• Becky Piper

Public Speaking and Triathlon: More Alike Than Different!



Twice a year, Team MPI endurance coaches get together with outside endurance coaches and meet in-person to collaborate and to further their continuing education. One of those meetings happened last weekend, January 10 - 12, in Tampa, Florida. There, I gave my first-ever presentation to a group of highly educated coaches during this summit entitled “Coaching the Para-Athlete: 10 Things Athlete Becky Wants Coach Becky to Know”.


When I began researching this subject, I became overwhelmed and thought “I know what I want to tell everyone, but how can I get that knowledge across to coaches?” After I was done freaking out, I realized that I could handle this trial just like I handled the stress of my first paratriathlon years ago. After successfully “training for my presentation,” I have three take-away comparisons that I’d like to share:


1. Waiting for my presentation was like waiting for the swim start.


I gave my presentation in the afternoon, so I had all morning to stress out. In my first paratriathlon, I did have anxiety and didn’t prepare correctly. When the swim finally started, I had a full-blown panic attack in the water, almost quit, and only kept going out of spite. I learned from that experience that I needed strategies to combat my nerves. Over my sports career, I had developed the technique of using different breathing techniques so I can handle high-anxiety events. But could I use it for a non-sports event? The answer was a resounding “yes”. I handled my breathing for this presentation in the same way I do before swim starts.


One of my breathing techniques:

Step 1: Sit or lie down in a quiet or separate space.

Step 2: Take a deep breath in for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds, exhale for 3 seconds, hold for 3 seconds.

Step 3: Repeat 3 times or as necessary.


2. Training for my speech is just like training for a race.


I could not just go into my first paratriathlon unprepared. I needed to not only train my body for endurance, but I had to train my new body to take on the physical challenges while being paralyzed. In the same way, I needed to “train my voice” to not only last the entire speech, but I had to train my mind to focus on being understandable while giving that speech. There was just one thing I had to do: PRACTICE. Every time I had one of my ten sections prepared, I had to practice, edit for what I could easily say, and practice again. Finally, I had to practice my entire speech together and work on my “transitions.” Just like I practiced my triathlon transitions, I needed to practice my speech transitions as well.


3. Once you start the “race,” there’s no time to get afraid.


After my in-the-swim panic attack, I got into a rhythm that carried throughout the race. I had no time to be nervous if I wanted to complete as planned. Thankfully, I had trained the correct amount to finish the race, and executed the rest well. In the same way, there was no time to “be afraid” when giving my presentation. Once I started, I had to go.


My Biggest Takeaway

Endurance training and lessons learned in life share a common thread. I was able to use what I learned through many years of racing and coaching in order to succeed in a completely different aspect of life. Where and when can you use your endurance sport training to meet a completely different goal?


Editor's note: Here's another similarity :-)


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