Reframing your weakest discipline
Published 2 December 2021. Written by Chris Worfolk.
Many triathletes come into multi-sport with experience of one of more individual disciplines. For example, they are from a running background or a swimming background and decide they want to try triathlon to vary their workouts and include more cross-training.
This can often lead to the idea that we are good at one sport and maybe not so good at the others. For example, I have joked plenty of times that I am "a runner pretending to be a triathlete". We may talk about "surviving the swim" or label ourselves as "not a runner".
There may be some truth to this. We often are stronger in one disincline and weaker in another. However, these labels we give ourselves can sometimes be unhelpful.
When we start using labels for ourselves, we may start using self-talk such as:
- "I'm just not a natural at cycling so I'll never be able to descend well."
- "I didn't come to swimming until late, so I'll never have the technique and confidence of competitive swimmers."
- "I'm not the right body shape for running."
- "I'm too heavy to be a good cyclist and I don't have the flexibility to hold the aero position."
- "I'm never going to master swimming, so what's the point?"
- "I'm never going to enjoy running, so why should I train it?"
These beliefs often seem plausible because there is usually a grain of truth to them. Starting swimming early does help. Being stick-thin does make it easier to go up a hill faster on a bike. And some people love running more than others.
But there is also some distorted thinking going on here.
For example, there is a lot of black-and-white thinking in the above examples. Not being a natural cyclist does not mean you can never improve. And just because you don't enjoy something right now does not mean you will dislike it forever.
When we buy into these beliefs, it is easy to give up on the idea that we can improve, get faster and enjoy our "least favourite_ discipline more than we do at present.
To fix this, let's look at some ways we can reframe these beliefs.
I'm not x right now
Take your existing belief and try adding "right now" or "yet". For example:
- "I don't love running right now"
- "I'm not a great swimmer yet"
It's okay to acknowledge our weaknesses. But let's not label ourselves as being that way forever.
I'm still exploring
Sometimes we don't enjoy a discipline because we haven't mastered it yet and find it frustrating. That may well go away as we improve.
Other times it may be a matter of connecting with the material. Maybe hours spent in the aero position are not the cycling workouts for you. Maybe it's mountain biking. Or enjoying music at spin class. Or crit races on Zwift.
I have room for growth here
I've got my 10k run time down to under 42 minutes. Being in my mid-30s, I'm not sure if it's going to go any lower (but I'm keeping open to the possibility).
My poor swimming technique, though: that's a gold mine of future improvement! My hand entry is at not ideal, my catch is inconsistent and my kick could be stronger and all of that gets me excited because my swim time could get faster for the next 20 years.
I am someone who faces challenges
Maybe it is just hard and doesn't seem to be getting any easier. It's a challenge. A hard one. And that's where you shine.
You're not someone who sits on the sofa watching Gogglebox (I've never seen it; it might be really entertaining). You're someone who sees a hard challenge and says "I'm not afraid of this; I'm going to shoe myself I'm made of stronger stuff."
I don't enjoy every minute of an IRONMAN or an ultra. Many of them are hard. But I love how it makes me feel about myself. I think that doing hard things is a life worth living. If you get the same feeling, tap into that.
Most athletes have strength and weaknesses. It is easy to to buy into the idea that these weaknesses are innate or inevitable and allow these limiting beliefs to become self-fulfilling prophecies.
Challenge them. Remind yourself that you can change. Reframe these beliefs using the ideas above and challenge the way you see yourself. You might like what you see.