Beginner’s Luck: Why We Tri

Remember to find your reasons for triathlon and go back to those each time, writes Meredith Atwood.

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Remember to find your reasons for triathlon and go back to those each time, writes Meredith Atwood.

There’s a sentiment in triathlon that you should work your “weakest” sport the most. Makes sense, I guess—if you aren’t great at something, you should keep practicing to bring it up to proficiency. Sometimes however, that one sport we need to practice really becomes a drag.

Dreading the workout or that leg of the race starts takes the fun out of what we are doing in the first place. We start to think: I hate to run. I hate to ride. I hate to swim.

Sort of begs the question: why are we doing this sport? If we are saying those words, what are we doing? If we hate any part of it, why do we keep showing up? Sure, there’s a testament to our commitment and our speed and our amazing discipline.

But are there valid reasons to keep coming back to something when we say things like, “I hate to run” over and over again? Perhaps.

I wrote this post last year about how annoyed I was when people told me to do triathlon for FUN. I was annoyed because I realized that people out there having all this alleged fun were actually good at swimming, cycling, and running. No wonder it was so much fun! Those of us struggling with the mere execution in proficiency of aforesaid sports were actually doing triathlon for other amazing reasons—we had to. Because fun was hard.

In fact, we were doing triathlon because it was hard, not because it was fun.

I do triathlon because I am a competitive person. But I’m not competing with you, I am competing with me. I started the sport because I wanted something for me. Not something weeeeeeeeee! that’s fun! Triathlon was something scary and challenging and huge. Something that could show my kids what mom was made of—even if it was a low-speed tipover or a really embarrassing first triathlon.  Something to figure out who I was. A place to try and get healthy.

The more I learn about triathletes, the more I learn that so many of us swim, bike, and run to get through something, past a problem, or just to be a part of a community. There are deeper and more important reasons for tri-ing than just fun. There are rare days when running feels easy and the bike ride was a piece of cake. The challenge is precisely what keeps me coming back.

However, there’s a difference between “running is hard” and “I hate to run.” Remember that the words we say become part of who we are—we embody those words and start to believe them. We came to the sport for a reason—we have to remember that why in order to keep going.

Learning to become better in the weakest sport is different than damning the entire sport. When we get to the point where we are living in a state of hatred for one of the sports, it’s a good time to introduce something new like cross-training, take a breather, and regroup in order to find the love again. Get back to your competitive roots or do it for fun again—whatever floats your boat. Just remember to find your reasons for triathlon and go back to those each time.


We want to hear the reasons YOU tri! Tweet us at @Triathletemag and @Swimbikemom.


Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney, motivational speaker and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. You can download a free copy of the book here. She is the host of the podcast, The Same 24 Hours, a show which interviews interesting people who make the best of the 24 hours in each day. Meredith lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and writes about all things at

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