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The Selfish/Selfless Paradigm/Paradox and Triathlon

I often hear it said, quite often too, that triathlon or fitness is a selfish sport or discipline.  I find this interesting because I think there is a paradigm here.  What do I mean?

Where I am at now - This year - 2020

I was recently asked to contribute as a Team Zoot member to their blog they are re-booting.  I am grateful for the opportunity and I may need to remove this posting per their request if my submission is used.  

So, I am in a great space, I am the father of 4 delightful kidlets and married and celebrating 16 years on July 16, 2020.  I am grateful, humbled, sleep-deprived and glad to be able to play triathlon!

Below is a recent post I adapted to my blog from Facebook - I participate and follow Crushing Iron.  Maybe one day I'll be able to afford to have them coach me too, until then self-coached I continue!  It captures where I am at now in this unprecedented year known as 2020!

"Folks, it is my fault. And this is why! Let me be your huckleberry 1f62d

I just want to put my neck out there, concerning Cancellations. I am waiting on IMSt George (IMStG) to determine what it's going to do.

I signed up for the race in haste. I got caught up in the hype right after a branded IM 70.3 event. I signed up, took marital vengeance from the wife (we're OK). Then we welcomed kidlet aka sherpa # 4 on April 28, 2020 mere days before the original date of IMStG (May 02, 2020). It was pushed back to Sept 19, 2020 and is still holding at this point. Now, whether it sticks or not, I currently have had to accept that I am not ready and am to blame for this mess. There you go, cast shade my way, I can handle it. 'You Can't Hurt Me' 1f642.

But really, this is the year that has really begged the questions from Crushing Iron pod-caster Robbie Bruce (during podcasts and his social media posts) who often asks his audience to introspectively face and determine our relationship with triathlon, expression of fitness and life/family. I for one am appreciative to mere strangers that took a leap of faith and built this thing, and as an observing participant and partner it has helped me be ready for the re-calibration and adaptations I have had to reconcile with this year. Growth hurts, but the mindset that has been spawned by my participation in this community, for me it's a win that I am highly grateful to have encountered! It is my hope that others are chasing their own version of growth too.

Cancellations suck, but I would be in a much worse place without my C26 community. Bang on! Let's keep playing triathlon in our own ways.! Thanks to you all! Happy days!"
It truly is my sentiment.  This year I see so many folks say that all their external motivation is gone with each cancellation of a race.  I find that is hard to believe knowing some of the cores of the individuals making these snap plights.  I feign the notion that they are that broken.  Now their pocketbooks may be hurt and they may not appreciate losing the social interactions at the events, but I imagine their motivators aren't broken, just disrupted.

Context - How did I land in this headspace and mindset?

I find that in looking back on things. Occasionally, you glimpse the rear-view mirror of life and you are able to recognize just how far you have come. I also find that I must not look back too long as I may forget to continue forward - getting lost or sidetracked or looking into the future, too soon!

So, it is with the selfish and selfless argument. I find it is a continuum or a spectrum of both, often complimenting each other. I do not know how to explain that the two maxims work in concert with each other. There is a fine-line balance between the two, and when one becomes heavier than the other: BOOOM! Chaos now!!!

So, let us start with me! Today. Today, I am a male. I am also married to a wonderful girl/woman who has allowed us to have 4 children (Dennis -14; Juniper - 5; Astrid almost 3 and Lucas 9/10 weeks old). Today is a bit hectic and full of chaos. My mindset is adapting to the new normal. We have a traveling circus. We love it and it is true. You can hear the Livingston's coming hell or high-water, that is for sure.  

We are generally happy, healthy, and trying to do what’s right for our nuclear family.  We try to be as aware as we are able and control what we can of our environment (humans, and other animals, the planet, faith-based or philosophical based constructs). I participate and play in a three disciplined sport - nay, 5 discipline:

  • Swim
  • Bike 
  • Run
  • Nutrition
  • Recovery

Also know as - TRIATHLON!

I recently added another candle to the cake.  I am now part of the 45-50 age group in triathlon events. I turned 46.  I have learned things through experiences and hopefully gleaned some wisdom along the way. I have been both selfish and selfless and been both in balance and quite the opposite (disambiguation), too. 

I want to check-in tot hat rearview mirror a bit here. I recall even before completing my first triathlon, as a maturing adult, that it was my DUTY to alert everyone in my circles of influence and beyond -- that I was a triathlete. That typically meant within the first minute of any conversation I found a way to alert you to my hobby and identity.  Luck you or Proud and obstinate me.  The latter!

What I did not understand - to be frank, no one cared about this as I did. My wife was excited but could also see how I inadvertently alienated folks by my selfishness. Sure, I was in the process of rebuilding and shaping me into a better active person, but there were too many things I ignored -- to narrow of a focus. And that is where I think the 'special sauce' is. 

