by Frank O'Brien
It was 1982. I was a
sophomore in high school and ABCís Wide World of Sports was on
television. I watched in amazement as Julie Moss, losing total control
of her body, stumbled across the finish line in Hawaii. She had just
finished one of the most grueling races ever concocted by man, the
Ironman triathlon, an endurance event consisting of a 2.4 mile swim,
112 mile bike ride, and then a 26.2 mile run. There was no way I could
ever finish that race, or so I thought at the time.
Fast forward to July 2006. I crossed the finish line at Ironman Lake
Placid in 14 hours, 54 minutes. Not exactly world record time. In
fact, I was in the bottom 20% of all finishers that day, but for me
finishing was a victory.
Admittedly, I am not a great athlete, but you donít need to be to
participate in an activity that keeps you healthy, focuses you on a
goal and allows you to achieve things you didnít think you were cable
of. All it takes is a little motivation, some planning, persistence,
and patience. Iím not suggesting that Ironman should be your
initial goal, start small and see where your fitness takes you. Maybe
youíve thought about running a 5K race (3.1 miles), biking 10 miles,
or being able to bench press your own weight. Whatever it is,
your first step is to set a realistic goal for yourself. Write it
down, tell a family member or friend about it, and stay committed to
achieving that goal. You may have doubts initially, but thatís
natural. When I started training for my first triathlon four
years ago I couldnít swim more than a few laps without my arms and
lungs burning from the exertion. The key to your success is to train
consistently and stay focused.
Think about the planning necessary to achieve your goal. Here are some
things to consider:
- Research your event
or interest by reading a book on the subject. Use the internet as a
reference, just be careful to weed through the ďsounds too good to
be trueĒ fitness advice.
- Discuss the
importance of your goal with your spouse or significant other.
Youíll need their support, and acceptance of your time commitments
- Talk to your primary
care physician to make sure that you are medically cleared for your
- Talk to a personal
trainer about establishing a training program (the staff at Todayís
Fitness can assist you).
- Join a gym, a
running club, a biking club, etc. and get advice from other people
who share your interest.
Initially you may feel as
if youíre in over your head but thatís natural. Everyone taking on
something new, be it a job, a class, or something unfamiliar
experiences a certain level of anxiety. Stay committed to your
training and youíll find that the initial awkwardness goes away. Now
get out there and have fun.
Frank O'Brien, Ironman