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Coaches Blog

Train Your Empathy: How To Use Your Training And Fitness To Make A Positive Impact

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

Because of the increase in COVID-19 cases in most of the United States, some counties and cities are restricting the use of parks and trails where many athletes were returning to training. So, some of us need to resume training indoors.

The cancellation of some triathlons like IRONMAN 70.3 Lubbock and other races and the return to limited training produces feelings of uncertainty or frustration. At this point in the season, most of us are ready to test all the training and endurance gains made over the winter and spring. Perhaps you felt teased by the “reopening” of businesses and the temptation of major races… only to have restrictions tightened again.

There are ways to use your fitness gains and enjoy different approaches to training that may help alleviate frustration and pent-up need to race.

Start by acknowledging your feelings (we athletes often aren’t great at this step). It’s helpful to name what you are feeling and thinking. Then, consider some alternative training and racing options.

Virtual rides, races, and triathlons are a great option to relieve some pent-up competitiveness. USA Triathlon, Team MPI, Rouvy, Zwift, and many other groups are offering virtual races, training sessions, and even challenges!

Another way to use your fitness and training goals for good is to create your own challenge with a cause! Of course, you can join a challenge already in progress (great ones are going on around the country and the world). But, if none of those suit you, consider creating one to support your local community. Here’s how!

How To Create Your Own Challenge With A Cause

Identify a need that you want to address

Start by looking around locally. Is there a specific need in your city, county, or state that you could champion? Think about different groups and associations that you care about. Ask them if they have a practical need they’re struggling to meet.

Some everyday needs that many communities and groups are struggling with right now are funds for medical treatments and funeral expenses, blood donations, and medical supplies. Food banks are operating beyond their capacity as unemployment skyrockets, so they’re eager for food donations.

Set a SMART charity goal

Choose a specific need or cause that you can commit to and be excited to address. Many needs feel overwhelming and daunting because of their magnitude! So, it’s helpful to write a SMART goal.

SMART stands for:

  • Specific

  • Measurable

  • Achievable

  • Realistic

  • Timely

Instead of saying, “I want to help raise money for my local food bank this summer,” a SMART goal says: “By August 15, I will raise $1,500 for the Smalltown Area Food Bank, which will feed 20 families for a week.”

SMART goals require a little more research and leg-work, but you’re far more likely to achieve them and enjoy the process. If you don’t know precisely what the goal is, then you won’t know when you’ve accomplished it, and it becomes daunting and overwhelming. If you set a specific, measurable goal and reach it early, you can always adjust and keep working!

Don’t forget to contact the group or organization you’d like to support! While most nonprofits, organizations, and charities absolutely love any help they can get, you don’t want to accidentally hinder work they’re already doing (many nonprofits are already launching virtual fundraisers this summer. You might be able to help with the one they’re already planning).

Connect your SMART charity goal with your fitness goals

Now that you have your SMART charity goal, it’s time to decide how to attach your training or fitness goals. Take a look at your goals and objectives for 2020 and select an appropriate challenge. It could be distance, time, speed, or something that feels challenging to you.

Your coach can be very helpful at this stage of the process. They will be able to guide you to select a fitness goal that will be appropriately challenging and help you grow as an athlete while you make a positive impact in your community.

An example might be to commit to cycling 1,500 miles to raise $1,500 for the Smalltown Area Food Bank by August 15.

See how that works? You’re getting more specific as you go, and the task becomes less daunting. Involving your coach in the goal-setting process means they can design effective training plans to help you accomplish all your goals, appropriately challenge yourself, stay healthy, and have fun.

Be creative about fundraising

This is where working directly with the charity or nonprofit is especially helpful. Most organizations already have fundraising tools in place for people like you to use!

Many nonprofits have Peer-to-Peer fundraising platforms that will let you set up your own fundraising page. The money will go directly to the organization. It also allows donors to take advantage of tax deductions. This makes your fundraising job infinitely easier and helps the organization track donations. Everyone wins!

Don’t be afraid to be your own PR person! Help shed some light on the need and what you’re doing to try to meet the need. Contact your local paper, tv station, radio station, and other news outlets to see if they will run a story about your fundraising and athletic goal.

Also, social media is one of your best friends! Document your progress and share stories about the cause throughout your journey.

Think of ways to get other people involved in the journey. Perhaps you can host some virtual rides and invite everyone to contribute miles to the cause. (I’m sure other Team MPI athletes and coaches would love to participate!) People feel great when they’re able to help others. By creating ways for others to participate, you’re helping to lift their spirits and get them involved in caring for the community. Who knows, you might inspire someone else to set a goal and raise money, too!

Just because we might not be able to race, doesn’t mean our training has gone to waste. This is only one way to channel your training and fitness goals into making a difference in the world.


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