Driving home the other night I was listening to a news story about the challenge gym owners have at this time of year. They struggle to make new members feel welcome while keeping the regulars happy. I get the point they were making. I’ve experienced the onslaught of New Years Resolution fitness crowds at the gym. But it made me kind of sad.
We were all newbies once.
In 2003, when I was preparing for my first triathlon I remember very clearly the anxiety I had about racing, especially open water swimming. I was not a strong swimmer. I told myself that I just needed to survive the swim so that I could get on my bike and start the rest of the race. The starting gun went off for my wave and panic set in. Less than 100 yards into the swim I had already been kicked in the face and had someone swim over me. I felt like I was going to swallow half of the Atlantic. In those moments I HATED triathlon. I was certain I would never do another one.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was back on terra firma. Not concerned about speed, I simply wanted to cross the finish line in one piece and be done. As I cycled along the beach road, I was enjoying the scenery when a man zoomed by me as if I was standing still. He yelled out, “You’re looking good. Keep it up!” I laughed and thanked him silently for his kind words but noticed my pedaling getting a little stronger. Several other competitors passed me and also yelled out words of encouragement. I was baffled. What kind of sport was this where the competition was cheering me on? I crossed the finish line and decided that I LOVED triathlon.
This past September I did my first triathlon in 7 years. It had been over 10 years since I had done an ocean swim and needless to say, some of that old anxiety was creeping in. I was texting with my sister who, in addition to being a great sister, is also a triathlon coach. Her advice to me was to channel my anxiety into helping a newbie. On race morning, I had a few opportunities to help some first timers set up their transition areas, and down at the swim start I helped a couple of women who were uncertain about the course. As I offered them encouragement, I found my own anxiety easing up a bit. I had a great race encouraging others as I passed them!
My challenge for myself this year
When I see someone struggling with something new, rather than getting frustrated with the inconvenience I will try to find a way to offer encouragement and/or assistance.
“Making fun of someone at the gym is like making fun of a homeless person at a job fair. Don’t make fun of someone who is trying to better themselves.”–Facebook meme