Doing it for the Challenge

So, I got to thinking the other day. Yes, this does happen from time to time. And no, it’s not always a good thing.

Anyway, I got to thinking about a comment I hear over and over again from athletes – specifically endurance athletes. If you ask them “why” they do what they do, they often respond that they do it for the challenge. They love the “challenge” of a marathon. Or they love the “challenge” of the ultra-marathon. They enjoy seeing how much discomfort they can tolerate or challenge their bodies to handle.

The common approach to these challenges of course is that we train. We train day in and day out. We train in the rain. We train through the heat. We train though freezing temperatures and sub-zero wind chills. We train in the hills, on the plains and in forests and on beaches.

So, in thinking about this I think most athletes have this all wrong. All that training actually reduces the challenge! If you really want a challenge; if that is truly what you are in it for – to test yourself – to see how much you can tolerate; then really the approach should be quite the opposite. If you truly want a challenge in running your next marathon – don’t train! Right! Think about it. If you don’t train you exponentially increase your challenge on race day! Thereby you greatly increase your satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Can you imagine the wondrous feeling of overcoming a challenge by NOT being prepared for it? Training in fact reduces the challenge. We’ve all known someone who entered some race and for every reason under the sun (excuse making) never really trained for it. But since they were entered, they ran it. Maybe they have it right and those of us doing all this training are off base. Don’t train. Take on the challenge head on. You against the distance or the course.

Perhaps this will become a whole new way to view running, cycling, swimming, triathlons, and duathlons. The experience of running a 50 or 100 mile ultra-marathon without training would truly fulfill your sense of accomplishment. The bonus? You don’t waste all that time training. You can just live your life like you do.

What do you think?


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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7 Responses to Doing it for the Challenge

  1. mizunogirl says:

    Giggling about this a bit. I’ve never been able to explain why I run. I was asked by a few Doctors this year and a few Physical therapists. I eventually had to say, “It is just what I do”. I ran a half Marathon last year that I was not adequately trained for (One month after a Marathon, and I just slacked after the Marathon!). it was challenging, but horrific.
    I think what the Athletes mean when they say Challenge is not how much they can endure, but How well they can do when it all comes down to the wire. Its one thing to regularly do something on your own, but another to prove, with a timing system etc, that you can do it!
    I’ve had years when I didn’t run any official races, but I still trained. Go figure. maybe I wasn’t that into the challenge, because running after all is just what I do. ;D

  2. Junette West says:

    I think that what they really mean is they run these long marathon races for the “accomplishment” of being able to do it. I have never run a long race (ever!), but I would image these athletes know that they couldn’t accomplish the challenge without training for it.

  3. Dean Hebert says:

    This is great. I agree with you Mizuno and Junette. I wrote this of course tongue in cheek. The entire concept with “challenge” is actually very interesting aspect of motivation for people. The actual SUCCESSFUL accomplishment of the challenge is what boosts our self esteem. No one wants to fail. But I just find it kinda funny to do things for the “challenge of it”. Leave it to me to put a twist on something so positive. 🙂

  4. John M says:

    For something like a marathon, you could argue that the training IS the challenge. It’s a challenge to put in all those weeks and months of hard training. Even if someone doesn’t actually complete the marathon run itself on the day, that’s still a big accomplishment.

  5. Scott says:

    I always think back on the first Ironman athletes and how they had no idea what they were getting into. Can you imagine no “GU?” The horror. You are so right. The true challenge is something you have never done before.

  6. Marky says:

    I thought this was a good point. Yeah, the real challenge is not racing so much… it’s preparing to reduce the challenge.

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