Training for any distance of triathlon takes dedication, commitment—and most of all—motivation. Contrary to popular opinion, I do not roll out of bed in the morning, leap to my feet and run downstairs to the treadmill with a smile on my face yelling, “Woot, woot!”
In reality, it's more like dragging myself out of bed and trying to figure out if I want to expend the energy to pry my eyes open (I mean, it isn’t like I’m using them).
Sighted people can find motivation in finding new and interesting places to train. They go on running trails with beautiful trees and flowers; they cycle around lakes and observe the birds and other wild life. Those of us who are not retinally dependant run on the same treadmill and train on the same spin bike day in and day out. We have to find other ways to motivate ourselves.
Find something to listen to or watch while you train that makes you feel energized. I love to dance, so music gives me energy. I figure I could dance for 42km a lot easier than running for 42 km! Other people listen to podcasts, or audio books. Of course, the best is to be running outside, and if you are blind, running outside with your guide as they describe the environment to you and both of you enjoying the company of a friend.
I have tried training at different times of the day. What I have found out about myself is I can come up with a number of reasons why I can’t train after work. I have evening commitments, the family needs dinner made, I had a hard-stressful day at the office and I’m too tired, or everyone needs my attention for something.
The best time for me to train is first thing in the morning. I usually get out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and have a reviving cup of coffee while I get into my running gear. About 6:00 a.m. I get on the treadmill or exercise bike and follow my training plan that usually lasts about an hour. I find that if I do my training early, and check it off my “to do” list, I have accomplished something before most people are even out of bed. I've also discovered nobody seems to want to spend time with me or demand my attention at 6:00 a.m.!
Keeping up with my training schedule is easier if I have goals to work towards. I like to train for races that challenge me to the point where I really have no idea if the race is even possible to complete. So, I sign up for something like an Ironman and use other races along the way as training goals to reach my ultimate goal. When I am training I imagine myself crossing the finish line of the race I am training for. Remembering the feeling of crossing that line at previous races and knowing this one is going to be special - with music playing, the announcement, “Diane Bergeron you are an Ironman,” and my family and friends waiting for me as I cross that finish line.
I seem to have a strong need to be accountable for my decisions. Once I have set my ultimate goal, I tell people what I am going to do. Once I make it public, I feel the need to do what I say I’m going to do. As well, once I have paid for the race, my Scottish roots won’t let me waste the money and not complete the race.
Just about everything we do in life requires motivation, not only triathlon events; furthering your education, getting that big promotion at work, or developing your leadership skills. All of these take work and a commitment to dedicate your efforts to reach the end goal. Everyone has motivators. It is a matter of deciding what yours are and putting them into action. It might be listening to an inspiring podcast, reading motivational books, or remembering that feeling of crossing the finish line. The key is finding what motivates you, and putting it to work in your favour.
How Bad Do You Want It? Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle
By Matt Fitzgerald
This book is focused on endurance athletes. It examines how professional and elite athletes have pushed themselves to their limits to cross the finish line and the ways that they have changed their lives to reach their goals.
Although the target audience for this book is endurance athletes, the message is pertinent for all of us. The key question is really, what are you willing to do or give up to reach that one goal that you are striving for? The answer is, how badly do you want it?
In life there are so many things that we want; health, education, career advancement, fame, fortune, and glory. Unfortunately, you can’t have it all without hard work and dedication. As an athlete I have had to ask myself what I am willing to give up in my life to reach my fitness and racing goals. I determined that even if I felt that I was young enough to be able to compete at an elite level, I am not willing to give up my job to have enough time to train. Why, I simply don’t want it bad enough. I thought about getting a law degree. Why didn’t I? I didn’t want it bad enough to give up other things in my life to dedicate the time to study.
Fitzgerald’s book provides strategies to figure out ways to reach your goals, but also investigates how badly those goals need to be reached.
A few of the key concepts in this book include:
The last two on the list are my favorites!
This is a must get book for anyone looking to reach a goal in athletics or in life in general.
The School of Greatness: A Real-World Guide to Living Bigger, Loving Deeper, and Leaving a Legacy
Lewis Howes, 2015
This book is simply fantastic! Lewis Howes provides not only information about leadership, he gives the reader practical exercises to help us develop our leadership skills. Each chapter in the book provides a focus on a specific area:
All of these areas have been touched upon in other leadership books so nothing necessarily new here. Except that Lewis explains things in a very practical way and gives such easy to follow and useful exercises that there is really no reason for a person to not become "great". Here are my favorites from the book:
A COA is a declaration of your vision with an end date. Your COA can be short-term like six months, or long-term like five years. Regardless of the timeframe, it needs to be something that will challenge you to complete but is still possible. Putting it in writing makes it real and makes you accountable.
