I am constantly reminding my athletes that endurance sports should “add value” to their lives. 

What does this even mean?

First of all, I coach amateurs, not pros. So, unlike when this terminology is used in marketing, there is typically no quantitative data to measure the value. And, value does’t always look like you might think. In this sense, adding value doesn’t always mean increasing what we often see as positive ways of feeling— like comfort, ease, or constant happiness. Oftentimes, the value added provides opportunities for athletes to step out of their comfort zone. To push their own limits through setting big goals, and/or through the daily challenging training process. To be an inspiration to others to take on hard tasks. To grow in many aspects of life. 

How do your hobbies add value to your life?

I personally love to swim, bike, run, and lift daily (well not all of the mentioned every day, that would take a lot of time and energy 😉 ). I love exploring the complexity of each discipline. I remain curious about how my body does and doesn’t adapt to my training, and to how it is impacted by my nutrition, outside stress levels, hormones, and sleep. My 16 year (and counting) triathlon athletic career has taught me so much that has led to obvious value add in my overall life that I wrote a book about it. (Coming soon!)

On the flip side, I also typically don’t see the compromises, or sometimes sacrifices, I make to prioritize my endurance goals as value negated from my life. Most of the time, I see each decision to say no to things that don’t give me energy as a way to support something that gives me so much. 

It is real added value to my life. 

Now, I am not at all claiming that each time I approach a workout I mentally and physically enter it with the same zeal. Or, that I am immune to bad days or grumpy experiences in training. As with any hobby, there are going to be moments when we just don’t feel like it. Or, times when circumstances make it a little more difficult than we’d like… just like if you love to read and are out of new books. Or, if you enjoy knitting and get knots in your yarn (not sure if that happens, but it seems like it could). 

And that’s okay. Each of these frustrations is not a red flag indicating that this hobby is just not for you. But, I do suggest taking stock if you dread picking up a book, grabbing those needles, or starting a workout every. single. time. And/or if you are bitter, angry, or sad during and/or afterward for an extended period. When you come to that understanding, it is time to reflect on if/ how/ why this activity is adding value (or being honest if it isn’t). 

How can we inspect, and/or increase, the value that our hobbies add to our lives?

  • Know why you started the hobby, or set the goal. When you don’t feel like it, reflect on this reason, or why. When crafting your why, consider how you can also add value to the lives of others through your hobbies, or goals, of choice. 
  • Consider the other ways you can potentially get the value that you are currently getting from a specific hobby. If you are training for a half marathon to have a healthy heart, but truly despise running, pivot to a different kind of cardiovascular exercise. If you read to gain information, but can’t fathom picking up another book, try a podcast. If you knit to relax your mind by occupying your hands, try coloring, or other forms of art. 
  • Find others to share your hobby. It is in our human nature to want to feel connected to others, even if we don’t spend a lot of time in the group. If you are an athlete, join a team and show up to the sessions. If your leader says it is for everyone- it is! Even if all team members don’t workout together— you still get the benefits of the pre and post workout exchanges. And, sharing a collective experience with others usually increases the value. Surround yourself with people in all of your life who thrive on passion, positivity, and encouragement— rather than those who lean toward comparison, pessimistic ways of thinking, and judgment. 
  • Work on listening to, understanding, and replacing your thoughts. Do you truly love your hobby, but tend to focus on the negative aspects it brings? For example— you sincerely love your early Saturday morning run with friends. But, you know that you also need to go to bed on Friday nights at a reasonable time to have the energy to enjoy your morning. Instead of thinking about how fun the run will be, do you focus on the “sacrifice” you are making by going to bed an hour earlier? Or, when you finally get to ride on a sunny, warm day do you focus on the wind speed not being ideal? (Of course, I never do this… 😉 ) Practice acknowledging the truth in these negative thoughts (like, the wind will likely cause some uncomfortable moments)… and then replace them with the also true thoughts about how this adds more value to your life to do the hobby (it is still worth it to ride outside, and my negative attitude will zap even more joy combined with a 20 mph headwind). 
  • Practice gratitude. Find things you are thankful for in your hobby. If you can’t do this, then it is likely time for a change. 
  • Pivot. And when you decide that something is not adding value to your life anymore, find ways to consciously uncouple from it. (Yes— this is the term popularly used by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin when they announced their divorce.) Although this was so weird at the time, this terminology of “breaking up” with someone, or something, has really grown on me. Rather than walking away lacking awareness of feelings, filled with blame, or harboring bitterness, find ways to move on while upholding your own integrity through reflection, honesty, and communication. Have grace and gratitude for the time spent. Leave all doors open to return. Do something else… and then return if you ever want to. 

Reflect this week on the value added through how you choose to spend your time. If you are doing a bunch of things because you “should” it is time to start to figure out how and where you can feel the value of your choices.  

You only get one go on this earth. Make it valuable.