over a previously empty drawer in your random thoughts room and before you know it that drawer will be overflowing with running shoes, bike parts, swim junk, and hours devoted to endless single-speed training. While I was self-training, that meant gutting my way through a grinding, useless workout that probably didn’t increase my chances of actually winning anything, although I’d be a finisher, thanks to overkill at one speed.

So I recorded all of my workouts in this giant accountant’s ledger, and now, when I go back and look at it, my passion for the sport was translated into longer and longer workouts at one overkill level of intensity. After a few years I got a coach and all my old record keeping looks like a boring log of a ship caught in the doldrums.  My new coach workouts had a lot of things I didn’t really like doing; a new kind of suffering that was highly variable and unpredictable.  But it was a relief to finally turn the responsibility over to someone else to beat me up in more interesting ways.

Now that I’m a coach myself working with triathletes I find they almost always want to do the same thing that I did before I had a coach; mindlessly suffer at one speed; and HATE to incorporate slow workouts because “no pain, no gain”. It’s a real chore to entice them to actually use biometric devices that will report numbers back to me so I can help them win!…..numbers for speed, power, blood flow, and actual subjective RPE scales to help make them faster.  No blame, really, it’s passion, and we’re all used to the kind of suffering we know, why change?

So….after a few months of the new triathlete stubbornly trying to fight the tide of “coach says do this” the performance improvements begin to trickle in. The new suffering begins with highly variable intensity, durations, techniques, combinations.  What a treat!  And lo….results with better times, speeds, power and more fun…..oh yeah, and more numbers and more science!  The new passion becomes the new fashion and finally, progress!

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