As my Ironman St George training ramps up I find myself thinking often, “this is hard.” 

  • 4am alarms are hard. 
  • Training to ride a technical course with thousands of feet of elevation is hard.
  • Doing so inside during the WI winter is hard. 
  • Running in freezing temps, dodging ice, mostly in the dark is hard. 
  • And doing all of this alone is hard

Don’t stop reading! This is not a blog in which I whine the entire time about “how hard my life is,” or an arrogant chance to brag about how I am handling all of these hard things with some kind of superhero power (which clearly I am not 😉 

I also know that these hard things do not compare to real hard things affecting all of us and others throughout the world—the lingering affects of a tapering off global pandemic, perpetual political division and unrest, and now the possibility of a world war. They pale in comparison to many other serious circumstances you all are facing (and me too). But we cannot control our circumstances, we can only control how we react to them. And we often don’t know what will come next. So I choose to ride the waves of what I cannot control and also of what I can. 

And in the midst of all of this, life does go on. And while we navigate it, a light shines on the importance of having a WHY for all that we do. I know firsthand through coaching and training that it sincerely works to have a purpose to return to it when things get hard when going after a goal. 

My overarching WHY: I value growth, health, and overall wellbeing, and so I will inspire and encourage others through words and action to set hard goals, grow, and to learn in order to be the best version of themselves, not only as athletes but as people.

My WHY for this goal: I value hard work and integrity, and so I will show up to my Ironman St George training process daily in order to encourage and inspire my family, friends, athletes, readers, and social media followers that we can find value in doing hard things. 

Put basically, I realized in order to honor my overarching WHY I needed a hard goal. 

The way I defined this goal as “hard” when I made it before signing up last August: 

  1. My personal priority (outside of family and friends) right now is work. Training has to be fit in early. 
  2. The St. George course is hard. And not in my backyard to train on weekly. 
  3. Training mostly inside during the WI winter is hard. I have never ridden my bike longer than 2.5 hours on a trainer. 
  4. Long runs outside in the winter are hard.
  5. As a solo goal outside of our typical training season and with the specificity of my training I will be training alone for an IM for the first time. Solo workouts every day are hard. (I didn’t know my top training partner, Jamie, would be having surgery that would leave him incapable of training with me at all. That’s hard too.) 

Now, rather than hear me as just complaining, compare my list of what is hard NOW and my WHY. You will see that not only did I anticipate these challenges, but I chose this goal because of them. I knew it would be hard. 

I invited this hard because I knew it would help me grow. And now, it’s hard. And I have no doubt that I am being challenged. I am learning and growing—not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. 

Rather than gather evidence to tell anyone who will listen how hard it is, complaining outwardly or inwardly every time it is hard, or quitting on my goal— I return to my WHY. I often say to myself (out loud), “this is hard. And that’s okay. I knew it would be hard.” The funny thing is, that with this foundational WHY as my guiding light I am able to be present in my workouts and not forget how much I love swimming, biking, running, lifting, sleeping, eating, struggling, succeeding. I remember how much I love the challenge of doing something hard. 

And this practice helps me in all difficult aspects of life. I am able to return to my purpose as a foundation when things get hard. To inspire. 

I also live with the peaceful knowledge that if anything ever changed and I couldn’t find any joy in this kind of challenge I will inspire by pivoting. I ultimately don’t feel beholden to this goal, but I know I don’t want to quit the process just because it is hard. 

Create your own WHY statement for your life— your purpose. And then make WHYs for each hard goal you set. Mentally survey and then write down the reasons you are choosing these particular hard goals. And when it gets hard, return to that list and stay the course of your goal. Or decide on how you can and will pivot based on how your needs and wants changed. 

But don’t quit just because it got hard. Keep going because you know exactly WHY.