This is the map to your COA. Start by writing down the answers to the following questions:
Visualization is the ability to see the results you want to create before they happen. If you can see yourself in the place of your end goal, your mind will allow the reality to happen.
Think about your vision and your goals. Now write down all of the things that you worry about or could go wrong. Let the fear come out. Next, redirect the negative statements to what possibilities could come from each of the possible problems. For example, what if I don’t get any work for a month? This can be turned around to this gives me the opportunity to take a well-deserved vacation and spend more time with my kids. It can also give me more time to work on the details of my business and get the niggly little things in order that often get pushed aside.
These are only a few exercises in the book that I really like and found helpful in my own journey. I recommend picking up a copy of the book and reading it through a few times as you practice the exercises.
Why is it that we always seem to be looking for the easy way out? How many times have you thought to yourself “If I could just win a few million dollars I would…”. This has gone through my mind so many times. Of course, I would need to buy lottery tickets and since I don’t it is highly unlikely that this dream will ever come true😊
A number of years ago I was working for a government office. I had worked my way up and was asked to take on an Acting Director position for a few months. I was so excited about this new opportunity, I worked long hours and rarely took lunch or coffee breaks. This was my chance to shine! I wanted to show my superiors what I was made of so they would think of me when the position became open for a permanent candidate.
The time finally came around and the position was posted. I put in my application and crossed my fingers and toes (this of course made it hard to walk but I wasn’t taking any chances). I made it to the second round of interviews and finally the day came when the boss called. I was so nervous! Then the bomb dropped. Someone else got the position. I put a good face on it and even though I understood that her qualifications were stronger than mine (higher education and more years of experience), I was heartbroken.
After a few days I had to face the truth…if I wanted to move into Management I would need to get a Masters degree and gain leadership experience. A friend of mine…O.K. she is more like a sister we are that close…had taken the Master of Arts in Leadership at royal Roads University. She had been suggesting to me for a couple of years to go back to school and give it a try. The thought of going back to school again was terrifying. It would mean hard work and long hours, but I knew that if I wanted to get ahead I would have to put out the effort. So, I applied and was both thrilled and shocked when my application was approved. I couldn’t believe it…I was going back to school!
As a blind student, I wanted to make sure that the school was ready for me. I needed to connect with my future Instructors to ensure they were aware of what I would need to participate, and that the Services to students with Disabilities department was prepared to coordinate converting my books into accessible formats.
The SSD Coordinator was lovely and helpful. She asked me right away how long I thought it would take me to complete the program. I said that “since it is a two-year program, I expect it will take me two years”. She explained that as a student with a disability, I was entitled to defer classes without any academic or financial penalty so I could take a longer period of time to complete the program. She also mentioned that this program was known to be very difficult with a high deferral rate. I asked her “why would I go into the program with the preconceived notion that I couldn’t keep up?” I mean wouldn’t it be better to do my best and if I needed to defer I could give myself permission to do so.
I hung up the phone after this conversation, turned to my husband and said “Not only will I keep up with my classmates and graduate with them in two years, I will do it with straight as!” My sweet beloved just shook his head and said “Here we go again”.
Two years later, as I crossed the stage at convocation with distinction, I reflected back on the conversation. I could have taken the easy way out and deferred classes and I would have gotten more sleep and had more fun. Instead I worked full-time and studied full-time, all while raising a family.
Now the question is…was the hard work worth it? Well, within only a couple of months of graduating the Director left and I was asked to be the acting Director again. This time it seemed certain that I would be given the permanent position. I was ready to finally take my place in the job I had wanted. Then, before the position was posted, I was offered a dream job. It was one of those offers that I simply couldn’t refuse! I left the government and moved on to a position as a National Director of Government Relations and advocacy. It has been only 6 years since I moved jobs and I am now a Vice-President. If I had taken the easy way out, the positions would not have fallen in my lap as they did and I may still be waiting for that big break.
I didn’t win a lottery…but sometimes I feel like I did😊
Often people decide to set goals that they never get to reach because they haven’t determined what success looks like. Setting a goal like “getting healthy” is difficult to reach if you don’t include a measurement showing what healthy looks like.
One of the most popular methods for goal setting is the SMART method. People have used many iterations of the SMART goal setting method, but for now we will keep it simple and say that goals need to be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound. Setting SMART goals helps keep you on track and helps you to know exactly when you reach success.
The only issue I have with the SMART method is often we don’t know what is attainable or realistic for us until we try. I never thought that I could complete an Ironman until I tried it. We often set easy goals. How do you know you can’t go further and faster until you try it? Another issue with goal setting is not reaching our goal feels like failure. How depressing it is to work hard towards a goal and not succeed?