Focus on the right things - acknowledge the noise but don't engage with it

Is it set and calibrated right or not? Along the way I learned that people just were not interested and the louder I was - not always vocally but in my bravado, that I was just being a 'Douche-Bag' (many other euphemisms and pejoratives may be inserted here too often illustrate what I was being). Further,  it seemed the more I was ignored, I often got louder.  To my chagrin, I wasn't the 'loved' guy I thought I would become. I was perplexed, and for me it caused me to look inward.  I was being reminded that the only opinion outside of myself I should be most concerned about is that of my nuclear family.  My wife and children were seeing I wasn't being me and was getting a wee bit ugly to be around.

Sure, I grew up in a considerably solid faith-based home. I was taught about the 'golden rule' and do unto others as I would have them do unto me and many other basic rudimentary faith-based ideals. But truth be told, I often found paradoxes and hypocrisies, not in the messaging, but in the actions of others that preached this to me in words not always in action. I had become one of those agitators, one of those disrupters, one of those 'talkers' not doing and not representing this sport properly. After all, it has given so effortlessly and selflessly to me. 

Honestly, I do not recall the exact moment, but I recall being at a runner’s meetup with my wife and I observed how they all just interacted with her, but I was that 'triathlete' - the 'in his own world guy'. It was like that moment in my Transformation Tuesday blog post (Click Here) when I was sitting in the plane and realized I had just become the guy that may need to ask for a seat belt extender to sit on a plane flying back and forth from SLC-Paris-SLC.  I was that guy no one wanted to interact with because they were going to get the 'I am a triathlete' lecture and why I was more awesome without ever saying it verbally.  I didn't have to, because that's what my words said.  Shaking my head.  Lessons learned.

So, how did I Shane, come to the realizations I currently subscribe to? First, I had to become self-aware. I had to re-calibrate internally. I had to no longer project a false identity.  I had to become who I wanted to be. I could not be the guy that disrespected any of the 5 disciplines but still pound and beat my chest screaming 'look at me' - I am amazing! I had to tone it back, get quiet, and just chill! I had to get beyond my personal storm and just be still.
I once heard something along the line from a Buddhist notion - "Notice what takes your attention, acknowledge it, and then let it go." There will be times when certain internal or external conversations appear. It doesn't mean I have to engage in what I perceive to be noise or a distraction, but I MUST acknowledge it, classify it as unnecessary to me, and then let it go! It's in the acknowledgment where reason is applied. In that application, the ability to confront it, then acknowledge and discard, or classify it as necessary and deal with it. This process allows me to absorb what is useful. The challenge with absorption is that my brain has a saturation limit. 

What have I learned? I learned that many folks do what they do for a myriad of reasons. Their internalized "WHY" was similar however it was unique to them and different from mine. I learned that I could observe and listen and empathize. In this approach I was often asked my thoughts or feelings about the certain swim, bike and run topics. I was trying to feed others heads with my opinions - whether they were of worth or value or not.  I didn't understand that I did not care and to them my words and feelings did not matter. I had to learn the value of listening, instead of doing what I often share with people in business - I was ignoring my own recommendation and wisdom!
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
~~George Bernard Shaw

So where am I going with this context? We just had Lucas McLaurin join us on April 28, 2020. He bravely slides into the opening of Sherpa number 4. So, I was recently asked to pen some tips that have worked for me to keep me in the game. If I didn't share the above perspective and ignored sharing that context, my tips would be worthless. 

I am a head space guy. I find if I had not had the above experiences, I imagine I would be lost and looking for some free unsolicited advice like this. I think these serve as good suggestions for new parents and seasoned veterans alike! So here we go:


Still giving your spouse/partner the support they need? 

For me, first, I have to persistently and actively remind myself, I am a family first guy.  This may not be for you, and that is OK!  Whatever your situation, be honest, be brave, have the self-talk moment you require.  Get in front of your own version of David Goggin's "Accountability Mirror" and have that discussion with yourself!  Then engage your spouse/partner in discussion(s) and define what today, tomorrow and the future may look like.  What did this look like for my wife and me?  We kind of ignored it until kidlet 2 came along.  I was training for my 2nd 70.3 event while she was pregnant, and the shift was noticed.  My oldest was near 11/12 so our scenario was unique to us, but the stress was still stress (body cannot compartmentalize stress and it impacts training and well-being).  My wife (Liz) and I Began to accept what we knew and something had to change so we began to address things, and it has been a fluid discussion to this day  - admittedly some discussion are a bit more passionate and lively.  In fact, the other night she told me to get in the pool at 6 AM this morning - orders from my wonderful wife.  Yes dear!  And swim I did at the local outdoor pool, and it was great.  

