I’m only a couple of weeks away from competing in Ironman NZ 2015 so please forgive me if my every waking thought is consumed by the challenge that lies ahead. So why is Ironman such a great metaphor for life in general? When people look at Ironman the first thing they think of is that it’s a tremendously physical challenge…and they’d be right. But it’s more than that. The physical, although essential, is only one component of making it to the finish line. The other essential components are the mental, emotional and spiritual aspects that make up the human condition. These aspects are key, not only for Ironman, but for life.
The Physical Component
It’s a no-brainer to say that without a vehicle it’s hard to get anywhere fast, we all need a physical body to do things. With modern technology this is now possible for quadriplegics and the severely handicapped but still the body needs energy to perform and produce an output. If your energy is low or your ‘vehicle’ is performing below optimal, the output will be poor and it is highly likely that the quality of your life will also be impacted. How we move our bodies and what we put into them has a direct impact on our ability to perform well in life. If we fuel our bodies with highly processed and low nutritional value food the likely outcome is our energy levels will severely slump during the day and we need to give it a kick start by stimulating our adrenal glands through the introduction of caffeine into the system. Some people basically survive on coffee (or energy drinks) and severely fatigue their adrenals over time further inhibiting the body’s natural ability to produce its own energy. This blog isn’t about nutrition and we all know the right choices that will make us feel more energised and lighter. In a nutshell, eat more fruit, vegetables and nuts throughout the day and you may find that the 3 o’clock slump doesn’t hit you anymore and you have more energy in the evenings for…well…you know. The physical component of the body is an interesting one because the body generates energy through expending energy (the fitness response). This simply means get out there and exercise aerobically for at least 20 minutes 3 times a week. Easy, right? Also, in order to reduce the loss of muscle tissue and slow down the onset of ‘middle-age’ spread, it is necessary to introduce resistance training into your weekly routine…go lift some weights.
The Mental Component
One of the biggest challenges of Ironman is finishing the event and because you’re pushing your body for anywhere between 8 1/2 hours for the pros to 17 hours for the age-groupers mental strength is so important. When your body just wants to stop and every muscle is screaming for a reprieve what is it that keeps people going? This is where your mental strength kicks in. Just as in life we all hit tough times…times that really stretch us to the limit, times when we just want to throw in the towel. The difference between those who do and those who don’t comes down to the discipline of our internal dialogue. If you were called names and told you’re worthless by a drunk on the side of the road, would you believe him? Probably not. But isn’t it true that we say things to ourselves that are much worse and because our thoughts go unfiltered and they’re inside our own heads…it’s us that is ‘saying them’…they must be true. Nonsense! Research tells us that those who filter out the negativity and focus on positive self-affirming thoughts are happier, more successful, have better relationships, perform better at work and at sport. Some people don’t have a strategy for dealing with those negative thoughts when they arise, do you? Could you imagine those thoughts as a barking dog tied to a tree and you just walk on by? Or as a murder of crows flying overhead growing quieter as they fly off into the distance. What’s your strategy for preventing negative thought patterns taking hold?
The Emotional Component
During Ironman it’s not unusual to go through a whole gambit of emotions on the day. Anxiety, despair, helplessness, fear, joy and elation…what a day! These are just a few of the emotions humans are capable of and we go through life feeling a whole lot more every day. Some people tend to feel the same emotion more regularly than others be it anxiety, depression, anger, sadness or conversely happiness, joy and excitement. The thing we need to remember about emotions is that they are there to serve us. Emotions, or more specifically, negative emotions, are a signal to us that something is not right with our internal world. Most people linger here and get stuck but our power comes from identifying the emotion and understanding the message it is trying to tell us. Being anxious about something simply means that you may have to prepare better for a future event or have faith that, in the long run, everything will turn out fine. Frustration means that we have expectations of how we want things to be but for whatever reason they’re just not lining up that way. Maybe we need to readjust our expectations or take a different approach to achieve the result we want. Don’t get stuck with your emotions, listen to them and then act on them.
The Spiritual Component
There’s no doubt that when you’re about half way through a marathon after cycling 180km and swimming 3.8km before that that you might say a little prayer that sounds something like, “Dear God, help me cross the finish line and I’ll never do anything like this again!” But this isn’t entirely what I mean when I talk about the Spiritual Component. For many people it certainly does involve your Creator but for others it’s something that is bigger than and outside of themselves. It’s what Maslow referred to as Self-Actualisation where you are growing in yourself and also contributing to society or others in some way. It might be a cause that you feel deeply about and you can’t help but focusing your energy in this direction. To be fully happy, I believe, it’s necessary to move toward something in life that will cause you to grow as a person and also enable you to give back. Therefore I also refer to the Spiritual Component as the ‘Purposeful Component’. The difference between having a purpose in life and having a goal in life is with a purpose you are often pulled in that direction; with a goal you might sometimes find yourself pushing to achieve something and not even be clear why you want to achieve it. What’s your purpose in life? Or, what could your purpose in life be right now?
When you consciously take control of your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual/purposeful components you feel an energy, an enthusiasm and a joy for life that you only felt when you were a child. Take control of each of these aspects and be prepared to live a life filled with expectation, happiness and purpose! It’s all within your control. But what’s the sunscreen got to do with it, I hear you ask? Well, in the same way you have to look after yourself out on the course, you have to look after yourself in life too. Take the time to remind yourself of what’s important and do the things you need to do to take care of yourself.
If you’d like to know more about how to live life with an abundance of energy, or if you’re just generally curious about what professional coaching can offer you, please contact us at any time for a free consultation.