Instead, I follow the Bergeron method...
With The Bergeron Method, don’t just set one goal for yourself... set three for each activity. The middle goal should be your SMART goal - something you think is attainable and realistic. Then raise the bar a bit and set your stretch goal to go faster, longer, or further than you really think you can and make that your ultimate goal. Finally, set your third goal as one that allows for you to still feel successful even if things go terribly wrong.
Here is an example of the goals I set for the 2017 Mont Tremblant Ironman:
Setting goals this way provides you with a goal that will push you as hard as possible, and stretches your imagination of what you were capable of doing. It also gives you two goals to reach that still leaves you feeling successful.
Once you have your main goals set, break each down so you have smaller goals to aim for along the way. This helps in two ways; first it allows you to focus on a smaller goal so it doesn’t seem so daunting, and secondly it lets you track your progress in specific areas.
I learned my lesson in 2015 when I didn’t manage to complete my first Ironman attempt. I went in with a goal of just crossing the finish line within the 17 hours. When I had to step off the course at the 21km mark of the run, I felt defeated. I felt like I had failed and I let so many people down. I put a good face on it and tried to be positive, but inside I was devastated.
Once I had a few days to rest, I reflected on my race and realized that I hadn’t failed at all. I had gone further than I had ever gone in my life before. I pushed through 14 hours and 205km in 40 degree temperatures - and lived to tell the tale. I may not have reached my ultimate goal that day, but demonstrated to myself that I am stronger than I have ever been.
In 2017, I reach my number 2 goal. I completed the Mont Tremblant Ironman in 16:15:57. I crossed the finish line with a smile on my face feeling strong and most important uninjured.
This form of goal setting works for any situation at work, home, or in sports. Give it a try and then send me an e-mail and let me know how it worked for you.
Self Leadership and the One Minute Manager: Gain the mindset and skillset to get what you need to succeed.
By Kenneth H. Blanchard, Susan Fowler, and Laurence Hawkins
I really enjoyed this book! It was written as a story that helps the reader to get into the life of the main character. It provides not only the theory of self leadership skills, but through story telling it allows the reader to see the practical way of using the techniques.
The main character learns the three tricks to self-leadership:
An assumed constraint is “a belief that limits your experience.” You choose to do or not do something based on your own assumptions rather than opening your mind to new thoughts and perspectives. If you believe that something is impossible, you may not even try to do it. If you open your mind to possibilities, then you may just surprise yourself and find new and exciting ways of making things happen.
There are five different points of power:
Each point of power holds their own abilities and skillsets and knowing what your own point of power is gives you not only the knowledge on how to best use that power, but also helps you to identify what other points of power you need to cultivate to make great things happen. You do this by building relationships with others with the points of power you need and helping them by sharing your own power. Remember, by sharing your power you are not giving it away, you are just making it stronger.
Another important piece of this self leadership puzzle is to understand your stage in the development continuum. There are four stages of development:
D1 – low competence with high commitment (enthusiastic beginner stage)
D2 – low competence with low commitment (disillusioned learner stage)
D3 – moderate competence with variable commitment (capable but cautious performer stage)
D4 – Hi competence with high commitment (self reliant achiever stage)
Now you need to figure out what you need to move to the next stage. If your competence is low, then you need high direction; when it is your commitment that is low, then you need high support. As you move through the levels of development, your level of either direction or support lowers.
Now that you have mastered the three tricks of self leadership you can go out and make extraordinary things happen. But don’t forget the most important lesson of all from the book…become a mentor for someone else and share your knowledge. We can never have too many self leaders in this world!
When I tell people I am a blind triathlete, the inevitable question is: How does a blind person do triathlon?
The answer is, “Very carefully.”
Interestingly, the things that a blind person needs to do a triathlon are some of the same things that leaders need to enhance their leadership skills. Every person with sight loss doing a triathlon will have different methods and techniques for completing their event. Regardless of what techniques they use, there are three main requirements:
Just as leaders need mentors, blind triathletes need a guide. Once a person with sight loss decides to take on the challenge of a triathlon, the key question is who will guide them on this great adventure?
Choosing a guide is one of the most important decisions a blind athlete needs to make. The guide must be better than you at all events, so they can guide at your speed while assessing the environment. Your guide needs to be able to handle the distance you want to race, to be a great communicator and—probably most importantly—want to spend a lot of time with you (which may exclude your spouse from the list).
With your guide in place, it's time to figure out what equipment will work best for your training and race, and what specifically do you need to know.
