A triathlon, like fatherhood, is a multiple-stage event. It involves the completion of three continuous and sequential endurance disciplines of which swimming is just one of them. It's one of my favourite examples that draw parallels to becoming a father, because, like triathletes, us fathers will have to go through multiple-stage events throughout our children’s life (New babies, toddlers, adolescent teens and then adulthood). What are the 3 stages I hear you pondering! Well! The stages (or the Legs) of a Triathlon start with the "hardest" event first; Swimming then it goes on to the cycling event and then finally the running stage.
If you’ve never swum before, learning how to swim for a triathlon would be an interesting experience. The first time you experience getting into that swimming pool, your brain will go into panic mode and will tell your body to start swinging your arms and kicking your legs just to make it to the safe side of the pool! You would suddenly become overwhelmed with the feeling that if you fail to keep your body in motion, then you just might sink and be at risk of death. In theory, this makes sense however there's not structure involved... no technique! You'd just swing your hands in whatever direction, kick for your life and hope for the best. Our survival instincts kick in, however, whilst survival mode may at best allow you to tread water with a doggy paddle to keep your head above water but it will not also allow you to move through the waves with each stride you take.
When I became a dad I had to understand very quickly that this is a long distant event and I wasn't going to win at it by doggy paddling my way through! I had to do more than just keep my head above the water. I would have to be strong, be able to endure the long distance and be skilful when it came to adjusting my methods and strategies throughout my child's life. Parenting isn't for the weak nor the faint hearted. If we’re to master it, it’ll take training. Fatherhood is THE Triathlon of the sporting world. It not the most glamorous sport and the rewards and recognition are modest but these are the athletes that are physically and mentally at the top of their game and I wanted to share 3 things that a triathlete and a father cannot win his race without!
noun “The ability to do something well; expertise.”
synonyms: expertise, skilfulness, expertness, adeptness, adroitness, deftness, dexterity, ability, prowess, mastery, competence, competency, capability, efficiency, aptitude, artistry, art, finesse, flair, virtuosity, experience, professionalism, talent, cleverness, smartness, ingenuity, versatility, knack, readiness, handiness;
We have a saying in my house; "Do the basics brilliantly" and when you first start learning how to prepare for Triathlon it starts with taking it back to basics. The first thing you're taught is the not how to swim but how to float. You would be taught how to position your body in your surroundings so that you can master the art of weightlessness. The hundred metre sprinter will run in the same line over and over again but the triathlete has to face the open waters of the English Channel and their course is always new. He will never swim the same path twice. Not only will he never swim the same path but the conditions of which this kind of athlete swims in are always subject to change at any point. Whether they are facing the wind, coldness, darkness or strong waves they continue to swim to the end goal no matter the condition! The fact that they are subject to the uncertainty of the weather conditions means that they must be skilful in learning how to constantly change their strategy, make course corrections every few stroke, and routinely evaluate existing conditions in order to reach their finish line.
I became like the person who had been placed in the swimming pool for the first time and I was so reactive it's almost embarrassing to talk about but the truth is that I was so focused on becoming a father that I hadn't given much thought to actually being a dad! I was like a Triathlete who buys all the specialist gear but hasn't yet learned how to manoeuvre himself through the waves of the English Channel. He looks the part but he really doesn't have a clue what he is doing! We had everything we needed and was prepared for when daughter finally arrived, however, I needed to learn a few new basic skills that would allow me to continue to compete at this stage of my parenting triathlon. I've had to learn skills like how to selflessly lead and put the needs and wants of my family before mine, how to be adaptable when life throws me a wave that comes a little bit higher and crashes a little bit harder than usual and, how to "exercise patience when progress isn't yet visible" Tweet this! and I'm going against the tide of "normality".
noun “The capacity of an object or substance to withstand great force or pressure.”
synonyms: robustness, sturdiness, firmness, toughness, soundness, solidity, solidness, durability, stability; impregnability, resistance
A triathlete will train and strengthen many different muscles in his body because the events he takes part in requires him to use almost every ounce of strength his body possesses. In order for a triathlete to compete in a triathlon, he doesn't just show up and rely on pure physical strength. He understands that if he is to compete at his optimum level it requires him to live a certain lifestyle. This means they have to avoid eating the kind of junk food that they once loved. They can't party hard and stay up late like they use to. They can not afford to miss a day of training and in some cases, they have to be denied sexual activity before a race (parallel beyond belief lol!). This takes a massive amount of strength. Similarly, a father's strength is tested in every area of his parenting life.
I like to think a father's role is like a well-built house, protecting all those under its shelter from the elements. Whether it rains heavy, it’s cold outside or the winds are stronger than ever, this well-built house keeps those within it protected. It’s a father’s strength that provides protection for his family against the financial, emotional or even spiritual storms when they come! His strength makes sure that nothing causes his family permanent discomfort or serious harm. We never really notice what the weather is like unless we step outside and such is the case with a strong fathers children. His protection shields his family so well that they are unaware of what exactly they are being protected from. The kind of strength a father needs to protect his loved ones is not always that of brute strength but often requires his mental strength. It takes a great deal of mental strength to be the example as it often requires a man to deny himself some of the things he may want to have or do. Just as the triathlete denies himself unhealthy foods that prevent him from becoming his best, a father trains himself to stay away from the things that will ultimately prevent him from competing at his best. It takes a strong supporting father/father figure to build strong children. "A father's strength makes all the difference in a child's life." Tweet this!
noun "The ability to endure an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way.”
synonyms: toleration, bearing, tolerance, sufferance, fortitude, forbearance, patience, acceptance, resignation, stoicism, stamina, staying power, fortitude, perseverance, persistence, tenacity
Triathlons are the pinnacle of endurance testing sports. Each leg of the race pushes the athlete to the limit and it takes a huge amount of endurance. A triathlete has to seriously work on conditioning his mind to never give up. They have a long journey ahead of them and although this kind of athlete requires a certain amount of physical strength, the triathlon, in reality, is really a test of will power more than their physical ability. Being a father is very similar. At the very least, your investment of time and energy will be spent over the first 16 years but it doesn't stop there. Just when you think your race is done, the gears simply change and you're pushing towards the next leg of the race.
I've never had the pleasure of competing in a triathlon nor have I done any regular forms of endurance training, however, in my former years I was no stranger to the gym. I always found that whenever I went to the gym and worked out by myself I always lacked the drive to push that last set of weights out even though I know that It's often that last set that's the difference between a good workout and a great workout! I wish I had the drive to get that last set out independently, however, I know that if I really want to push myself then I will find a training or sparring partner that will challenge me to push "ONE MORE!!!" I've found that in learning more about fatherhood I'm having to team up with other guys that I can be accountable to help endure some of the heavyweights that come with the job.
I once heard that when we feel like giving up because we've "given our best" we normally only given about 20% and have 80% more to give. Whatever stage of the journey you're currently at, being a dad is a tough job and when you feel like you've given it everything and you feel like throwing in the towel, you've got ask yourself ‘Can I give more?’. If you dig deep you'll find the answer is usually: ‘Yes’. Tweet this! This is when our endurance will help us stick it out to the end and keep going because THIS is one race we cannot afford to not finish.
What are your thoughts? What's your favourite sporting analogy and how does it relate to your journey as a father?
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