Our culture has many interpretations of the word, “heart”, and, somehow, it seems that not one interpretation can be left out when it comes to the sport of triathlon. Triathlon is a sport that tests your heart, and that builds and expands it. Building a bigger heart is one of the ways in which adults can grow.
I remember a time when climbing any type of hill would leave me breathless. Now, after almost a year’s worth of training, scrabbling up steep slopes during lengthy hill repeat sessions, cycling up never-ending inclines, and struggling up Catalina’s Mile 19 “The Crush”, I reach summits, take a deep breath, and recover with ease (not wheeze). The well-rounded cardiovascular training I receive from all three tri-sport disciplines (let’s not forget swimming, and Mikey’s “Breathing Is Overrated” drills), has made a dramatic difference in my fitness level, and I continue to improve.
Heart As A Center:
“You have to find your center on the bike,” Coach Jason had said to me, while we were riding in Palos Verdes last week.
He had explained to me that, as coaches, they had to learn to be very stable on the bike, so that they could ride very close to people, or reach over to help adjust a person’s riding position, without being knocked off balance. While there is no chance that I’ll be coaching anyone on the bike anytime soon, it’s been important for me to find a sort of equilibrium on the bike, where little unexpected changes won’t send me into wobble mode.
I’m getting closer with every ride, especially toward the end. This weekend, I sailed downhill over some really rough road without feeling out of control. It’s all of the little things that eventually lead you to finding your center, I think.
Finding your center can also serve its purpose in life in general. Bumps in the road happen, plans divert, and the smooth, secure pavement you thought you were riding on can shatter from under you. Self-belief, the ability to look forward with hope, in spite of troubled times, can help you to remain upright, even when the world tries to knock you from your steed.
It’s safe to say that this is the part of me that has grown the most in the past year. I’ve done things that I never could have pictured myself doing. I’ve never shrunk back from a challenge, even when I felt as though I was going to lose my breakfast over it. Valiance does not come from taking the least technical downhill path, or from avoiding new experiences. Instead of getting caught up and ensnarled in an endless loop of fearful “What if”s, I gave myself no option but to move forward. Like being strapped into a roller coaster seat as it reaches the top of that long clicking climb, I just let go.
The funny thing about courage is that, most of the time, overcoming fear to do something one time does not completely obliterate fear. Fear is a conditioned response. Every day that I have to get on my bike, I’m scared, but the fear lessens a tiny bit each time. Eventually it will be gone completely, but it takes time, and patience.
With each courageous gain in training, I become more confident in general. Learning to trust in my body, my athleticism, has instilled a metamorphic internal sense that I am strong, valuable and wise. Having that kind of confidence can change the way the world looks at you and can make a profound difference in your lifestyle, career and relationships.
One thing about me is that I have always had a profound capacity to love. While I may not be particularly demonstrative, I would do anything for a friend or significant other. The one problem is that, because I have never expected anything in return, in the past I often got the short end of the deal. So-called friends and boyfriends used me for comfort, took thousands of dollars from me, and then disappeared, without so much as a “Thank you for being there for me.” It made me feel as though there was something deeply wrong with me, that maybe I was the one who was flawed for caring about people who, in the end, never really cared about me. I started to think that maybe I shouldn’t care about people anymore, if, every time I smiled in someone’s direction, all I was going to get was a swift kick in the teeth.
Luckily, meeting people through TNT has convinced me that there is room in the world for someone with a big heart, and that there are others out there who will value the kindness of others, and, heck, they’ll reciprocate. Plus, we’re all together, raising money for a cause that is much, much larger than ourselves. This weekend I won a “Kick A$$ Award” from my coaches for struggling through a tough week and overcoming obstacles. I stood up in front of my team and they all cheered and congratulated me. There they were, a whole group of great people, applauding in appreciation. I know I’m in the right place now.
One of my mother’s friends had said something I found quite profound via Facebook, which was, “Find people who don’t merely tolerate you, find those who celebrate you.” It’s true, when the going gets tough, those people who merely tolerate you will disperse, but those who celebrate you will be there, cheering you on, lifting you up, and letting you be yourself (in all of your glorious weirdness). Those are the people who I want on my team, that’s for sure.
AND THE BEAT GOES ON…
My heart is healthy, full and still growing. If we celebrate anything this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate our capacity to love, our capacity to learn, our capacity to be braver than we think. Every single one of us has the capacity to reach our goals and to support and be supported by the people in our lives who won’t let us down. Take heart in that, and I’m convinced you’ll have a beautiful life.