The Danger of the "One-Up" Game
By Coach Flanigan
As coaches we have the pleasure of working with so many different athletes. Different backgrounds, abilities, motivators, goals, and limiters. The one thing shared by this diverse group of individuals is the strong "A" Type personality. Our friends over at Wikipedia have defined this personality as "an Type A individual as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status conscious, can be sensitive, care for other people, are truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management. People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving "workaholics" who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence." Does this sound like you??? I'm sure it does.
The world of endurance sport appears to facing a new epidemic……The "One Up" Game. What is the "One-Up" Game you ask. Its the constant pursuit to go bigger, longer, more extreme, insane, dangerous than the last person and its becoming dangerous in my opinion. What I am referring to is not the newer challenges (more extreme) being presented by race directors, in fact I welcome those races. Its the day to day, Social Media fueled, personal "one-ups" I speak of. We somehow have moved past the day of a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlon being an major goal. Now they are the first and second steeping stone on the way to some ones third triathlon being an Ironman. What happened to getting fast at the shorter (yet extremely challenging) distance? Have you ever truly raced an Olympic distance race? It hurts BAD! Yet the sporting community has started to adopt the super sized mentality. I have heard people state the unless its a Full Iron Distance race…its not really a triathlon. These people have clearly never raced with the needle in the red for 2+ hours because thats as painful as any 17 hour waltz.
But let me clear up my point. What concerns me are not the longer, more extreme, more EPIC (most overused word in endurance sport) races. Its not even the desire to go longer, more extreme, or more EPIC (oh its a painful word) as an athlete. My point is this new social media driven "One-Up" game. What do I mean? Follow this fictious exchange:
Joey: I just rode 100 miles this morning
Billy: I'm waiting for the scheduled solar flares so I can ride when its 135 degrees…heat acclimation.
Shane: Wow…thats crazy. I'm just shortening my ride to 80 miles but I'm doing it all up hill…..but half way up I will light my jersey on fire….heat acclimation
Joey: Damn….I should have waited for you guys. Guess I will go run for an hour during that solar flare. Forgot about its benefits.
To the outsider looking on at this exchange, many athletic minded say to them selves "am I doing enough", "should I be doing that instead", "That sounds fun, I know I'm not prepared but whats the worse that can happen". The cycle never ends….should I be going longer, doing more, going harder, should I be doing 2 Ironmans a year, maybe 3, 4, or 5 of them.
The beauty of Endurance Sport is that its an individual event that challenges us. Being that "A" Type personality described before makes us successful at it. The fact is that it is an INDIVIDUAL sport and some of the most successful are those that don't get wrapped up in what EVERYONE else is doing and do for themselves. Its fun to have training partners, its beneficial to work hard with others, but only if the training and work being done have a direct and positive impact on what YOUR goals are. Going longer, further, more extreme, more EPIC are not always the way to go.
Ask yourself if what your doing has a potential positive result before you jump on the "20 miles on the Sun Run", "Swim Across the Atlantic", or "Frozen Bottle Century". Do a Risk/Reward Analysis…..is it worth the "Fun".
Ask yourself if the race you want to sign up for is for you, your friends, your ego, or your Facebook Status?
Many of the athletes I work with are on occasion asked by me to reflect back to why they entered the sport and to grab onto those roots as they tend to be the best reminder of who we truly are. We start off by doing these things for ourselves. Loose some weight, adopt a healthy lifestyle, or mix things up in life. Before you know it your a slave to data, heart rate, power, minutes per mile, watts per kilo, and the fun starts to change. Get back to your roots and do for yourself, do it for the love, and do it for YOUR goals.
Be Smart, be safe, and be Yourself….the world will still love you if you decide against the triple Ironman next year.