Time to reflect: Triathlon is a Journey not a Destination

By Alun “Woody” Woodward, coach, ironguides.net

Triathlon and endurance sports in general are very goal orientated and as a result attract highly driven individuals looking towards a goal or new challenge. We often read about goal setting and having targets but sometimes we need to take a step back from the destination and see if we are really enjoying the journey to get there. So often in sport and especially pro sport, we see athletes reach their dreams and the culmination of years of hard work only to wake up the next day feeling totally lost and empty, a feeling of expecting something amazing to have happened or that they feel different but in reality something that has been all encompassing is suddenly gone and that is hard to cope with.

We are all process driven and in the modern world this is forced upon us at a young age, from preschool through university and then into the working world as we look for a better job or higher position. It’s not surprising  then that we go into sports and look at the goal and end result straight away, we even start thinking about the sacrifices needed to make the goals happen and justify them right off as this is something we have been conditioned to do all our lives.

Triathlon offers an amazing journey, so many friendships to be made and experiences to be had for athletes, friends and family. The biggest races in our sport take place in amazing destinations that are great for vacations once the race is done! Taking a step back from immediate goal setting and looking at the journey ahead and how to enjoy it more can lead to a more successful result at the end of the day. A great time to start this is right now as one season is coming to an end.

At the end of the season I like athletes to look back over the year and not just see if they accomplished the goals they set out, but to see if they enjoyed the journey, if their family and friends have played a big part in the year. If you look back at the year, you should not be looking at all the sacrifices you have made, the time without family and friends, but rather the memories and experiences enjoyed along the way. I think too many athletes get to the end of the year and look back on great results and then see that they don’t remember much else, they have not been to their regular social events, missed children’s activities a little too often and spent too little time with partners.

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Triathlon is a lifestyle sport and it does require a big time commitment and expense, if we look at the big picture when planning a training schedule and racing year we can organize everything to maximize family time and activities outside of the sport.

Family vacations are one of the big things that can suffer when we are looking to compete in Ironman, the races tend to fall in the summer months and added training time and stress in the final weeks leading into an event can have a big impact on family and friendships. I like my athletes to look at racing as the start of a vacation, take family along and look to do your race within 1-2 days of arriving and then enjoy a vacation after without the need to train and think about the sport. Planning this way will make the family feel more involved in the sport and your goals and they will not only give you more support they will build friendships around the sport.


If you have young children of school age then I think it is a good idea to look at races that take place before summer holidays or at least 8 weeks after the summer holidays, planning this way will allow you more time to enjoy with the family during the school holidays.

Planning this way will allow more balance into your life and reduce a lot of stress that does not need to be there, if your family and friends don’t feel like they are losing you to the sport they will be happier and you will enjoy your training much more without the feeling of having to make sacrifices all the time.

One of the overwhelming memories for me when out watching Kona in 2013 was not all the super fit athletes or the race itself but the family and friend support, walking around town while the athletes were out on the bikes race day the whole town was full of supporters. Watching the scenes post race it was a picture of families and friends together happy, it was nice to see that side of the sport the balance that I feel brings success.

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Watching the end of an Ironman event you get a real sense of a journey coming to an end, the emotions are high and looking around at the athletes and supporters you can see that a lot has gone into the event, not only on the day itself but the journey to get there.

As we move through life it will not be the results that we remember at the end of the day, your family and friends will certainly not remember the result they will remember how happy you were achieving your goal and they will remember the journey to get there so make sure they are included and it is a fun journey to be on.

ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

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