If you have listened to a conversation of the most successful athletes in the world, the top businessmen, the greatest scientists, or anyone who has made significant waves in this life, you will notice a particular way about them; something different that just stands out. There is a certain head space that successful people learn to function in. Endurance training, I feel, is a great classroom to learn this sort of mindset.
Anyone who has undertaken a training program for an endurance event like an IronMan triathlon, an ultra-trail run, or a long-distance swim, etc. will know the hours required to train. These hours are made somewhat easier when done in the company of a community but oftentimes we find ourselves doing it alone. In these long hours of training there is a lonely place your mind wanders to. This place of solitude, whether out alone or in a group, is an internal reality that endurance athletes learn to function in. It is a place where you learn to become an overcomer, someone of mental resilience, and a person of tough character.
Many endurance athletes spend a lot of time alone in training. A 1-2 hour swim, head underwater, is mentally brutal. The headspace you find yourself in, when in long training sessions, can be a silent, lonely place. It is an extremely personal space to be in – a solitude that belongs only to you. It is a place of reflection, processing, and planning. Our own voices scream louder than ever, challenging us on every emotional level. I believe that consistently choosing to get into this space, and overcoming all that you find there, forms a certain character within – a person of resilience. It is a space that you cannot describe to others, it is yours and only you know what happens there.
I think that we underestimate the power of our own will. What I love about endurance training is that it forces you to challenge yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally. It might be easy to just let kilometres tick by, but we all have an inner conviction to do more, be faster, and perform better. Perhaps the deep subconscious state of survival mode plays a role with this. Regardless, we want to be better than we previously were. This is where I believe top athletes get things right. They recognize the challenge within themselves, and fight against that. Day after day, they train to be better – not of their opponents, but themselves. Top CEOs of companies don’t become great simply by chance. They graft hour by hour on building something which they have envisioned. Characteristics for success, therefore, can be forged in the solitude of training and consistent application of work.
Physiologically and physically, training for an endurance event will change you. The science for the physical body to adapt is hard-proof and well versed in literature. You are able to become a well-trained machine even if you were for the better part of your life a couch-potato. Mentally, though, it would be beneficial to listen to the stories of endurance athletes to understand what happens. I do not think it is the same for every individual though. I think that our experiences of training differ, based on so many factors. The one thing we can be sure of, is that you will become a better person for it; you will have a toughness that few people have or understand. This, in my opinion, is worth seeking. So challenge yourself. Sign up for that event you only dreamed of doing, and just maybe your life will change for the better.