Triathlete Chris McCormack once said, “Success in this sport is, above all else, about enduring suffering.” I cannot argue with this statement. The ability to suffer is the x factor – the thing that allows sub-par genetics to prevail over a thoroughbred. It is what separates good from great and creates champions. If you want to achieve your best in the sport, you better learn to suffer more.
This is exacerbated in youth athletes where who wants it more trumps fitness almost every time. At a young age, it simply must since fitness is so shallow. Therefore, as a youth coach this is one of our greatest objectives and we are certain it also has a longstanding impact on the athlete’s success in life where suffering is crucial as well. For adult athletes, we find that the patterns of hard work and drive instilled in childhood as well as in other areas of their lives are some of the greatest indicators of success in the sport. We can train anyone to great fitness, but unless they can suffer, they will never achieve greatness.
If triathlon and endurance sports are simply a competition of who can suffer more, it is essential that we learn to suffer. This begins with pinpointing your core motivation. What is it that drives you more than anything else? Is it getting to the finish line, winning, beating someone else, proving to yourself that you can, or something even deeper? Regardless, you need to peel back the onion and decide what is your core motivation. Once you identify this, focus on it during all parts of your days. Dwell on it and allow it to motivate your thoughts and actions. Remind yourself of it before every workout and visualize it before every race. Allow it to drive you.
I will close with another quote by one of the greatest triathletes of all time, Mark Allen. Mark said, “You can keep going and your legs might hurt for a week or you can quit, and your mind will hurt for a lifetime.” As I think about my core motivation, I can relate to this statement. I love that feeling of accomplishment and detest that feeling of not giving my absolute best. For me, this drives me.