In the previous article on the trait of great athletes I covered what maybe the cornerstone of all great athletes, Grit. I have had to think long and hard about other traits to continue this series of articles and I have shot down many other ideas because they are really just grit in another form but one has stood out, Sacrifice. FreeDictionary.com defines sacrifice as “To forfeit (one thing) for another thing considered to be of greater value.”
I really like this definition and I think it is perfect for describing what great athletes have done to become great athletes. Great athletes sacrifice, time, money, talents and other desires in the pursuit of their athletic goals.
Probably the largest sacrifice is time. Time away from family, friends and time away from other pursuits. Countless hours spent riding, running, swimming and or strength training. Time on the road participating in camps, training and competing may not be looked upon by the athlete as a sacrifice but ask a significant other in the athletes life and they would mark this as one of the greatest sacrifices made by their athletes. International Elite cyclists will spend about 800-900 hours annually training including most of the year on the road. Even top level age group triathletes will spend 500-600 hours a year training and racing. To put this in perspective an world class cyclist will train between 20-30 hours a week and top level age grouper triathlete will average about 12-18 hours a week. Then we have masters level cyclists and runners who have full time jobs and families will average between 10-16 hours a week training and racing on top of a 40-60 hour work weeks and family responsibilities.
The next sacrifice that I think most athletes are all to ready to recognize is the cost of their sport. Look at what a road racer or multisport athletes may cover just for a year! The cost of buying a road bike and or a TT/Tri Bike at 2K-10K and greater. Sets of wheels that cost 2K and greater, clothing, bike computers, power meters, travel, lodging, licenses, race fees, coaching, nutrition, supplements and other services such as massage therapy, sports nutrition and sports psychology. An entire season minus a bike could set the athlete back 10s of thousands of dollars.
I have been so fortunate to meet a vast array of endurance athletes as a competitor and as a coach. Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers, Craftsmen, Miners, Business Owners, Publishers, Authors, Carpenters, Plumbers and on and on. Each and everyone of them incredibly talented at what they do in their chosen vocation but all have one common trait. A passion to succeed and this passion requires that they sacrifice promotions, pay increases and vocational training in an effort to peruse greater performances in their chosen sport. Many have told me that they feel this sacrifice has improved their own quality of work and work ethic. I have even cautioned new athletes that I coach that they may find that after being coached and start seeing improvements in their weekend competitive results that the same will happen at work. Why they ask? My answer is simple “Success breeds Success”!
Even those of us who do not consider ourselves to be elite, great or even OK athletes would admit that some personal sacrifices are required to meet athletic goals. Limiting the amount of beer, chocolate and other sweets to shed a few lbs/kilos just so you can crush the club next season on the tough climbs. The 5 K runner that runs a few extra miles a week in an effort to compete in their first 10K. The triathlete that puts in the extra hours to go from sprint distance to the Olympic distance.
All athletes make some sacrifices but the great athletes learn how to prioritize these sacrifices in an effort to minimize their impacts on family and maximize their potential in an effort to secure a win.
I have been worried since the beginning of this article that it would be a bummer to read. The words to real to close to home. What I want to convey to the reader who is new to endurance sports that you do not have give up everything to be come the athlete that you think you can be and that sacrifice comes in many flavors and degrees. The challenge is making the right sacrifices and timing them well to meet your goals. Not sure where to begin? Then be smart about it and seek help. Hire a coach! Hire me!
Until next time,
Train Smarter Not Harder,