There’s a connection to life here; I heard an NPR announcer say “We watch sports because it brings joy to life”.
For me, I’m a triathlete probably because the challenge is a basic life force, which is a joy to experience. We no longer have to chase and kill animals to eat or to survive long hours in adverse conditions gathering food for survival, but that part of us in our DNA is still alive and loves to be let out; that’s the challenge that brings joy to life….whether you’re competing with yourself or with someone else.
When I was introduced to triathlon I realized it was my way to let the survival wiring do its thing, and I was hooked. After a few years of going it alone I got a coach, and immediately realized that they’ve got this strength and endurance business down to science, physics, and biochemistry, with lots of performance data, biological measurements, and stress analysis.
Your own health and growth is measurable and we have ways to record incremental gains to determine juuust how much more or harder you can run, bike, or swim to increase your speed and endurance limits without spilling over the edge of your capabilities. We look at heart rate, power output, total energy output (sometimes measured directly in joules, sometimes indirectly by pace vs incline and weight) sometimes by strength times distance independent of time, sometimes oxygen use per unit time.
But sometimes we can’t really tell how your level of fitness or stamina has improved, and have to rely on past proven training techniques to improve those qualities and find out by the numbers you turn out in the next race. Other things often prove to be more influential in the race results however, when sickness, injuries, attitude, and the thousand other personal (or emotional) factors set in.
I had to laugh at myself once when I was doing a series of assigned power measurements on the bike and the numbers were unusually high….it was a combination of timing, what I had eaten, how much rest I’d had before the test, and a great attitude at the moment. I haven’t been able to repeat those numbers in six months! So there you go, Mister Scientist Geek (talking to myself here), your coach is still wondering what was going on during that test.
Also I also love working with people new to an endurance sport, because sometimes they’re more malleable and are more excited to experience their own growth, which happens more quickly than someone who’s an old hand and will improve more slowly. You get a terrific turn-on to realize and feel an improvement in your own body, health, and life. That’s the stuff that brings joy!