Jerry Kyckelhahn, is far from a life-long athlete. Compared to the athletes of today, Jerry got a delayed start into triathlon, a delay of about 50 years. His experiences and late entry into sports ultimately led to a Pan American Continental Master’s championship in track sprints and finally to a USAT long course triathlon national championship. But his focus has never been on winning but rather on participation and health and fitness. He has written many previous local and national articles most of which have addressed how to have fun in triathlon and biking.
Overcoming Fears - Part One
This article discusses how to overcome your fears into getting started in triathlon.
This is the first of a series of articles on getting started into the sport of triathlon. While these articles are tailored a bit toward people that are in the “baby boomer” generation, there are plenty of ideas, suggestions or comments that pertain to all of us. Getting started is the hard part, so—let’s get started.
The number one hindrance to getting started into triathlon is fear
Fear! It is not fear of the water, or of swimming, or even of the mass swim starts of triathlon that keeps people from getting started into triathlon training. It is not the fear of running or of biking. Instead, the fears that are most often present are the same fears that often restrain people in many phases of their lives and often keep them physically sedentary.
These fears include:
This article is the first of three that address these fears and it specifically discusses overcoming the fear of being foolish.
- Fear of being, or looking, foolish
- Fear of failure, and
- Fear of the unknown
Just yesterday I heard a lady remark that she has been doing triathlon training but she was afraid to actually do a triathlon. When I asked what her fear was, she had no answer. I assumed that it was probably one of the above fears or a combination of two or all three. Since I tend to gear my writings to the over 50 set, let me add that these fears generally increase with age but the younger are not exempt. In fact, the lady mentioned was a young lady, in her early thirties.
Years ago I attended a management training seminar that had a class that dealt with the fear of being foolish. I was quite astounded to realize that this fear keeps virtually all of us from doing things that we might want to do. It also keeps us from being the best that we can be. At many of the triathlons or local runs, there are kids’ races. These races are for the smallest of children, most often for the children 3 or 4 years old. They are a joy to watch. The kids are dressed in all manner of dress, all colors of shoes, and they have all kinds of bikes, many with baskets carrying their favorite stuffed animals. Some of the kids are intense, some of them come in first and some come in last. In all cases the kids are smiling, except those who might fall down and skin their knees. And afterwards, they all have their ribbons around their necks and are more than proud to show them to any and all.
But then watch the teenagers’ races. Forget it. The fear factor is remarkable. Teenage girls often become almost paralyzed at the thought of participating in a race in front of their friends, except those of course that happen to be the best athletes and are more than ready to show their stuff. The teen boys seem to thrive on competition, but even that disappears as life goes on.
So this fear of being, or looking, foolish is very real - and very problematic. But this article is to get you ready to train for and to do a triathlon, so let’s get rid of this fear.
Step one is to recognize that everyone has a fear of being foolish. I am sure that makes everyone feel better already! By just knowing that everyone has a fear of being foolish you will find it easier to overcome the fear and to start doing what you would like to do, not what everyone else might be expecting you to do.
Step two is action. It is like anything else in life, once you decide to do it, the rest is easy. This is a lot like putting your feet in the water at the pool. The water is cold so there is a fear to get in. Once you have jumped in the water, however, it is comfortable and enjoyable. So, for any of you considering getting into triathlon and still hesitating because you are afraid of what your friends will think, just do it! That means making your way to the running store and getting real running shoes. It means going to the store or online and getting a triathlon outfit and actually putting it on. Now that is a scary proposition for first timers. You have no idea how much heat I take from the non-triathletes for riding a bike in biking shorts or a tri suit. I know that secretly they are just envious. (But I am not sure they would go for the shaven legs anytime soon).
'Action' also means getting on your bike and riding, and it does not matter what kind of bike you have in order to actually make the commitment to triathlon. I hear so many people say that they will start triathlon once they get a bike. It doesn’t matter if it is a beach cruiser to start, just ride! Also know that as soon as you enter the real running store or triathlon store or biking store and talk about doing a triathlon, you will gain more friends than you will have ever imagined. And you will have access to information on all of the local runs and rides and swims to help you along the way.
Once you have taken action you will find that you are over your fear of being foolish. You will have recognized that the fear is common to all of us and you will have decided that you are going to do a triathlon. Soon after the decision to do a tri, you will have made your way to get the stuff that you need to train for the triathlon. Most of all, you will have noticed that the fear is gone.
Step three is to commit. Find a triathlon training schedule that fits you and your training environment. There are many good websites and www.beginnertriathlete.com is certainly one of the best for beginner training schedules. By actually finding a schedule that fits your needs and committing to it, you will have put the act of doing a triathlon over the fear of doing one and you will never look back. The best people in the world participate in triathlons and you will be surrounded by friends that will help you every step of the way.
Step four is to set a target. This is simple, just sign up for a triathlon. There are so many triathlons available that it should be rather easy to find a triathlon that you want to do. I recommend that your first tri be a sprint triathlon - but it is not essential. Usually your first one will be local but a destination triathlon is always fun. And that way no one will know you! By actually signing up for a triathlon, you will have committed to starting your training. Remember that doing triathlon training without doing a triathlon is like playing golf without keeping score. It is the measurable target that keeps you focused.
Overcoming a fear of being foolish is not difficult. Recognize that it is a normal fear. Recognize that to overcome it means that you must simply act and it will disappear. Commit to the training and everyday you will be more comfortable and your friends will start to realize that you are serious and then begin to admire you (and you will look and feel better too).
And finally, actually sign up for a triathlon. You will never look back!
The next article will talk about the fear of failure and the thoughts and actions to overcome that daunting fear.
About the book “Chasing Caterpillars”
The book, “Chasing Caterpillars”, speaks to those persons who are standing on the edge, thinking about doing a triathlon, or even training for one, but still hesitant to take the plunge. It is a light, fun and motivating book designed to entice newcomers or wannabe’s to go ahead and just do it. The book relates the life experience of the author with the adventures and misadventures that befall the new triathlete. It particularly relates to those of the over 50 age group that have serious doubts. Fear not-- so says the book!
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