Phase 1. Spending-Spree: You have decided to make a permanent life-change. From this day forward, you will be a whole, healthy, balanced person. In which case, you need to dress the part. You just purchased a brand-new, glaring-white pair of running shoes… and you swear to yourself that you won’t use them for gardening or mowing the lawn. You’ve invested in a pimped-out bike and enrolled yourself in a fancy health club with all the fixin’s: a warm towel at the door, foamy soap in the shower, and a Cappuccino machine… you know, the bare necessities. Anyway, this is going to be so… much… fun!
Phase 2. Visions of Grandeur: Even though you haven’t moved a muscle yet, you can’t stop envisioning yourself crossing that finish line. You can just see it: People are cheering, you’ve got 100 yards left in the run, you spot your loved ones in the crowd and Chariots of Fire starts blaring in the background. You are empowered, brave… and you look better than you did when you were 16. You know you should probably start training, but pretending you’ve already finished is so much easier.
Phase 3. Fun-cercise: You go the pool to “train” and you realize that you are severely out of shape. You begin to see the value in the scissor kick and get sidetracked by an inevitable floating contest. You gear-up for a run and realize that running hurts… so you walk instead. You take your kids for a bike ride, which lasts all of five minutes because they forgot to use the bathroom. At least your triathlon is “a long way’s away.” (Warning: This phase can last years.)
Phase 4. Commitment: You’ve visited the registration website at least three times a day for the past two weeks. Up until this point, you’ve been telling people that you’re training for a triathlon partly to relay information, but mostly to convince yourself that you are actually going to do it.
Your registration information is entered and the “SUBMIT” button waits patiently. You wish there was a “LET ME THINK ABOUT IT” button, so that you didn’t have to keep re-entering your information every time you reconsider. In an unexpected moment of decisiveness, you click SUBMIT. Extreme shock ensues and you wander about the house chanting, “Holy this-and-that… now I have to do a triathlon!”
Phase 5. Reality Check: You’ve turned the calendar over to a new month and, like a mallet to the head, you’re struck with fear. You only have seven more weeks to get your spit together! You’re still worrying about your swim cap splitting open and your goggles falling off, but you really don’t have time for second thoughts right now. You’ve got to get moving.
You may not be the warhorse you thought you’d be, but you persevere anyway. You download a training program and stick to it this time. Much to your surprise, you thoroughly enjoy bananas and peanut butter, and you’re starting to realize that running can be fun. A new athlete is emerging.
Phase 6. Race Day: Of course, crossing the finish line is the penultimate goal, but there’s nothing better than the few moments prior to an event. You’ve done everything in your power to get there and now all you can do… is go. Your body is ready, your mind is clear, and adrenaline is surging through your veins. You are standing amidst a sea of people who have prepared themselves for something great. This is a proud moment.
Phase 7. Pass it On: Now that you’ve completed a triathlon, pass the benefits along to someone you know. Be the person who plants a dream in someone else’s life.
About ten years ago, I was at a wedding, catching up with an old friend. She told me she had been doing triathlons and I was so intrigued by her story that I kept asking more about it. I thought she was crazy when she told me that I should do one. “If I can do it, you can do it,” she said. I didn’t believe her at the time, but her words have been ringing in my ears ever since, and now… I’m finally listening.
Published in beginnertriathlete.com (June 2007)