A Changing of the Seasons

By: Kelly Williamson

 

“Fall marks the end of producing things (a summer activity) and the beginning of producing insight; as we must have an end before something new may begin.” (David Burger, The Interdependence Paradigm)

Fall is a brilliant season. Some of us experience it more fully; the Midwest is tough to beat with the dense trees, but Colorado has been pretty spectacular this year. Nights and early mornings are cooler, trees show off bold yellows, oranges and reds and even the daytime air has a crisp to it. In a society which seems unable to slow down enough to fully appreciate the changing of the seasons, if there is one which we should try to acknowledge and appreciate, I believe this to be fall.

As athletes, we are constantly seeking to attain goals. This happens the majority of the season, and for many athletes, throughout the entire year. Once one is reached, we set the next one. If we miss the bar, we try to reset, refocus and get back on track to try again. While this is part of the brilliance of sport (always something to shoot for), it is crucial to step back occasionally and try to see things from a wide-angle lens. I know in the world of triathlon, it seems that ‘race season’ has become year-round unless you consciously decide what your season entails. What used to be a race season that started in March and ended in October has lengthened to include November and January destination races. Not that these races are bad, and may even make sense to act as a key race (especially when you can work in family, friends or an vacation into the mix). But I caution athletes from letting one season run into the next, without taking the time to reflect, reset and refocus.

As we inch towards the holidays and what is likely the end of most of your race seasons (unless you are already well into off-season by now), I wanted to give a few pieces of advice for how to approach this time of year, while also assuring that you get the most out of the previous months of hard work and competition.

Reflect. Think back on the past few months. What went well, and what did not? Did you meet the goals you set out earlier in the year? If not, what were the reasons. Was this due to things within or outside of your control? It is important to step back and contemplate the past year with an honest, even vulnerable eye. Whether you look at it as a successful year or one full of struggle, the best thing you can do to continue growing as an athlete (and a person) is to gain insight from it. If things went well, keep this in mind for the future. Some things fell flat, well; now you know. Don’t be afraid to talk ask others to talk. There is nothing heroic about going it alone when you can really use a friend, teammate or coach to help talk things through more productively. I firmly believe all experiences in life teach us more about ourselves; take the time to sort through what you have learned and use it going forward.

Disconnect. The value of disconnecting can never be overestimated. I actually think there can be immense value in this ANY time of the year, but especially in the off season. Check your Instagram, Facebook, or Slowtwitch-like sites less – move these off of an easily accessible location on a device – and pick up a book you have been meaning to read. Walk your dogs more. Cook. Dive into an independent study course. Whatever gets you to be on a device less is a good thing. What I really recommend is taking a trip whereby being connected is not even an option. For us, this year that was the Boundary Waters; 5 days of canoeing, camping and navigating with a map and your good old intuition. No GPS. Honestly, 5 days wasn’t long enough. Try it in any capacity you can; you won’t regret it.

Reconnect. Take the time you would usually be TRAINING to – not train. Spend more time with the friends that you had to say ‘no’ to earlier in the year due to a race or an early morning session. Take a trip to see a friend or family. Say YES to the spur of the moment mountain bike ride, hike, or happy hour. Reconnect to friends, family and other things in your life (even personally) that may often times get neglected. View this time of year as an open palette; one that you can make look exactly as it needs to look for you, to enable you to be happy, balanced, and healthy as a person and an athlete. There are no rules. Take a giant step away from the usual structure and enjoy the time of year where you can make people and experiences a priority. It’s important. It’s very important.

Assess. Think a bit about the path you’ve taken and decide what you want the journey to look like going forward. Maybe you qualified for a huge race in 2019 – awesome! You know your ‘path’ may be focused on and revolve around this. But it isn’t always so clear. Be very honest with yourself. Assure that you’re happy where you are, and if you can’t honestly say you are then make some decisions. Do you need to change direction? These decisions can be difficult, but only you know what the best approach is. And you know what? Sometimes you just don’t know. And that is OK. But you owe it to yourself to try to listen to your Inner Self and respect what the voice is saying. Don’t be afraid to set bigger goals, or perhaps; shift another direction AWAY from the ‘big goals’ in the coming year. Because no matter what, you will be living, learning and growing; and that in itself should be the ultimate goal.[/fusion_text]