How serious are you?

this training may look “easy”  – but it isn’t . It’s not supposed to be. 

Back in October of 2016, I traveled to the eastern shore of Maryland to support some of my coached athletes who were racing Ironman Maryland. 

Looking back, the day was one of those memorable days you never forget. And not because of the racing itself, but because of the weather.  It was awful.

The flowing water along the run course at the 2016 Ironman Maryland.

For starters, the swim was canceled due to too-rough-to-be-safe conditions out in the Choptank River (throwing all of the athletes into makeshift plans at the spur of the moment), and then the bike course was altered due to flooded roads, which also resulted in some flowing water on the run course.

If that all sounds like an awfully difficult and challenging race day, let me remind you that Ironman isn’t supposed to be easy.

And therein lies one of the reasons I’m sharing this story with you.

I mean…when I heard the loud cheering and celebration ring out from a huge group of racers when it was announced over the loudspeaker that the swim was canceled, I realized that a lot of things have changed from my early days in the sport…

…and the changes I’m talking about aren’t necessarily positive.  

Now you’re probably wondering what I’m getting at here. Keep reading.

I’m asked for my advice and help nearly every day by athletes who tell me they “really want to improve” or “want to finally solve that injury that’s been plaguing them,” or “achieve something more!”

They’re often desperate and anxious and frustrated.  They can get emotional. I’ve stood in front of more than one person who teared up, talking about how important it was to them.

Whether it’s getting out of an injury cycle or a desire they have to believe they are truly making progress, they usually seem very motivated and ready to go! 

But even though they say the right words, I’m not always convinced.

I’ve learned the hard way over many years – when I’ve often given something of myself to try and help – that some people are unfortunately just asking a question or seeking advice because they love to complain or make excuses.

Or worse, they just want me to tell them they’re doing the right thing.  All they really want is validation.  Very few actually WANT detailed, specific advice.  

Similarly…and bringing it back to Ironman Maryland on that day, when it comes to racing, I think few athletes actually ever WANT these races TO BE challenging or difficult! To really test them.

Yeah, they definitely want that finisher’s medal but they don’t necessarily want to pay the price to get it in “the right way.”  And I’m not talking about the financial price!

When it comes to racing, I’ve had some of the most difficult moments in my entire life during races like Ironman Hawaii. Despite those moments of shear terror or pain, there is a part of me that loves the suffering and the anxiety and the discomfort.   

No, it isn’t “fun” and I’m not always “happy,” and the fear, anxiety, and discomfort often cause me to pause and question. At the same time, it is those exact feelings – along with a desire to challenge myself – that is the reason I do it. 

In his fascinating and enlightening book, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*CK,” author Mark Manson says…

“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience. Any attempt to escape the negative, to avoid it or quash it or silence it, only backfires. The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. The denial of failure is a failure. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.” 

And yep, Mr. Manson goes on to share a few more profound little golden nuggets…

  • “Being open with your insecurities paradoxically makes you more confident and charismatic around others.”
  • “The pain of honest confrontation is what generates the greatest trust and respect in your relationships.”
  • “Suffering through your fears and anxieties is what allows you to build courage and perseverance.”
  • And I’d add to that list with one of my own that sounds very similar to something from the Bible: “The truth will set you free.”  

    So what am I trying to get to here?

    This day and age of “my-life-is-cooler-than-yours” or “this-is-what-I-did-for-a-workout-today, isn’t-that-impressive” mentality on Facebook and other social media, has bred a pitiful belief among too many that struggle, fear, suffering, anxiety, and discomfort as a few examples, are just not desirable or even OK, whether it’s in training, on the racecourse, or even in life.

    In other words, people not only don’t want to suffer or deal with discomfort, they don’t want to hear the truth… 

    Sooo….. when I am asked for my advice, I no longer just freely and openly give out my best and most honest response.

    Now that may not be what you expected to hear but let’s just say, before I give them what they really need, I need to first assess how serious they are – whether they are ready for it, or not.

    I’ve learned the hard way – through experience – that most who ask for my advice, really don’t want it.  

    It has taken me many years to finally learn to internalize this. Once I did, it made me a better coach. More understanding and empathetic, instead of frustrated when someone doesn’t follow up or act as I had hoped.

    For example, let’s say someone asks me how to solve an injury they’ve been suffering with.  My response might be something like, “Well, I can show you exactly what you need to do to fix it. But  I have to ask first, out of curiosity, how serious are you really?”

    The athlete response: “Coach, I am serious, I want to solve this problem!

    I just can’t pay for an analysis or an appointment right now, and I’ve also got a few more races this season that I just have to run! But I’m hoping you can help me fix this issue so I can still race.”

    My answer?: “Well, it sounds like you’re making some progress since you’re racing. It’ll probably solve itself with time. Keep at it, you’re doing great!”

    Now I know you’re thinking something like this: “Coach, that wasn’t exactly a very honest or even helpful answer,” and in one sense, you’d be right.

    BUT LISTEN CLOSELY because here’s the thing:  I’ve learned that athletes who really want advice will say a very specific set of words that go something like this: 

    “I’m ready Coach. Tell me what to do – I’ll do whatever you say.”

    If they say anything else, it means I’m probably walking into a minefield.

    It’s kind of like saying “Do you love me?” to your spouse. If they say anything other than, “Of course!” you’re in trouble. 🙂

    Of course, almost nobody ever says,“I’m ready Coach. Tell me what to do – I’ll do whatever you say,” because almost nobody really wants advice to the level of actually following through.

    They want to complain, they want to feel validated, but fewer than 1 in 100 actually want to change their behavior or be held accountable.

    Pausch delivered his “Last Lecture”, titled “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”, at Carnegie Mellon on September 18, 2007

    And even when they say they are 100% serious, I still don’t dive into deep, technical “how-to” because I know they’re probably not ready.  

    In a way, I know I am doing them a favor by parceling out my advice because I’m giving them a minor barrier to see how serious they really are.

    Anyone can “say” they’re serious. Commitment, relentless work and giving up control and following the smart path is a wholly different thing.  

    Conversely, if you’re reading this right now and can look back knowing I HAVE had that honest conversation with you and given you my best advice, you can trust that I believe in you and truly want the best for you!

    So my question for you is, “how serious are you?” 

    IF YOU ARE READY for a change and really want to explode your potential, then THIS IS your opportunity. This program is a great start!

    What do you say? Let’s get to work.