Beginner’s Luck: On Falling Down (and Getting Back Up)

Failure in life and triathlon is where the lessons are born.

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When coaching new triathletes, one of the most common fears they have is either learning to ride a bike or re-learning as an adult to be on two wheels. Unless you grew up as a cyclist, riding a bike as an adult can be daunting. Crashing. Falling over at stoplights. Looking silly. Those are just a few. (None of these things have happened to me—like, ever. Ha. Who am I kidding? Low-speed tipovers are my specialty.)

And cycling is not for the faint of heart, nor is it without danger.

That being said, we will experience little crashes and moments of fear in cycling. We can stay indoors on our spin bikes and trainers as much as possible—and those are not bad options, for sure—but at some point, we need to get outside and face the fears of riding outside. (Here are some tips for starting out cycling and of course, the ever important cycling etiquette.)

Triathlon and cycling (in particular) are giant lessons in what I like to call the “Failure Battleground.”

The Failure Battleground, as I talk about in my upcoming book, The Year of No Nonsense (Fall 2019), is basically a synonym for life. Life is a Failure Battleground: it’s is just one big giant experience in failing, starting over, and getting up and going again. The Failure Battleground is the war of life—we are all fighting to just keep going, let alone to thrive and succeed in our own realms. At times, we are all struggling hard. But it’s what we do when our fears seem insurmountable, when we think we can’t go on, or we can’t get back up that proves what is truly possible. We have to conquer and embrace the Failure Battleground, and suit-up anyway.

Cycling can feel like a constant mess in the beginning; like we will never get it right or truly feel comfortable. But focusing on the terror that the ride can bring will make anyone shake in her cycling shoes. However, if we approach each situation with the Failure Battleground mindset—knowing that we will fight, fall and, fail—then it takes the pressure off perfection and performance. We can give ourselves grace and a break. We simply know that we are going into battle and the unknown should be not only expected, but almost welcomed.

What!? Why would we welcome failure?

Because failure in life and triathlon is where the lessons are born. In embarrassment, in hard times, in falling down—we afford ourselves the opportunity to get back up, to rise, to grow into the person (and triathlete) we want to be.

Don’t shy away from the cycling (or swimming, or life) Failure Battleground—just embrace it and recognize that lessons are lurking everywhere. With each lesson we grow stronger. Keep trying, keep working, and remember consistency truly is the key to triathlon. Just keep moving forward.

Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a 4x IRONMAN triathlete, 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 is married with two tweens and writes about all things at Her next book, The Year of No Nonsense, is due out Fall 2019.