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I quit a race today, then didn’t

Today, just a few minutes into a triathlon, i literally turned around to quit. Seriously. No kidding. It started when, for absolutely no reason, i panicked on the swim.

Now, I’ve done probably two dozen triathlons. Today was going to be my seventh half ironman, and my fifth time on this exact course. Water conditions were excellent and the weather was practically perfect. I was in the same wetsuit i had worn several times before, including last year. I wasn’t caught in a pack of aggressive swimmers. Nonetheless, i absolutely freaked out when it came time to actually go full-on into the water and actually swim. My heart rate was through the roof. I felt like i couldn’t control my breathing. I couldn’t get into a rhythm.

I was less than a quarter mile in when i actually stopped and started treading water, alternately looking back at the starting line and ahead at how far i had to go (over a mile). A nearby floating lifeguard asked how i was doing. I swam over to get a pool noodle from her – i swear that at that moment i had 100% decided to drop out and go home. I told her flat out that i was, inexplicably, panicking in spite of my level of experience. “I was a lifeguard for years,” i said, “and a lifeguard instructor! I shouldn’t be freaking out about this!” At that point she offered to get a boat there to take me back. I was so confused! I really, really wanted to get out of that water, but didn’t think i of all people should have to. “I shouldn’t be this freaked out – I’m a firefighter!” Then, at that moment, something clicked.

I remembered a conversation I’d had recently with a fellow firefighter – one who has way more experience than I’ll ever have. This firefighter told me about a standard department training exercise where he had been in a house with fake theatre smoke. Despite his experience, though he intellectually knew that there was no fire and it was fake smoke, though he knew he could take off his mask and breathe normally at any time, he inexplicably panicked. For no reason at all, he felt the need to get out of there.

The memory of that conversation helped bring me back around, mentally. If that guy had an inexplicable panic attack and was able to regroup and rally, then i should be able to face this stupid episode head on and get through it. So I thanked the guard and started moving again with the intent of taking that swim one guard station at a time. My heart rate was back to normal, i felt like i could breathe again, and i found my rhythm. I was out of the water and into transition in about 46 minutes, which is much longer than my usual (35-37 mins), but i did it.

You never know whom your story can inspire, so I’m sharing this experience because I’m hoping that my story will inspire someone else – maybe you – to take action in spite of fear, rather than surrendering to it and giving up. To that firefighter who shared his story (you know who you are), I want to say THANK YOU. Ultimately, i finished my race in 6:07 – longer than my goal of 6:00, but I’m more proud of this result than of any other tri I’ve ever done. I would have for sure come in under my goal time if i hadn’t panicked, but i didn’t quit. And, ultimately, that’s what courage really is. The brave might not live long, but the timid don’t live at all.

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Encouraging the man in your life

I hear from a number of women who are genuinely concerned about the health of their husbands. They would love their husbands to live healthier lifestyles, eat better, and maybe even lose a little weight for their own good. However, the men in their lives seem completely uninterested in making any change – sometimes even to the point of sabotaging their wife’s progress.

Nagging doesn’t work. Dropping hints doesn’t work. Even “leading by example” doesn’t work. What can you do? What can you say?

Listen up, ladies: the two most powerful phrases you can use with your man are these (and keep in mind that they have to be delivered in love and with the utmost sincerity, not in an abrasive or condescending tone) –

First, “I don’t want to lose you.” This appeals to his sense of duty and responsibility, as well as his feelings for you.

Second, when your man’s been working out for a while, “Wow – you’re looking really great!” This appeals to his sense of accomplishment, and to his ego. Delivered the right way, compliments like this will light a fire under your guy like nothing else.

Remember: the point here is not to manipulate your man, but rather to use a little gentle psychology that is likely to inspire him to action. Also keep in mind that encouraging HIM to build a healthier lifestyle won’t work if you aren’t doing the same!

Friendly Competitions

During a session this week, a client mentioned that he had tried challenging his wife to some one-on-one fitness competitions, and they always wound up petering out.

“She’s really competitive,” he said, “so I figured that a step challenge or ‘no sweets’ challenge would really motivate her.” But while the competitions always started out strong, she’d always manage to lose her momentum. “I’ve got a very active job, so she could never beat me at steps. And giving up sweets was just too much for her to maintain.”

I suggested another route: “Why don’t you challenge her to see who can eat the most servings of vegetables this week or this month? Then you’re not taking anything away – you’re actually adding something healthy, and the extra vegetables might eventually take the place of less healthy choices.”

What about you? How do you feel about the “more vegetables” challenge? If you’re interested in trying it, here’s a list of veggies to get you started. And, oh – a #ProTip, here: go for frozen or fresh over canned. You’ll get more nutrition and less salt.

  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Lettuce (radicchio, arugula, romaine, iceburg, baby bibb, etc)
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Green beans
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Spinach
  • Tomato
  • Snow Peas
  • Onion
  • Artichoke
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Zucchini
  • Cucumber
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Bok Choy
  • Greens (spinach, kale, turnip greens, mustard greens, chard, etc)
  • Fennel
  • Sprouts
  • Beets
  • Turnips
  • Parsnips
  • Radishes