Being a member of a local triathlon community and being formally trained by excellent coaches at top tier facilities have a lot of perks. One of these perks is that I have had the honor of being trained by and training with much better athletes than I am. I know some people would see this as an intimidating situation, as working out next to someone who can lap you in the pool, or cycling next to someone who’s cool-down pace is your ‘elbow grease’ pace, can be intimidating. But the way I see it is that this is only intimidating if you let it be. The way I see it, working with and among athletes who are bigger, better and stronger than you is an opportunity to learn from them, and ultimately help you become bigger, better and stronger as well.

On the very same note – and this has always perplexed me – and more often than not, I have rarely seen people go over and talk to these athletes. I have, and maybe that’s because I have absolutely no shame, but it’s also because, well, if I one day want to be as good an athlete as them, or come as close as my genetics will possibly let me, why wouldn’t I try and learn from them? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked an athlete I admired about when and how they started and have them respond by saying that their road to success and increment improvement all started by training with athletes bigger, better and stronger than them.

See where I’m going here?

It’s simple: If you want to be bigger, better and stronger you have to train and surround yourself with people who are bigger, better and stronger than you. Basically, you need to check your ego at the door, drop the natural inclination to be intimidated, and surrender to a complete lack of shame if you want to get better. With that in mind, I put together a list of my observations from training with people bigger, better and stronger than I am and what I have learned from them. In no particular order…

They focus
Training isn’t just something they simply glide through for an hour so they can say: “Well, I exercised for an hour, so now I can go eat a pint of ice cream!”. For these hardcore athletes, training is about getting stronger everyday. Each workout has a focus and determination like their life depends on it, and each new day is focused on getting even stronger. They don’t need a trivial reward because the real reward is finishing.

They have a plan & they write it down
Ask any of these athletes about their current training schedule and they will show you a workout log on paper, tablet or phone. How do you know if you are making progress without a plan? How do you compare yourself against your base if you’re not tracking what you have done since setting the baseline? You can’t improve without a plan, period.

They EAT! But they EAT with purpose.
You won’t find a serious athlete who eats once a day and feasts solely on salad greens. You have to eat to support your activity level. But don’t confuse eating a lot with eating enough. Food is fuel; being an athlete does not mean stuffing your face with everything you so desire. If your performance is waning and the weight on the scale is moving up instead of staying the same or moving down towards your race weight, then you’re likely not fueling your body properly.

They are positive
Imagine setting out for a 70 mile bike ride and your only thought is hoping you can ride 10 of those 70 miles. Every serious athlete I know only has one thought, and that is no matter what, they are determined to finish. From the minute they push off they know 70 miles doesn’t intimidate them and they ride like it.

They educate themselves
We’re all busy but serious athletes always find time to educate themselves on the science of the sport as well as on nutrition and recovery necessary to keep them bigger, better & stronger. There are endless amounts of resources online so there really is no excuse to keep you from continuing to learn!

They are consistent
Dedicated athletes don’t miss workouts unless their body calls for it. If it’s Monday and they have a scheduled workout, no matter how much waking up on Monday sucks, you better bet they are showing up. You won’t find them hitting the snooze button for an extra 10 minutes of sleep. They are up, after it and at it every day they can.

All in all, these are my observations from my experience with training with people who are bigger, stronger and faster than I am. Next time you see an athlete that is “better” than you, don’t be intimidated, ask questions and observe. If your goal is to improve and become better, follow those who are already there. And eventually, when all of this rubs off on you and you are seen as the “bigger, better, stronger” athlete, make sure you return the favor to somebody else down the road.

Image source: www.theguardian.com
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