Start with “What’s Your Why”

The triathlon club I belong to is doing a “What’s Your Why Challenge.” The idea is to share with other members why you get out of bed every day, train, and compete in a triathlon event.

The goal being to bring back into awareness the real reason you are engaged in living life. The challenge was likely prompted by the fact that most races people were training for were canceled or likely to be canceled due to the Covid-19 Pandemic. It was a way to help them not lose sight of why they participate in Triathlons in the first place.

Before explaining how you can use the “What’s Your Why Challenge” for habit change, first let me share my story.

My Why

I remember in high school, seeing news clips of Julie Moss’s crawl to the finish line of an Ironman and thinking, “Wow, those people are nuts. Why would anyone want to do that to themselves?” But also thinking, that would be a fantastic accomplishment.

Fast forward 20+ years and I bought a book about triathlons and thought it would be really cool to do one, but not one of those crazy Ironman races, I could never do that. I started running five miles 3-4 times per week, for several months before my daughter was born and then developed shin splints. My doctor told me I needed to quit running, it would just worsen, and I would need to find a new way to exercise.

Ten years later and 30 pounds heavier, I was standing on the side of the road with my wife watching the Merrimack Christmas parade that my daughter was participating in as a Girl Scout, and someone in the parade hands me a flier for the Nashua Tri. My wife, Sandra, had started running a few months prior and done her first road race. I thought, maybe I can start running again and give this a try. I went out for my first mile run with her a few weeks later, and she kicked my butt as I struggled to just run a mile without stopping. I still decided to sign up for the Nashua Tri.

Fast forward to the race, I was somewhat trained but hadn’t done an open water swim. I panicked in the water and couldn’t keep my head down without feeling panicked. So, I swam the whole distance a modified breaststroke with my head above water. I finished the race better than I started and was hooked.

I moved from doing Sprints to Olympics to doing two 70.3 in one year and then signing up for my first Ironman. Given my build and my running ability, I am/was never competitive in the races. I did the races to see what I could do to finish and then how to do better in the next race. I was/am hooked on getting to that next goal post just a little faster and in better shape than the last time.

In 2017, I was in a bike crash that almost took my life while out training for what would be my second Ironman. A car cut me off, taking a left turn, and I went over the handlebars. I worked through my fears of being back on the road with cars, swimming after having my face split apart and hearing clicking in my neck every time I turned it to compete in the inaugural Lake Placid 70.3 three months after the crash and Ironman Arizona six months after the crash.

My “why” now and then is to overcome setbacks and push on to be better than I was yesterday in whatever I do, even it is small. Setbacks happen, but you can’t let them define your life and keep you stuck.

I have an amazing wife and daughter who have supported me through this journey. They have been my cheerleaders throughout my triathlon career. I’ve completed three full Ironman races and ten 70.3 races so far and hopefully, many more in the future.

Discover What’s Your Why and Change Your Habits

Your why is your purpose or aspiration in life. It’s what guides your behavior or your desire to change your behavior. For me, continuing to train for my upcoming races despite suffering a catastrophic injury was about overcoming a setback and getting back to living a healthier lifestyle. If I stopped training, I believed I would lose my motivation to be healthy. I also didn’t want to have what I achieved thus far taken away from me.

When I had my neck collar removed six weeks after my bike crash, I was highly motivated to get back to training. Had I tried to just jump back in from where I left off six weeks prior, I would have crashed and burned. I had lost fitness and suffered the consequences of not moving much for those six weeks. Instead, I worked with my triathlon coach to start small and create a training plan that worked within my abilities at that time. As a result, I was able to succeed with my small achievements that gradually, over several months, lead to larger successes.

I did not start off trying to conquer my fear of riding on the road right from the beginning. I worked on doing short, high-intensity workouts on an indoor bike trainer. I got used to being on a bike regularly.

For running, I did pool running and built up my running endurance before venturing out on the road. Pool running, for me, is the most tedious and unrewarding form of exercise you can do. But it was what I could do at the time, I was motivated to get back on the road, and it was incorporated into my families’ pool time, so I had a set time to do it.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I followed the Fogg Behavior Model to train successfully after being sidelined for six weeks. The model defines behavior as the result of combining the right level of motivation with the ability to do it when prompted. The following illustrates the Fogg Behavior Model:

Doing a full Ironman in 7 months after fracturing my C1 Vertebrae was a pretty lofty goal. My aspiration was huge, considering what I had been through. Had I tried jumping back into training 14 hours a week, I likely would not have been successful, and my motivation to keep training would have waned.

With the Tiny Habits method of behavior change, you recognize your aspiration but work on being successful by adding small behaviors as habits. By adding those little habits rather than making significant changes, you are more likely to acquire them as habits and are thereby more motivated to keep doing them.

The Tiny Habits method is easy and straightforward to implement. As a Tiny Habits coach, I can help you be successful in following the Tiny Habits steps to behavior change and make your experience more rewarding. Get started by signing up for a Free 5-day introduction to Tiny Habits here.

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