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Coaches Blog

IRONMAN U: From Got to Get: One Letter Makes All The Difference

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Triathletes are human too. This news might come as a shock to our friends and colleagues who often express a range of emotions from awe to dismay to outright concern for the load that our training schedule puts on what are most often already very full lives and schedules. But it is true. We are human and we often struggle with the motivation necessary to keep up our training schedule.

The load of a triathlete's training schedule can sometimes turn into a burden that becomes difficult to bear. How many times have you heard a friend say something like, “I got to get in my six-mile run today.” Can you hear what is being said there? “Got to.” I have to do this. I must accomplish this as just one more task in a task full schedule. I have got to do “this” so I can't do “that”. This kind of language and the accompanying thinking over time sets up the triathlete's training as something to get through... not something they “get” to do.

My friend Dave Downey, who announces at numerous IRONMAN events, loves to lead off athlete briefings by talking about how the athletes “get to swim 1.2 miles and get to bike 56 miles and get to run 13.1 miles.” When training and racing becomes a “got to” instead of a “get to” it turns into something it was never meant to be: a burden rather than a source of pleasure, fulfillment, and joy. Of course, training is difficult. Of course, it can sometimes be hard to fit training into our already full lives. But it should never be a “got to”. Reframing the way we think about training can go a long way toward better consistency, better fitness, and more happiness as an athlete. All it takes is one letter of difference. Taking out the “o” and replacing it with an “e”. Moving our mindset from “got to” to “get to”. And here is why it works: Because it is true!

We do “get to” swim and bike and run. We are the lucky ones. We “get” to rise before the sun comes up and head to the pool. We “get” to feel the sensation of that first dip in the water when most people are still in bed. While so many other people are still sleeping, you and I get to experience so much of life. Because we “get” to start our days 2 or 3 hours before most people's alarm clocks are even set to ring we know some precious things. We know the bounce we get to start our day with after a hard swim set. We watch the rising sun after a tough interval track session when others are just rising. We “get” to close out our days with a trainer ride that pushes us to new levels of endurance. We know the satisfaction of a day and a life lived to the fullest.

Triathletes know these things because we know that we “get” to train. We train because we love the sport, we love the challenge, we love the transformation that takes place in our bodies and our minds. If you have slumped into an “I've got to” mindset, if training and racing are turning into a burden instead of the pleasure they are meant to be, then consider reorienting your thinking from the “got to” to the “get to”. It is a difference maker. Our thoughts drive our actions. So, if your thinking is leading you in the wrong direction spend some time considering your “get to”. “Got to” thinking is a sure way to build mental fatigue and mental fatigue is a training killer. Let the “got to” stuff go!

This is more than a count your blessings pep talk. This is a call for you to allow the reality of the ability to participate in the great sport of triathlon to once again become a primary motivator for you. Give it a try. On your next training day, have your self-talk be driven by “get to.”

Team MPI Senior Coach Mark Turner is a USAT Level I Certified Coach, IRONMAN Certified Coach, USAT Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USAT Cat 3 Rules Official and USMS Level II Coach.

He can be reached at

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