The swim component of a triathlon is usually open water, so a tether system is needed. My guide and I use belts with a tether rope connecting us. This way I can’t wander off aimlessly, and if I get too close to my guide, I may bump into her and adjust accordingly.
Before the race begins, it is important for me to know what I am facing. My guide tells me what the course is like and how far to each turn. We also work out a communication system since visuals are not possible, and we can’t hear each other with our ears under the water. We use a tapping system so I know where we are on the course and if I need to stop or turn. Since apologizing uses up valuable race time, we usually begin the race with, “I am sorry for any damage I may do to you, inappropriate places I may inadvertently touch, and any unattractive thing that may happen along the course.”
We use a tandem bike for the cycling component of the race. This is where good collaboration with your guide is needed. Tandems can be a lot of fun, but if you don’t collaborate with each other, you can find yourself on the ground pretty quickly. Having an extra peddler on the bike does help with speed, especially on the downhill, but uphill is more difficult.
The key job for the Captain in the front seat is to steer the bike, communicate the environment and say what is coming up ahead. The key job for the Stoker, sat at the back of the bike, is to balance the bike as much as possible, peddle hard, and in my case, hand over the food (not a good idea to have the Captain pass out from hunger).
For the run, I use a hand-over-hand method. Some people use a hand, wrist or waist tether, depending on sight levels and preference. The run offers the most time for communication. You might want to have a few interesting things to talk to your guide about to keep them interested and not have them wanting to leave you behind!
The most important thing to have as a leader or a triathlete with sight loss is a positive attitude. Training and completing a triathlon takes effort and dedication for anyone, but doing this sport as a blind person adds even more challenges. Keeping a positive attitude will help you get across the finish line and help having your guide still like you for your next race together!
I’m not a pro athlete, coach, or nutritionist, which makes me wonder why anyone would want to read what I had to say. But, I realized there must be people out there just like me: weekend warriors trying to keep fit and healthy, and trying to reach their fitness or personal goals. I am 53 years old and totally blind. I am also an Ironman.
This isn't my first foray in challenging myself.
In 2009, while undertaking my Master's in Leadership program, I decided it was time to face some fears and challenge myself. I began with a tandem skydive (maybe a bit drastic, but you know...go big or go home).
During 2010, I drove a race car at a speed that I could now probably out run, but since I don’t get to drive cars often, it was still very exciting for me.
2011 had me rappelling down the outside of a 29 storey building, a demonstration of courage mostly because I was dressed in a super hero costume involving spandex...at my age the outfit demonstrated more courage than rappelling down the side of a building.
In 2012 I was lost for what I could do next when a classmate from university sent me an article about a blind woman doing triathlon.
“Diane, you could do that,” said my friend, Cheryl.
Given that I was pretty much a couch potato, 47 and blind, I thought she had lost her mind. Not one to turn down a challenge, I decided to get fit and six months later completed my first Olympic distance triathlon (1500 m swim, 40 km bike, and 10 km run). I crossed the finish line second to last with a time of 4 hours and 26 minutes. I crossed the finish line upright and for me that was success!
“I bet you could do a half Ironman,” said Cheryl.
I told her she was crazy and I didn’t want to talk to her for at least a month. She took me to my word and a month later we were signing up for a half iron distance.
Since then I have completed several Olympic distances and four half iron distances. In August of 2015, I attempted my first full Ironman. I had paid for the registration and my Scottish roots wouldn’t let me back out.
The day of the race was beautiful and sunny. I felt calm and ready to go the distance. The swim went well and the first 90 km of the bike felt wonderful. The temperature rose to 40 degrees Celsius and I began to feel the heat.
I managed to reach kilometre 21 of the run when heatstroke took over and I decided that my health was more important than the finish line. I was disappointed but knew that I made the right decision.
I told the organizers of the race that I would be back in two years to try again.
Two years later there I was standing at the start line of Ironman Mont Tremblant 2017. I was wondering if maybe I lost my mind when I lost my sight…I mean what was I thinking! None the less the gun went off and the fireworks exploded; and there I was running across the beach and diving into the water for just one more shot at becoming an Ironman.
The day was beautiful and my guide Kory and I felt wonderful. It was a long but fun filled day and when we crossed the finish line I was exhausted and exhilarated all at the same time.
I started the journey thinking that I would come out at the other end more fit with the bragging rights of doing such a big race.
Well…I did get that, but more than that I learned so much along the way. During my master’s program I learned the theory of leadership, but during my journey to Ironman I experienced the practice. I would like to share my learnings with you. Please sign up for my updates and I will bring you along with me as I blog about my journey and the leadership practices that I learned along the way.