I find that I must be adaptable and fluid.  Like an execution plan during a race or an event, there are certain knowns/unknowns that show up and must be addressed.  To this end, if I was diligent and persistently addressing those things along the way, it was smaller slices of stress to deal with.  After we overcame our initial helping of 'humble pie', we have done well to stay on course and not let things get too big to handle.  Then we try to identify and implement adaptations along the way.  The biggest adaptation for me has honestly been, learning how to be forgiving enough to myself and allow myself to not have a perfectly executed training plan in Training Peaks with all greens.  Sure, I need to stay on plan and on course, but missing one work out, or cutting something short to be present for my life-partner and spouse, is far more important than a 'green' label on Monday's 60 minute Zone 2 run.  So moral of the story:

  • pause 
  • be present
  • address the issues as they occur
  • adapt and be patient 
  • allow yourself and your spouse plenty of space for grace!

This allowed me to identify that I needed to realize that I needed to be ok for me, so that I could then be present and available for her.  Liz my wife is a pretty independent woman.  However, she can't do it all by herself nor should she.  So I have to be self-aware to know if I am asking about myself, I need to check in with her.  When we find things that need tweaking, we are open about it.  We try to deal with things as they occur so that we don't get resentful, jealous or any other unwanted feeling.  She and I have to communicate.  We have to be clear with each other.  I can't mind read, so sometimes she has to kick me in a way that I recognize something is off, especially if training has got me a bit fatigued or work responsibilities amplify and I forget a bit about her.  So, it will be different for each couple or partnership.  It is my belief, if we are consistent in your check-ins, - maybe if you aren't a way to liken it to current behavior.  IF you are always check-in in with Training Peaks, or Strava or Gamin, ask yourself, am I like this with my spouse or partner?  If not, let's remember when we check-in, to also check in with our spouse/partner.  Be prepared tho.  Sometimes if it is an unanticipated behavior, it may be a bit awkward at first until it becomes normalized.  For most athletes, think of it as your relationship with swimming.  We often disrespect the swim - actively or passively.  However, once we respect the swim, it becomes one of our passions.  May our relationships with our significant others and life partners be similar!


How training changes when you have children 

I find for me; one child was not that big of a change.  Cough, ahem! -- BUT when number two showed up, it became uncomfortable, and when 3/4 showed up, well, grab something solid and hold on to it for a minute.  Once you are grounded, then moving forward is available.  Ok, with each child after number 2, it is not straight-forward.  It requires patience and an active willingness to adapt.  Not only for one's spouse, life-partner, or significant other but also for the wee-little kidlets.  Especially when they are being all out 'crotch goblins'.  We are adults, right?  I mean triathletes are fairly honest a-types?  Am I right?  

It is like many things.  You must be ready to embrace the moment when it presents itself.  I decided to up the ante and grab a smart trainer finally.  For cycling, it reduces my need to feel guilty or shame for going on a ride.  I will not be out 50 miles away with no access to being a helping hand if needed.  I also have treated my training sessions as an avenue to learn and appreciate gratitude.  Since number 2 has come along, see above context, I have had the ability to truly accept the Steve Del Monte philosophy - 

"We get to play triathlon as adults, and that's pretty cool, but it’s also something to be very grateful for!' 

-- That's my paraphrase and I may be taking liberties.

For runs, I switched from pace monitored or driven training to time-based and Heart-rate-based training.  It helps me know my exact stress load because once I map out a route, I know my general threshold of the time required to complete.  Pace based training has a large variability that for me does not align with the new normal of 4 kidlets.  Also, I can manage I have 30- minutes or 2 hours available and can fit what activity I need in those given parameters.  Ultimately with the current pandemic and race cancellations, I am focusing on doing what I can and not worrying too much about being driven by a merciless plan, which most likely will not have a race day to express fitness.

In the current pandemic, much like children, my ability to get to a pool has changed.

Focus on diet more

For me this is my current rough challenge.  My training load has changed and staying in a 'healthy' routine for me is completely off the rails.  This is where my discipline and diligence suffers most in this paradigm of family and playing triathlon.  I found for me getting into consistent meals with the simplest preparation was the best equation.  This does not work with kidlets - they eat one thing one day another then next day and want the same thing for like 100 days, and as a parent - I accept I never know what their little bellies want!  This made it much easier for me.  However, one thing I always remind myself of, Health, and fitness are often mutually exclusive.  One can be fit and nowhere near healthy.  I think I found for me, it is what am I willing to accept or not.  How do I adapt my intake and what impacts (positive/negative) on my family and try to follow the 'Law of the Golden Mean' -- thanks Yeshiva friends.  I eliminated sugar and milk for nearly 3 years, and it was great, I got down to 185 - 190 lbs., but I have blossomed back to 215-220.  Honestly, I am not happy here at this weight, but I have not been able to identify a clear path that will not have negative family dynamics impacts yet.  This is my current most difficult discipline to adhere too.

