by Danielle Audino

You hear the phrase tossed around a lot– Triathlon is “More than a sport, it’s a lifestyle”. Often times this sentence is used in conversations about 5am wakeup calls, 7 hour bike rides, and meticulous nutrition planning. It is used as a funny justification for the crazy things we do for this sport. But no one actually talks about what it means. No one really defines what the “Triathlon Lifestyle” is.

I never really understood what “Triathlon is a lifestyle” meant either. I said it because my teammates said it and I figured it couldn’t really be defined anyway. These past few months I have reflected more deeply on the “triathlon lifestyle” and what it means to me.

To me, triathlon is a lifestyle because it involves so much more than swimming, biking, and running. Triathlon is not just something I do for exercise or to stay in shape. It is not just a hobby that I participate in whenever I feel like it. It is the way I live my life.

Triathlon teaches me that motivation is an emotion, it can come and go, and achieving anything worthwhile depends not on motivation, but guts, grit, and passion.

I think on the surface level, triathlon is a lifestyle because I structure my life around training or racing. Whether it is organizing my week around workouts, going to bed early on a Friday night to get a good night’s sleep before a big Saturday workout or bringing homemade food to a restaurant to make sure to have a healthy option (guilty), training for this sport takes a lot of commitment.

Some might view these choices as sacrifices. They might think triathletes are too intense, too serious, and need to “have more fun”. I remember a friend once asked me, “Aren’t you excited for your race to be over so you can stay up late and party without worrying about your workouts the next day?” And I realized then that these choices we make appear to be sacrifices to other people. It appears that we are giving up so much of “life” to do this sport. But in reality, it is just part of the lifestyle that I have grown to love and in which I thrive. It is part of who I am.  To me these “sacrifices” feel natural and make me happy.

Triathlon is a lifestyle for me because I would rather wake up early and see the sunrise from my favorite trail run than see the sunset at a bar. It is a lifestyle for me because I would rather chat about watts and heart rate than discuss the latest celebrity gossip. It is a lifestyle for me because I look forward to the weekend so I can train with my teammates, not so I can sleep in and go to brunch. For me, it is this part of the sport that brings me a sense of purpose and contentment. These are the choices I make so I can live my passion.

Now, I think if triathlon was just simply swimming, biking, and running, these choices might not seem so easy to make. But, this sport gives so much more than just physical fitness.

This sport, this lifestyle, allows me to see what I am capable of. It allows me to undertake the process of setting a big goal and wake up each day deciding to put the work in to slowly inch closer and closer to achieving it. It is about staying committed to my goals long after the initial euphoria and excitement of hitting the “register now” button has faded.

Triathlon teaches me that motivation is an emotion, it can come and go, and achieving anything worthwhile depends not on motivation, but guts, grit, and passion.  Really, this sport is about what happens during the workouts, rather than the workout itself. Because it is during the workout that we challenge ourselves, that we overcome doubt, that we experience failure and keep trying. It is during the workout that we experience the highs and lows, that we develop inner resolve and come out stronger.

So really, it is not about swimming, biking, and running at all- although those are pretty dang fun- this lifestyle is about all of the intangibles we experience while in the pool or on the road that makes us do better, and be better. Because, when we chose to take on a big goal, one that might seem impossible to complete at first, and slowly chip away at it day by day, we soon realize what we are capable of. I think my friend Matt, multiple Ironman Finisher, said it best:

“The concept of training for and completing a full Ironman is daunting (or even paralyzing) if you focus on the full magnitude of the challenge. But preparation is done one week at a time, one workout at a time. Even on race day I never think about 140.6. I take what is directly in front of me and deal with the next piece of the puzzle. So no matter what life hands me, I try to apply these same concepts. Great challenges can be accomplished by being patient and taking one step at a time, whether it is learning a new skill, changing careers, or dealing with life’s ongoing chaos.”

For me, this sport is really not a sport at all, it is a way of life. It is a weekly planner. It is my nutrition coach. It is my adventure guide. It is my source of motivation. It is my outlet. It is my passion. It is my alarm clock. It is my sense of confidence. It is my teacher. It is my challenger.

No, triathlon is not just swimming, biking, and running, it is so much more.

Danielle Audino is a soccer-player-turned-triathlete. She holds a degree in Economics from Whitman College and is currently working as a Runner Experience Specialist at Brooks Running. We feel lucky to have Danielle as part of the Feisty Team.

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