The Control Game


Posted by Coach Liesl Begnaud

Surrendering control can be terrifying; or, it can be liberating.  Often triathletes are attributed to “Type A Personality”. Look that up and you'll find a temperament described by excessive ambition, aggression, competitiveness, drive, impatience, need for control, focus on quantity over quality, and an unrealistic sense of urgency.  Driven, dedicated and focused can be positives, but not when taken to the extreme of obsessive, anxious and neurotic.  We can get sucked into a certain way of behaving and training as an athlete.

I remind the athletes I work with to "control what you can control." 

You can’t control the weather, but you can control how you respond to it.  How do you respond? You can surrender to the weather it, train in it, and embrace it as an extra challenge if it comes on race day. 

As an athlete, you control when you fit your workouts into your day. You take charge of your schedule so you can reach your goals.  This is healthy control. You practice prioritizing. 

Allowing yourself to miss a workout for a legitimate reason such as illness is another way of surrendering control. Can you do that without berating yourself or trying to “make it up?" What I witness too often as a coach is an athlete that gets obsessed with training and trains at all costs - the cost of family and friends, health, work, or finances.  An unrealistic sense of urgency takes over and it becomes unhealthy.

A recent Facebook thread discussed how often athletes train without a computer. This is another example! How often do you simply run, swim, or bike without a watch, without collecting data?  That is surrendering.  One response was “never, my coach needs the data."  Nope, not all the time.  It’s important to train and take control of learning how you feel when you train at various paces and intensities. 

At Team MPI, we emphasize the Rate of Perceived Effort, RPE. Take that same drive for data and use it to learn to feel.  It’s liberating. Yes, surrendering might also feel terrifying, but at the end of the day, if your computer craps out on a race, you still have your own internal RPE. You still have control of your effort.

No matter your goals as an athlete, it's important to find that "sweet spot" of control. This is important whether you are a new triathlete who simply wants to complete an event, an age group athlete who wants to learn how to push harder at an Olympic Distance triathlon, or a first time IRONMAN athlete who wants to experience 140.6 miles in 17 hours or less. Goals and ambition are healthy; obsession and a hyper-focus on control are not.

Give it a try. Give up your data for a workout.  Find your RPE. Control what you can control and be a liberated athlete!


Coach Liesl Begnaud is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach, USAT Paratriathlon Certified Coach, and USMS Level 1 & 2 Coach based in Denver, CO. Liesl has been racing endurance sports for over 13 years which includes two Ironman finishes, numerous marathons, cycling events and multiple triathlon age group podium finishes. She has assisted with Team MPI Paratriathlon Camps, coached cycling for Special Olympics, and has been active with multiple triathlon clubs and teams. Her coaching philosophy is based on creating a caring partnership while working together to meet the athlete's goals. She helps her athletes to develop skills and confidence by encouraging them to train hard, play hard, have fun, and stay healthy while enjoying a balanced life. Prior to joining the Team MPI coaching staff, Liesl worked as a social worker with persons with disabilities and special needs. Contact Coach Liesl at

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