Athletics taught me a lot. It was my sport of choice for many years, and a sport that led to my interest in exercise physiology. A lot of the lessons learned through sprinting have stuck with me long after I hung up the spikes. Not just helping in sporting endeavours, but in all areas – work, education, you name it.
In this post I’m going to share a few of these lessons. Hopefully you take something away, but perhaps it helps you to realise the ways training and competition can help you outside of the sporting arena.
Oftentimes, people view sprinting as a sport that comes down to genetics. There’s an element of truth in that – as there would be for success in any sport – but as the old saying goes “hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard”.
I always loved the sprints. I remember I was one of the fastest at my Primary School, but that isn’t too hard in a school of 40-odd students. Unfortunately, this didn’t translate to being one of the fastest when I reached a High School of 1,600 boys. It wasn’t until Year 11, ~15 years old, that I got a placing in an event at our High School. So although I had some natural ability, I wasn’t the best.
After Year 11, I asked our High School coach if he would be willing to train me, and from here I learned the value of working hard. During the summer we would be on the track, and then in the winter we’d also be spending time in the gym. We followed structured plans and targeted certain events. This was where my interest in strength and conditioning first begun, where my love for lifting was sparked.
During my last two years at school I improved significantly. I went from a decent sprinter at my school, to winning the best sprinter award in my final year. I even managed to win the 200 m in our region and was a finalist in the 400 m at Nationals. It was a pretty big improvement for a kid that hadn’t even made a regional team before he begun training!
These results showed me that when I set my mind to something, and put in the work, I could achieve. I was far from the best in the country, but improving myself was possible – so long as I put in focused work.
Athletics taught me that hard work pays off.
Having a Team
As an individual sport, it seems a bit strange to think about athletics as a team sport. But it really is.
Getting through the tough days – repeat 600 m efforts, or the dreaded 4 x 250’s – isn’t easy. Having other athletes to help push you through those sessions, to experience the same pain you feel, is crucial. Off the track, some of my teammates became my closest friends. In fact, even today many of these friendships remain. Long after leaving the sport, the sense of camaraderie still exists.
Trusting your coach is key. Being willing to dig deep to get through a session, knowing their methods can get results if you give the required effort. Having a coach you respect, who you want to do well for. This ensures your have a great plan and your effort is honest – giving you the best chance of success.
In other areas of my life I have ensured I have a great team around me. In academia, ensuring I had supervisors I trusted and respected – who’s advice I could rely on. In coaching, seeking mentors I trust and building a team of them to learn from. While always having friends and family as a support crew to work through life’s challenges.
Having a team is crucial.
Enjoy What You Do
I worked hard and gave up other sports to pursue sprinting. However, I wasn’t the best.
But I enjoyed it.
I genuinely found enjoyment in the process. Pushing my body. Building friendships. Crazy nerves before events. Learning about exercise physiology. Travelling to events.
There were so many aspects, outside of times I ran or results in events, that I absolutely loved.
For me this taught me two things:
- Firstly, ensure that you do things you enjoy. Whether that is your choice of work, or your choice of exercise. If you enjoy it you are more likely to put in effort.
- Secondly, don’t just focus on the results, enjoy the process. Some things in life are tough, but there are always aspects you can take pleasure in. Find those.
Sport Teaches You
Although only a few key lessons, and far from all I learned, I hope this demonstrates the deeper value of sport, beyond just performance or results. If you are an athlete, or you simply like to train, I can guarantee you’ve developed in ways that can help you outside of the gym, or off the pitch.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to share it and to subscribe. Also, don’t forget to take a moment to consider the lessons you’ve been taught through training. How sport has made you better.