How would you answer the question, “What kind of an athlete are you?” Your answer might be, “Not a very good one.” Or, “Well, I’m learning and getting better.” Or, “I’ve been racing for 10 years and I’ve improved every year. I qualified for Nationals this year!”
A key component in choosing your goals for this upcoming season is that very question, “What kind of athlete are you?” What do I mean? Well, there are different “kinds” of athletes. As mentioned, fast, kind-a fast, middle-of-the-packer or, “I pick up the orange cones coming down the finish line shoot.” So there are many different kinds and levels of endurance athletes…newbies, somewhat advanced, super-experienced…male/female…$10K bike athletes and Walmart bike athletes.
But, we’re not talking about any of those kinds. We’re talking about an athlete’s outlook. Your “why.” What’s your reason for getting up at 4:30am, driving for at least an hour, carrying 1,000 lbs. of gear to a fenced-in corral, waiting in long lines to use a port-a-potty that might smell like a pig farm, have someone write on your body with a thick magic marker and then jump into a dark, cold lake amidst hundreds of others splashing all around you?? The answer depends on the kind of athlete you are. Let’s consider three and their goals. Can you find yourself?
ONE - The “Not-Without-My-Friend” Athlete. This athlete loves to train and race…as long as it’s with his/her friends. Almost every workout is with someone. The joy doesn’t come from time spent pounding the pavement, in the saddle, 100m repeats or the starter’s airhorn, but WHO is going along. Skip a workout? If it’s solo, sure. No problem. If with friends, no way! Same for a race. If certain friends are doing it, then this athlete is IN no matter what the registration fee or travel distance. This athlete’s primary goal is simply - to enjoy others…to enjoy the experience socially. The side benefits are increased fitness and health but those things don’t drive them. Friendships, relationships and the social component is the primary reason they’re an athlete.
If this is you…? Good! Enjoy! Socialize! Your friends enlarge your heart and fill you up. Awesome. Keep racing for that reason and you’ll stay in the game a long time! (As long as, well, you’re not a jerk and have no friends.)
TWO – The “Fitness Freak” Athlete. This person LOVES working out. They do endurance races, but the reason is because they know they’ll be more fit after they race and recover. They race almost solely for the fitness and respiratory/cardio improvement. BTW, they also do CrossFit, Pilates, hot yoga, spin classes, weight lifting, group exercise classes, have all aerobic torture contraptions known to man and anything else that will get their heartrate up or build muscle. And, of course they have a one-on-one personal trainer.
They monitor everything they do and eat, keeping track of every aspect of life’s activities including total steps, time spent sitting, caloric intake and their heart rate 20x/day. They are often techno-geeks owning everything “smart” that’s been invented. Their goal? Well, they really don’t care who else shows up on race day or how they place in their age group, they just can’t wait to download every ounce of data when they home, analyze it and then decide how to get, yes, more fit.
If this is you…? Lighten up for Pete sake! Ha. Just kidding. Go for it. Enjoy the endless numbers, math and strategy. Get that next FTP test done along with your new BMI test. Be encouraged when your power is up 2 watts or you really nail that WOD! If improved fitness is your main “Why,” then go for it. Just try to look up from your Garmin every now and then so you don’t trip and fall on that next run!
THREE – The “Get-Outta-My-Way-Or-I’ll-Run-You-Over” Athlete. This person…well, I really don’t need to tell you much about THIS athlete. They arrive race morning and their game-face is ON, with that killer, focused look in their eyes. They arrive at least 30 min. before transition opens in the dark, first in line so they can get the best spot in transition and have at least two hours to warm up.
If you try to engage this athlete in a pre-race conversation, don’t expect much. One-word answers might be what you get. Why? Cause they’re rude? Cause they’re unfriendly? Cause they don’t like you? No, not at all. It’s because of the “kind” of athlete they are. They’re the I-will-kill-myself-to-win kind. They race at 120%, not 100%. They hate, and I mean HATE losing…in anything. Their will to win is immeasurable and unstoppable. IF they don’t win or accomplish their race goal, they’ll pack up and be outta there because their day is ruined. Out of anger, race-day afternoon, they’ll do a full workout (or two) to let out their frustrations.
If this is you, I get it. I’ve always been very competitive, though I do enjoy improved fitness and the endurance sports family. We need to learn to take what our body gives us on race day. We need to smile more during the race. We need to encourage others more before, during and after the race. It IS possible to have a killer instinct and still be a nice guy. I think. Ha.
Enjoy your competitive nature and of course, go for it, but enjoy the journey. I’ve had to learn to be satisfied with race outcomes even when my very competitive goals fall short.
What “kind” of athlete are you? Did you easily find yourself above? Yes, there are combinations of the above and yes, you can evolve from one kind to another over time. Know your “Why.” Know the kind of athlete you are. Know what drives you. Then, enjoy the journey towards reaching your particular goals.