Women’s Wednesday: The Joy of Participation

“I want to shake the way competitiveness creeps under my skin and into my soul, taking over expectations and suffocating my enjoyment”

By Lisa Ingarfield

The Joy of Participation

One of my friends recently hashtagged #OhSummerHowIveMissedYou. And this one hashtag encapsulated exactly how I am feeling. June is here! I love June because with June comes the Colorado triathlon season, long summer days, and lots and lots of outdoor time. Last year, I vowed that when I looked back on 2017, I would be able to show a fuller life than just swimming, biking, and running. And while that is still a goal I will approach with intention, I am excited to get back in the game. Marathon training is behind me and I am looking forward to one triathlon a month ’til November. Open water swimming is abundant and I get to see the sun rise while quietly slipping through the calm waters of a local lake before work.

My goal for this season is to decouple my participation in triathlon races from stress and nervousness and recouple it with a “whatever happens, happens” attitude. I don’t know that I will ever shake the nerves of preparing to swim in open water but what I more precisely want to shake is the way competitiveness creeps under my skin and into my soul, taking over expectations and suffocating my enjoyment. I think many of us have been there, when participating in a race causes more stress than laughter. It ceases to be enjoyable because we have somehow lost sight of the awesomeness that is our ability to participate in such an event. I want to bounce with joy at the fact I get to participate all summer in swimming, and biking, and running.

While I am eager to challenge myself through racing this season, I can’t help but think racing is a funny thing. It is predicated on winning, competing, and beating others. And while this isn’t necessarily always a negative, it can be. One’s worth is often defined by their place on the results list. Or at least this is what it is for many. And even when scores of people say it’s not about where you land, but the process that gets you there, for many of us, the landing still somehow matters more. I often get sucked into this mentality. This season, however, I am going to actively resist this mindset. I want to disentangle myself from the stress and elitism of competition. When it weaves its way around our brains, we can completely abandon enjoyment as we get so focused on winning and losing, succeeding and failing. And this is not what I want from my season.

Let’s keep it simple this year, 303Triathlon readers. For those of you who have this down already, good for you. Share with your friends how you do it. And for those of us who oscillate back and forth between competitiveness and the joy of participation (I realize these are not necessarily mutually exclusive), let’s work on it. While nerves and competition are not universally bad, and in some cases can be motivating, let’s keep them in check. How great is it that we can swim, bike, and run our way through summer and beyond? And when you feel the insidious creep of putting your time above your enjoyment or someone else’s experience, stop and pause. Be kind. A race is just a race; one moment in time. It is our treatment of others that will be remembered. Go after that goal instead.

Lisa Ingarfield, PhD is a runner, triathlete, USAT and RRCA certified coach. She owns Tri to Defi Coaching and Consulting and provides organizational communication evaluation and consulting services. She is a freelance writer specializing in issues affecting women, particularly in sport and is a member of Vixxen Racing’s 2017 women’s triathlon team.


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