Updated: Apr 21, 2022
As endurance athletes, we are often the most motivated and mentally strong individuals around. We spend hours voluntarily putting ourselves in a large box of water and often times even doing exercises to limit our breathing in this water. We spend an even more significant number of hours sitting on a small, thinly cushioned seat cycling, while we stare at the paint drying in our home gym in the garage.
We will even wake up at 5 AM when it's pitch black outside, and there's frost on the ground to get in a morning run. We are often our most difficult and often unrealistic critics. Given all of the above, most outsiders would want to know the answer to the question, "Why?"
The questioning of "why" is kind of an automatic response for those outside looking in, but surprisingly it's a question that we tend to shy away from asking ourselves as endurance athletes. Given the nature of our training, along with the current state of limited social or group training, it is totally normal and even expected that you will find yourself getting in a funk from time to time. This funk may include a lack of motivation to train or increased disappointment when not making intervals and times that you expect to hit. The funk may also be a feeling of being lost in a world where you may not have a race to plan your training around and look forward to.
I found myself in this funk in the fall of this past year as I just wasn't at the spot in my training that I thought I would be and I had increased stress as I was staying home to watch our two kids. At first, the funk led me to increase the pressure on myself to perform, but this just led to more disappointment.
One day while on the bike, my little ones came out in the garage while they were "on a bear hunt" for our big dog Gunther. I laughed as I watched them look for the wild dog, and I noticed that my breathing became easier, and I no longer felt the build-up of lactic acid in my legs. This made me realize that I needed to go back to the "why" in my training.
Each of us may have a different answer to the "why" question, and the answer may evolve or change over time.
I always loved sport but initially got into endurance sports as I lost my vision progressively and ball sports became increasingly difficult. From there, I began to really love the feeling that I got from training. I trained to empower myself. In my college years at Michigan State University, I founded the triathlon club, and endurance sports became much more of a team event. At this time, I trained because I was a part of a bigger family where we had fun and held each other accountable.
From there, I found that endurance sports could be something more for me. It could be a career where I strive for excellence and built a brand around this vision. At this point, I trained because I loved to compete. Currently, I train to compete but also because it's fun. When I was in my funk in the fall, I was only thinking about competing, but that moment with my kids having fun on their "bear hunt" made me reflect and realize I wasn't training to have fun.
Are you feeling in a funk? Ask yourself the question, "why?" When you answer the question honestly within yourself and make the changes to train for the "why," you will notice renewed energy and purpose. So have that conversation with yourself and get back to your foundation as an endurance athlete.
Aaron Scheidies is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach and licensed Physical Therapist. A graduate of Michigan State University with a degree in Exercise Physiology, Aaron has coached World Champion Paratriathletes as well as IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers.