Here’s a fascinating story from Ruth taking her first steps into the world of cycling, running and being coached that I’m sure we can all relate to.
“I may not be an Ironman but I’m out there doing my best, trying my hardest and pushing through my own limits.”
I read Dan’s account of his Ironman journey (read Dan’s IM story here) with a smile on my face. Who could fail to be inspired and motivated by his story especially given that it had more twists and turns than an EastEnders plot?
When Jon later asked me to share my story so far I nearly fell over (trust me toppling over has been a recurrent theme.) I have barely started my journey, I only started riding a bike in July 2020 and today’s training has me doing run number 3. Yes, run number 3. I haven’t even run 3 miles yet so what can I possibly have to say that is of any interest to anyone when compared to the tremendous feat of doing an Ironman?
My son said to me, “good luck with making cycling for hours going nowhere in the garage sound interesting”, and that made me chuckle because he clearly doesn’t get it.
I’ve made a commitment to a goal, committed to reach beyond my comfort zone, drive myself to go farther and faster than I have done before, push myself through my perceived limits and develop my strengths. Every athlete (and I’m still not comfortable using that term for myself yet) has that commitment and yearning in common, the goals may be different, the individual challenges vary in intensity but the promise and pledge to oneself is the common thread that unites us regardless of ability.
I’ve never been into exercise. Over the years I’ve paid my dues and turned up at the gym two or three times a week and attended the odd fitness class but if I’m honest I hated getting sweaty, hated feeling uncomfortable and was more motivated by the sociable brew in the gym café afterwards than the actual gym bit. Running a business and raising two kids kept me busy and active so I never felt a need to push myself with exercise. But then the kids grew up and I sold my business, I suddenly found myself with lots more time on my hands and was under stimulated.
On a pure whim, last July, I decided to hire a road bike for a month and armed with a helmet and enthusiasm I set off. It’s hard to put into words how much I enjoyed that first solo ride. This felt revolutionary, cycling was so much fun and yet was also exercise, what a win win. I felt like I had uncovered a huge secret. Buoyed up by this new found eagerness for cycling I had a ride with a friend who is a keen cyclist. Reality quickly punctured my enthusiasm as she rode off and I was left peddling furiously as I watched her disappear into the distance. She soon realised her mistake and pulled over to wait for me catch her up, with me puffing and panting with burning legs. At that moment I realised that I needed to get fitter, faster and better. I’m the least competitive person I know so no one was more surprised than me when that day as I watched her cycling ahead of me, clearly slowing down significantly for me I was consumed with a desire to become better at cycling than she is. But as a newbie cyclist with four rides under my belt and cycling in my gym trainers it was clear I needed some expert help.
Dan kindly pointed me in the direction of Jon and despite living nowhere near The Wirral the wonders of technology allowed me to start working with Jon as my coach using structured training.
I’ve had a Personal Trainer several times but never had a Sports coach and I think for me it’s a much more holistic approach. From the first time I spoke with Jon I knew I was in safe hands and simply offered him the vague goal to work with of the fact I wanted to be more bike fit for the start of Spring.
Wikipedia defines Coaching as an experienced person supporting a learner or beginner so with Jon’s vast experience I knew all I had to do was simply show up for each session he set and do my best. He took away any need for me to have to figure out the best way to achieve my goal, took away the stress and made it simple. Simple is good, simple allows for continuity and takes away any excuses to not train. When it’s literally mapped out in front of you minute by minute it strips out procrastination and simply leaves me the task of turning up and putting the effort in. I started off with just cycle coaching and with the start of a new year and new goals I asked Jon to start me off running too. Again I handed off the thinking and planning to him and he added a running program to my schedule balancing it with my cycling goal and adding in some strength training to support my move to becoming a runner. As I write this I am due to head out for today’s run session, it’s sleeting and freezing cold and if it wasn’t for the accountability that having a coach brings I certainly wouldn’t be heading out for a run, but I know my job is to simply keep turning up and putting the effort in.
By far the biggest challenge I have had since I started is dealing with my own feelings of inadequacies, feeling a bit embarrassed about being a newbie with no experience, feeling worthy enough to be out on the road at all and overall lack of confidence not helped by being primarily a solo rider having to literally pick myself up when I fall over. One of the best parts of having a coach is having your own personal supporter. Someone that is experienced, calm, encouraging, supportive and firm. He is incredibly patient with me and has hugely helped me improve my lack of confidence through a mixture of clever training plans designed to both push me and also breed confidence alongside a never ending well of expert support and all-round niceness. Wikipedia may define coaching as “an experienced person supporting a learner or beginner” but The International Coaching Community define it much better by saying that “coaching is a partnership between a coach and a client”. I have been lucky enough to find a great coach.
One of the unexpected benefits of having Jon as my coach was being invited to attend virtual group sessions. Listening to other people, including Jon himself, battle through a session, dig deep and push themselves has probably been my biggest lightbulb moment and sparked the realisation that it isn’t about being in competition with other people it’s about being in competition with yourself and that’s why I can now go out exercising with my head held high. I may not be an Ironman but I’m out there doing my best, trying my hardest and pushing through my own limits just like any other athlete is and when I finally lifted my head and dared make eye contact with the others I realised what a friendly group cyclists and runners are, just like the people in the Total Transition Tri Club.
I feel that my goals for 2021 need to be less vague and more targeted so I’m kicking off with:
- Start running and be able to do 5k by the end of 6 weeks then start to build on that.
- Cycle outside more and do my first 50 miles by mid-April.
- Continue with a structured strength program.
- Compete in my first ever event, yet to be decided.
- Change my internal dialogue and learn to think of myself as a runner, a cyclist, an athlete and a competitor.
I’m looking forward to seeing what 2021 has in store!