Set up space in your house to grab a quick workout while the baby is sleeping, shorter workouts more often

This has been a big win for me. I can no longer go out on those great 40 - 100 mile social or purposeful rides.  When I travel, I also try to use that time to get as many purposeful runs in as possible.  I am not a treadmill type, so I tend to keep all my run paths no longer than 3 miles away from my home - as the crow flies. 

Having this available has helped immensely.  Sometimes I get one in and other times I surrender and run late at night or go swim before the circus awakes.  Either way, the trainer space can be adapted to one's specific options and what they have available.  This has helped me with managing family dynamics.  IT also allows me to be available to start and if I have to shut it down, I can and not have to feel like I burnt a session because family dynamics required me to stop 20 miles into a 100-mile bike ride (or in this case) feeling like I am so far away and not available because I have a 20 mile ride back home or to a vehicle or I have to arrange a pickup with my wife and the fireworks that may go along with that!  Isn't it fun playing triathlon and being a family person?

Managing guilt

  1. When training at times I have to identify or cramp time with other things. If I go out an run or ride my bike over 60 minutes at a time, that's a time and space my wife and kidlets are alone. In the last 3 years, that has taken its own toll on each of us differently but for me, I have to reconcile the guilt of me needing to be healthy (long-game) vs the immediate short term where I may be shirking my partnership with my wife and helping, aiding, supporting in other needed things around mom/dad and family needs.

  2. When training the inverse to above is true. At times family needs occur, can't always control life, and then my training plan (whatever it is I do) is compromised. Sure they are just minor data points on a long graph enriched with many activities, but I have to move, forget, neglect, adapt, improvise within the training plan and dealing with that guilt.

  3. Work-life, I have come to learn even though I may understand and know a certain action plan to pursue, sometimes I have to let colleagues and peers come to similar conclusions. Sometimes that is rapid and other times it is painfully slow and I have to manage that guilt load as I sometimes know it is a simple just do this, but either it is ignored, or I patiently wait for them to come to a similar conclusion

There are other paradigms that come and go but I think the above examples demonstrate succinctly some of my more in-our-face type challenges as parents and triathlon participants (Pro, Elite, Age-Grouper, Hobbyist, have no idea what I am doing but I'm here types). Here are a few things I have said in Social Media shares that captures my headspace a bit concerning the dynamics above and current events (pandemic, race cancellations and adjustments, being a father, spouse and triathlon enthusiast):

  • I can't go to my sanctuary, my personal safe place. At first, I disrespected the swim, now it comforts me. The lessons learned in this endurance sports journey of triathlon is humbling. Hopefully, I can get back in the water soon. (pool, swimming)

  • Man, these are strange times. I am coming back from a long-needed break from activity (recovery), it's not easy but it will be worth it. I need to pen up a plan to this Sept 19 thing..... Giddy up. I am seeking normalcy amid the disambiguation, grateful my wife and family let me do some crazy (within reason). (Race Cancellations and paternity leave).

  • This is a moment in a timeline my children will always remember. Hopefully, the memories will be sweeter than any bitterness this situation has brought up. For a headspace guy like me, being present is often raw, and in the recent past, I have encountered a lot of pro-positivity. Let's be real for a moment. Negative things happen - feelings, situations, relationships etc. It is those things that provide an honest perspective, a wise measuring of just how gratitude works when truly real and positive things occur. Joy is not joy without knowing pain or suffering. Sure, we like to 'project' all is well, but oft times it is so far from that. This is what I love about this opportunity. To unplug, to simplify, to control ONLY what I can control. I love my nuclear family, and this scenario reminds me just how precious my nuclear family is to me in this poopy situation. I am grateful to know both the bitter and the sweet. For without it, I would just be numb, and that to me is not being alive. Grateful. Present, aware and full of hope. Hope that tomorrow will help me feel more alive. Yes! And I am grateful for my wife, Liz is weathering this journey with me. Giddy up! (Pandemic 2020)

So, what I want to say first.  Every single difficulty that presents itself trying to negotiate family and playing triathlon is WORTH it!  I do not regret the expansion in family, it is just more entertaining to identify how to adapt to the current situation.  Once one figures that recipe out, guess what?  We must adapt again.  Little is static in life but developing healthy patterns that drive us to be able to adapt to any given scenario is quite helpful in this triathlon play.


- Shane Livingston is a member of Team Zoot Mountain region. Father of 4 and all-around great guy! Follow Shane on IG at @zentriathlete

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