Improving at swim, bike, and run is a great goal—but don't lose sight of why you started this sport in the first place.

One of my biggest claims to fame is how “slow” I manage to do triathlon. In life, however, I do everything at the speed of light. I am a fast reader, writer, grocery shopper, lunch-maker, crafter, and more. But when it comes to swim, bike, and run, I go at the “speed of me.” Turns out, that speed is a little more tortoise than hare—even though I have “hare-y” moments.

And you know what? I am (finally) okay with the speed of me.

One of the biggest “problems” with our sport is that it is a sport that requires “speed.” Duh, Meredith. It’s a race. True. Now, hear me out.

“Race” is such a sensitive word when it comes to triathlon for those of us not winning any land speed contests. Why? Because we want to participate, we want to challenge ourselves—and sometimes, we put ourselves into a position of “I am not good enough, because I am not as fast as you.” We do it to ourselves, and sometimes we don’t even see it.

We forget where we came from.

We forget why we came to triathlon.

Like many of you, I came to this sport seeking a life change. I wanted something different for my life. Triathlon became the way out of a rut, a motivator to rip me out of my complacency for my mom-bod that had been a trash can for over a decade. As I participated in triathlons, I wanted to get “faster,” sure. But when I started out, it had nothing to do with speed.

When I began swimming, biking, and running I simply wanted to be able to do those things in a race called a triathlon. That was enough for me—to work hard and finish—to change up my life. I felt like a super hero in my first triathlon—even though I crashed in transition and forgot my swim cap. I felt like a super hero because I did something that I would have previously thought impossible.

As we grow and become more capable athletes, the ease with which we will beat ourselves up over the speed we move across sea and land becomes silly.  Setting goals and reaching them is amazing. If you want to go faster and that’s a goal—then do it. But for the mere mortals with families, jobs, and other outside pulls on us, having this constant drive to go faster, do more, and be better can really take a toll. We can harm ourselves beyond sensible drive; we can put immense pressure at the expense of our health and relationships.

My point? Get faster if that’s what you want and it makes sense for your life.

But if the cost of getting faster is taking an emotional, spiritual, and psychological toll on you? If it’s causing other things that are more important in life to take a back seat?

Try to dial it back. Remember why triathlon was such a catalyst at the beginning for you. Change up the routine with weight training or a 5K goal. Reassess where you are and what it is you are really seeking with swim, bike, and run. It’s true that triathlon is a race—but life is not. And if triathlon is here to better our lives, then ironically we may need to slow down a little in all areas.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman: You Can Be a Triathlete. Yes. You. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children and writes about all things at MeredithAtwood.com. In addition to Triathlon, she has a second book due out Fall 2019.