4 Reasons Triathlons Changed My Life With Chronic Illness

I know what you’re thinking…Oh no, not another person who is preaching a way of life like Crossfit, Beach Body, or some other fitness program right? Before you stop reading, I want you to just take a minute to read on and hear why triathlons changed my life and gave me structure to manage my chronic illnesses.

Why did I chose triathlons? Of all the challenges I could take on, why did I select one that doesn’t just have one sport to focus on, but three? Some of the answers to these questions are easy, some go a little deeper. Today I just want to share a few reasons why triathlons have changed my life.

The Community – Before I even started to think about triathlons, I talked to a few people who had experience completing multiple distances within the sport. When I spoke to all of them, they all mentioned one thing more than any other, the community is made up of some of the most supportive people in the world.

Yes, there is a sense of competition, but at the same time everyone just wants to see the other athletes succeed and perform well race day. The support that I have received not only on race day, but during the training journey has been incredible and now I am hooked.

The Structure – When you’re living with a chronic illness, many days don’t have structure. There are times when you are just trying to survive the day at hand. I’ve been there, I know how that feels. While I love the community, one of the best parts of the sports for me is the structure it has given my life. Every day has a plan of some sort, do I always follow it NO (but if I’m even close I make progress), but having a game plan when I wake up allows me to feel like I have purpose and guides me to strive for more each day.

Are there days when I HAVE to stay in bed, of course. Are there days when I push through because I might feel better after my training, yep. Are there days that feel like a success and days I feel like I missed an opportunity (I don’t like to use the word “Failure”), definitely. But in the end, I’ve found the structure has not only give me a boost to train, it’s also bled into other areas of my life. I have a game plan for everything, and I’ve found that even when I get just a little bit of the plan done, I still have made progress.

The Starting Line (And The Finish Line) – Yes, you read that right the starting line is a big part of the sport that I love. The challenge ahead when I register for any distance race, is one I have to take seriously. Living with multiple chronic illnesses makes every race a challenge in some way. There will be planning, there will be training, there will be nutrition, there will be nightly and morning routines that need to be followed. This all leads to one thing, getting to a place many people with or without a chronic illness get to, the starting line.

At the beginning of each race I am always nervous. Thinking about the timing of medications, ostomy, nutrition, etc are all on my mind. What could go wrong is something that always enters my head. But at the same time when I train properly and plan properly, I know I can do this. I know that getting to the starting line for something many people would never do is an accomplishment in itself. Which makes it that much better when I cross the finish line and get another medal for my collection.

The Mental Strength – Do you know the reason why the military demands everyone makes their bed first thing in the morning? It’s because you feel accomplished right way. Task one for the day is checked off and you haven’t even stepped away from where you slept yet. This is another reason why triathlons changed my life.

Whether it is making the right decision on what I’m eating, getting a workout in that I was going to skip, getting up off the couch to stretch before bed, or preparing for the next day, getting all of these things done (or even just some of them) make me feel accomplished. And we all know how well this feels. We’ve all been on rolls when decision making is right and you’re getting stuff done. It improves your mental health and strength in so many ways.

So these are just some of the major reasons why triathlon has changed my life. And while I know triathlons might not be for you. I want to ask you a question, what is something in your wheelhouse that could add some of these things? If you can find something that keeps you mentally and physically health (whatever your level of fitness is), adds structure to your life, and has a community to support you…I SAY GO FOR IT!

Below is just a little look at some of the prep needed just to pack and be ready for my Ironman back in August.

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