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Sometimes you have to just say “no” in order to stay sane.
Last year, I was standing in line at the grocery store chatting it up with a random stranger, when my seven-year old daughter interrupted and told the man, succinctly, “You know my mom has seven jobs.” The man looked at me, laughing. When I didn’t laugh along with him, he looked puzzled. Because, at the time, I sort of did have seven jobs—but I also had a bigger problem. An unfailing inability to say the magic two-letter word: N-O. Because of this inability to say “no,” I had found myself in a serious situation of over-yes-ing, and at such, I was a jack of many trades, and starting to lose my mind.
Shonda Rimes, the amazing producer behind the hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, wrote a hilarious book called the “Year of Yes,” where she talks about the one year where she said “yes” to everything and how awesome that was for her. I think that for many of us, we might have too much introversion and allow ourselves to stay in the shadows, not step into the sun, and the like. So practicing saying “yes” is a good thing. However, the more I work with athletes and clients, especially women, I find that we actually have more of a problem with the word “no.”
And many of us need to start using it. Like toddlers: NO NO NO!
Over the last year, I learned to flex my “no” muscles, and I was feeling pretty proud of myself. But then I signed up for a great and noble obligation that came with a two-year commitment. I wanted to be a part of the thing, but as the time ticked on, I knew that I was drowning. The events and things I needed to do with my family and my life were going to suffer and fall behind from this obligation. I had to say, “No.” Of course, I felt rotten doing it because I was letting people down; I was failing to live up to my commitment. At the same time, in the moment I let it go, I knew that it was the right decision, because I immediately felt lighter.
The same goes for swimming, cycling and running (and racing in particular). I find it so simple to get trigger-race-registration happy and say “yes yes yes” to so many races in the off-season. But later, when the rubber meets the road, we find that we have seriously over committed and our lives may not, at times, even be functioning well. Then we start worrying and causing drama in our households—and for what? A race that we were supposed to do for fun? Sometimes the greatest part about triathlon is taking a step back and not saying “yes” to the sport for a season—whether that season is a race season or just a period of time—sometimes NO is a powerful word in the sport of triathlon as well—and we come out better and more rounded triathletes in the long-run.
Meredith Atwood (@SwimBikeMom) is a recovering attorney and author of Triathlon for the Every Woman. She is the co-host of the new podcast, “The Health Nut and the Hot Mess,” and a co-founder of 3HU: Healthy Happy Hardworking U, a health, life and nutrition coaching program. She lives in Atlanta with her husband and two children, and blogs about all things at MeredithAtwood.com.