Benjamin Franklin once said ”We are all born without knowledge, but curious. With curiosity we should be able to learn as much as possible. With curiosity, it has to take a lot of work to remain ignorant.”
Now, while this is quite a tongue in cheek quote, it does bring a new perspective when it is applied to the way we view Pro and Elite Athletes. We tend to think of these athletes as extremely capable human beings, with big personalities and strong characters. We do, however, forget to consider the road they have travelled to become as strong as they are in their moment of competing.
Their knowledge is not only absorbed from the number of hours they put into training, but also the philosophy developed behind it. What moves an athlete? How different is it to what moves another human being? Is there any difference at all? And possibly the biggest question of them all, how can I, a human barely getting into the sport, get to master the skills required to the point of becoming an Elite athlete?
The first step to developing mastery in a sport, especially endurance sports, is self-consciousness. This is when you learn to listen to your body, developing a deep connection with aspects such as breathing patterns, heart rate and biomechanic patterns just to name a few. By practicing a sport, you will eventually become aware of how your body reacts to the different efforts. This will give you the base to understanding how your body works and the first step towards skill acquisition and self-realisation.
Once you become aware and connected with your body, your objective is to create in yourself the pillars of mastery towards any discipline or activity you wish to improve at. By creating these pillars, you will be able to master not only an athletic discipline, but any activity you wish to set your mind and body to.
Mindset of success: Believe in yourself. Even if you don’t know the “how”, believe in your skills, capacity to learn and the skills of the team that is with you. Sometimes this means pushing yourself and others further than your limits. This means understanding the fact you, and only you, are responsible for your success. This thought will empower you to start working towards your objective. Once you understand this and focus it into mastering your new discipline, you will become aware of every action around your objective. From showing up to the sessions, to reading about the sport, sleeping well, and working towards removing negative distractions and focusing on the success you wish for.
Emotional intelligence: This means that you won’t focus exclusively on your body, but also on the different thoughts and emotions that your mind sends your way. These emotions can be your biggest ally, or your worst enemy. It all depends on how you let them affect you. Learn the emotional aspects of your own character. Learn what drives you to do things. Work your way to become mentally strong. This will allow you to connect with others and with yourself.
Communication for connection: This is a skill that can take months, if not years, to understand. Not only with other people, but also with yourself. Learn to connect with others by listening to your thoughts and their messages. Learn to see the middle point and learn how to practice compassion and loving practices with those who wish the best for you. When communicating with yourself it also means practicing self-compassion, learning how to talk with love, care and sometimes even “tough-love”.
Power over limiting beliefs: This means overcoming all those negative thoughts and beliefs. When people tell you that you won’t be able to do something, it means that you are going about it the right way. This is directly connected with the mindset of success. When you train for first time, it is going to hurt and it will feel uncomfortable. Many thoughts will start getting on your head such as “Why am I doing this? I should be doing something else! This is not for me.” Those thoughts can be beaten, and it all relies on you and your mental strategies. From seeing yourself becoming the best athlete ever, to relying on letting yourself be supported by those who love you and care for you.
Resilience: This is normally defined as the skill required to regain strength after being down over and over. From an emotional aspect, it means learning from every mistake that has happened in the past. It also means setting limits and learning when to push and when to pull. Most importantly, it means knowing that abandoning a challenge goes beyond the mere fact of just moving away, it means sending a message to your body and mind. Staying on track despite whatever obstacles life throws our way means building neurological pathways to grow into the best version of ourselves.
“Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.” – Dean Karnazes.
Discipline and flexibility are crucial in our way to develop mastery over a new sport. We might be used to training at certain times of the day, but having flexibility means that sometimes we might need to re-design our daily routines. Sometimes we need to ask our triathlon coach Melbourne to modify our sessions to adjust it to our day to day life. Committing to doing our sessions also means committing to ourselves.
“Keep showing up” – Des Linden.
Set a challenge for your own wellbeing. Learn a new discipline not to beat a PB or to win a race, but to show yourself that there is no obstacle, challenge or situation too big for you. Do this to inspire others, your family, your friends, your community, shine to ignite the light in others.
“You have to be a bit stubborn and a bit rebellious, at all times with respect. If you are not willing to do things that most people would avoid doing, you will never improve the way you wish to.” – Edwin Vargas. Epic 5 Champion (2018)