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September 9, 2009

How to become a Champion Endurance Athlete

As I mentioned earlier, I would post this GEM of a post up today as well, on exactly how to become a Champion Endurance Athlete. Whilst you are not guaranteed fame and fortune in the sense of a Federer, or a Woods, endurance sports hold a special place in our hearts. The principles outlined in this post, originally posted here also apply to business, to love, to all aspects of life, and for me, not just endurance sports. Enjoy…

I still believe that in our sport of sports there is a place for the champion athlete. While triathlon may be defined as a participant sport, and while it rewards those who simply take part (which of course isn’t so simple), there remains room for those who aim for the top, a platform in which to achieve greatness, if only for a brief moment in time.

Tangent! …

Ours is a society made up of decreasing standards for the individual (and yet from a young age we’re all led to believe that WE ARE WINNERS!). Illiteracy is increasing here in the US, as is almost every known (and soon-to-be-known) disease; our standards of healthy living are dropping. The Army has lowered its enlistee standards (not surprisingly; I certainly wouldn’t ever sign up in this day and age). Same too with the Navy, the Boy Scouts, most major universities, our government’s “Body Mass Index”, numerous state high school graduation requirements, the Presidential Physical Fitness Award standards, and so on. Our inmates receive better healthcare than the majority of our population. Our environmental standards remain archaic (though in archaic times we were less abusive to our planet, of course). I think the whole affair is deplorable, but then I suppose if we’re truly all winners, I should just quit worrying about it; we’ll find a way to win! We’re Americans! We’re Number One!

What a joke.

In all honesty and back to my original thought, I still believe there is a place for the (real) winners amongst us (and I hope one day to join your ranks). Moreover, we should not apologize for wanting to be better than good enough, especially as standards continue to decline. Finishing a triathlon is commendable, no doubt, and victory may be defined by the individual, but we mustn’t frown upon those who desire something more, something greater. For those who dream of becoming a champion athlete, the following is “all” it takes. (Please note that though the standards may seem excessively stringent, they help to weed out the rest of us losers.)

How to become a Champion Endurance Athlete

1) Pick the right parents and be sure that they’ve picked the right parents and that their parents have picked the right parents, and so on. Inherent ability is, quite honestly, the Lottery of Life. (And to an extent we’ve all won it, though some more than others.)

2) Start young and dedicate yourself entirely. Failing this, dedicate yourself entirely, no matter your age. (Training) time is of the essence. Be in a hurry, but be patient. See #10 below.

3) Believe that anything is possible.

4) Be enthusiastic, motivated, willing to suffer and able to make sacrifices. Develop an immense work ethic and then take uncompromising action. Work relentlessly and outwork those you’ll compete against. Train first; ask questions later.

5) Know your destination and how to reach it. Have complete clarity of purpose and use the SMART principles in choosing your targets. Are they…

* Specific?
* Measurable?
* Achievable?
* Realistic?
* Time-Sensitive?

Setting mileposts along your path to success is another key to achieving it, so choose some goals en route to the big one. Conversely, if you’d rather be a loser like me, you can always just wing it.

6) Stay focused through setbacks. Expect pitfalls but don’t fall with them.

7) Speaking of falling, don’t fall for the façade that is luck. If you’re reading this you probably have the opportunity, now do something with it.

8) Know thyself. Be honest with thyself. Confront that which you do not like about you and what which needs to change in order to achieve your goals. If you’re unsure ask a friend or a coach or better yet, someone honest.

9) Given this knowledge of yourself, train wisely. Training wisely is harder than training hard, which is hardly surprising. So don’t just train for training sake; train for victory, not some arbitrary physiological or psychological response. Finally, remember that training is everything and everything is training. In other words, everything you do as a human being affects everything you do as an athlete. Understand your responses to training and all else.

10) Give it time. As per Gladwell’s book, 10,000 hours of practice is about all it takes to shine! But time isn’t enough. You must determine your future by doing things correctly NOW. In other words, practice doesn’t make perfect…perfection does.

11) Never neglect the placebo effect. If you believe in what you do, whether it’s right or wrong, the chances are it will work for you. Just be sure of this before believing in everything you do! Demand proof not from others but from yourself. See #3 above.

12) Avoid or ignore critics, cynics, pessimists, doubters, detractors, scoffers, skeptics, naysayers and negative people. Unfortunately, the world is full of these types, no more so than on the Internet (this, I believe, because they’re trapped at a job they do not like), so you will need to hone your skills accordingly.

13) Eat as though your life depends upon it, because the truth is, it does. Today’s dietary habits will likely not affect your immediate goals or health; the effect will be felt many tomorrows from now. See #10 above.

14) Get enough rest en route. Even champs need a break every so often.

15) Enjoy the journey (though this isn’t always enough when becoming a champion is the objective).

16) As I’ve quoted in this book…

The bottom line…
Is the finish line.

Unlike the lab sometimes does, the finish line never lies. It is the ultimate measuring stick. All else is conjecture and verbal diarrhea.

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