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Trickle Down Fitness

By Lee Zohlman B.S. USA Triathlon Elite Level 3 coach


I recently caught the broadcast of Ironman Hawaii on TV, the pinnacle and Super Bowl of the endurance sports world. No, I haven’t raced this particular Ironman event but have been to the race many times, coached some of the tri heads who’ve raced there and coached hundreds of other Ironman athletes in my career. As I watched the upper echelon in our sport go to war on the big island (it is like a war) I wondered what the average fitness enthusiast could gain from understanding the complex mind of an Ironman Hawaii competitor. I wondered if anything could trickle down from the thoughts and desires of those who push themselves in the ultimate test of human endurance and the soccer mom in Boise who just wants to lose those last ten pounds. I asked myself what the construction foreman in Arkansas can learn from a wispy triathlete to help him get in better shape for his upcoming annual physical. There is a lot.

As the finishers came running, crawling and leaping past the finish line I concluded there were three main pillars on which they stand. Also, that the finish line really is just like the soccer mom’s last ten pounds. The three pillars are: desire, the plan and the follow through. Ironman Hawaii athletes are similar to everyone else except for the height of the pillars.

Ironman athletes have a big desire. Your typical triathlete has a huge desire to compete in the worlds most difficult endurance sport, triathlon. But the Ironman Hawaii athlete really has a bigger desire. They must qualify and be among the best in the world. The soccer mom has a desire and so does the Ironman Hawaii athlete so they are similar there. But they each need a plan and this where the roads diverge.

The Ironman Hawaii athlete most likely has a personal coach or advisor designing daily training sessions and the athlete takes these sessions in like a daily dose of medicine. The athletes typically come to rely both mentally and physically on this dose to make themselves fitter but also happier and satisfied each day. It is rare to find an Ironman Hawaii athlete who is winging the workouts each day or waking up and doing what they feel like. This is something that can trickle down to the construction foreman. There are free plans on the internet and expensive personal plans with exercise professionals. The secret is the plan. The workouts in the plan are the ingredients needed to see results. Typically, the more knowledgeable the person has who is writing the plan the better, safer and even faster the results will be.

The follow through is the pillar which requires the most amount of cement or attention. The Ironman athletes are chock full of cement. They plan each day way in advance. They think of the clothing, equipment, fuel they’ll need to make it through the training session. They’ll measure out what they need to use to recover the quickest from each session. This is what should trickle down the fastest. Whether it is the athlete, or the soccer mom they must know that each day will not be perfect. There will be hiccups along the road but there is always tomorrow. The better one gets at following through on the plan the better the results are and less hiccups there will be. One take away from athletes is a daily reminder of the goal so that the following through is easier. Write the goal out on sticky notes and put them in three or four places around your house. They will be constant reminders to follow through on the goals.

Who knows? After each pillar is climbed you just might end up losing those ten pounds or on the start line of Ironman Hawaii. Get on it!

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