Comedian Jeff Foxworthy was renowned for his “you are a redneck if..” lists. In the spirit of Foxworthy, here is my list of “you are a thrill-seeker, if..“:
- If you pick and register for your race first, then figure out how to train… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you pick a race, fail to train appropriately but figure that that shouldn’t hold you back from racing… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you train injured, you are definitely a thrill-seeker.
- If you race injured, you are definitely a thrill-seeker.
- If you believe in the motto “no pain, no gain”, you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If your primary form of training is HiiT or any of its derivatives (i.e. Tabata, bootcamps, spin classes), you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If your primary form of training is threshold training (either heart rate or power), you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you train using each piece of aerodynamic and weight saving equipment you own, you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you use “sports nutrition” to survive through training sessions, you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you spend more on “sports nutrition” then real food (i.e. food that has to be prepared and cooked)… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If pre-workout or pre-race you medicate with painkillers and/or NSAIDs, you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you are concerned with extra weight on your bike or the weight of your running shoes and spend, spend, spend to shave ounces believing that its critical to improving your performance meanwhile you are 10, 20, 30+ lbs overweight… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you constantly upgrade your equipment, believing that the primary source of performance arises from more hydrodynamic and aerodynamic equipment and not from you improving in health, in skill level, in technique, in capacity… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you spend more on racing equipment than on training tools and coaching… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you compare online data with that of random people believing that it reveals something about you or them… you are a thrill-seeker, not an athlete.
- If you believe that by racing an half or full ironman triathlon you become a ‘real’ triathlete or running a half or full marathon will make you a ‘real’ runner… you are no athlete, but you are definitely a thrill-seeker lookin’ for their next ‘high’.
- If you cheat – e.g. course cut, use PEDs [performance enhancing substances], sabotage competitors equipment – you are no athlete.
If you call yourself a coach, yet your training and racing philosophy is summarized by any of the points above, you are no coach of athletes, you are an enabler of thrill-seekers: one who encourages thrill-addicts, one who supplies thrill-addicts with the means to achieve another ‘high’. Dealer you are, coach you are not.
Thrill-seekers… are just like it sounds, they are bucket-listers, they are the one and done crowd, those who attempt only the most challenging distances or events, those who jump from sport to sport because they “get bored” easily, because the thrill doesn’t last after you do it once, once you know you can wing it. Their motto… if it ain’t epic, why do it? If there isn’t some risk – be it pain, injury, or for some the risk of death – their interest level diminishes.
Thrill-seeking requires that training of appropriate quality and quantity not be put in, because… where is the thrill in that? Why would you put in so much training that you know that you know that you can compete for the entire distance? There is no risk, no excitement, no danger, no thrill in training to the point that you have overwhelming confidence in your capacity, skill, and technique levels to complete the entire event with ease.
If you are a thrill-seeker, enjoy. Just realize you are no athlete and any attempt to compare yourself to an athlete is pointless. Athletes are invested in the inward journey; thrill-seekers are invested in how they project outwards and are thus obsessed with social approval via conformity and anything that will get them attention (including near-death experiences from attempting to finish endurance events they are un-preapred or ill-prepared to undertake).
If you are an athlete, then you have to realize that thrill-seekers now exist in every sport, and the days of competition being about competing with yourself are long gone in the media. For the media, that’s boring. The media needs blood, guts, pain, agony, misery, despair, injury, and if possible an athlete’s death would be pure gold for the advertising and marketing departments who would provide the obligatory moment of silence for the athlete before they take the opportunity to milk every moment of the athlete’s demise with the thrill of the death-defying nature of their excruciating endurance event which they will use to taunt you to register.
Athletes do not take uncalculated risks, athletes do not gamble with their health, with their well-being, with their long term ability to train, to race, to perform.
Athletes prioritize training, resting, studying, improving, caring for, and refining their physiology and psychology; equipment is important but its a distant second.
Athletes see equipment as tools which are extensions of themselves, therefore any piece of equipment is only as good as the athlete using it, riding it, wearing it.
Athletes are students, of their body, mind and soul. They read, they learn, they seek to understand everything they can about peak performance, especially how to deliver consistent peak performances.
Athletes appreciate that sport is part science and part art where quality of movement is equally important: true artistry in sport is what allows a peak performance to appear as effortless.
Athletes assess their effort by how close it came to being their fullest potential in that moment; not how their effort stacks up against anyone else.
The Unfortunate Part…
The unfortunate part is that many think they are training and racing like athletes, yet have no idea that they have been duped into becoming thrill-seekers.
Its infuriating that many who want to be athletes get swept up by the fanfare of friends, of family, by do-gooders, by the media, by the marketing of thrill-seeking, by thrill-seekers to join in an event when the risks of the event are not evident nor is there any effort to make them evident. The medical tent is never shown… ever, which makes it seem that there are no med-tents nor that many receive medical attention as a result of ‘participating’ in an endurance event. Thrill-seekers fail to realize that although they may be willing to roll the dice on their health, well-being, and life… that they place at risk the health, well-being and life of all those that they do rope-in to joining them. Its always a fun idea at first, but I guarantee it ain’t fun when the event ends in the med-tent or an ambulance.
It cannot be left to thrill-seekers to disclose their intent… their intent has to be assumed because self-preservation (i.e. respect for life) is of little importance to them. After all, thrill-seekers register for events in pursuit of risk, of danger, for the thrill and excitement of ‘what-if’ things don’t go as planned while fueled on the hopes that by going ‘all-in’ they either win or die trying.
Its even more infuriating that there are individuals who call themselves “coach” yet fail to disclose that they do not specialize in healthy training and racing, instead are specialists in providing short-cuts to thrill-seekers who want to see if they can wing an endurance event. These coaches typically lack the necessary education and experience to advise anyone on any aspect of health [hence, their willingness to enable thrill-seekers encouraging those addicted to gambling with their health and well-being to keep at it]. The infuriating aspect is that they typically claim in their promotional material or on their websites that health is a key dimension of their training philosophy. Convenient.
Funny thing… there is a catch-22 with these coaches: these ‘coaches’ are typically former thrill-seekers who are now unwilling or unable to risk themselves any longer due to obvious significant and serious health consequences, so they conclude that they are qualified to coach others. But… with the ultimate goal for thrill-seekers to go out in a spectacular ball of flames (e.g. Lionel Sanders’ desire to die in competition, preferably – my guess – on the lava fields of Hawaii during IM World Champs), kinda conflicts with ‘retiring’ into coaching… if you went all-in on thrill-seeking… should you come out alive? But… I digress.
Take for instance one triathlon coach who specializes in training those seeking to finish an ironman triathlon event… on a winter training camp, one of his athletes had an horrific bike crash but instead of the athlete’s health, their recovery, their well-being being the priority… nope… the coach was promising the athlete that they would get them to their event no matter what! Before medical attention, before a CT scan or MRI was taken allowing a thorough assessment to rule out complications to recovery… racing irrespective of reality is the focus of thrill seeking coaches. Heck, surprised that the coach didn’t suggest doing the event despite broken bones and the concussion… doesn’t that makes it more dangerous, more exciting, more gnarly and epic! Meathead.
These coaches are a threat to public health. Because there is no regulatory body overseeing anyone who calls themselves a coach means literally anyone can call themselves a coach, a trainer, a hi performance professional. There are no standards for what the term coach or trainer means or represents nor is there a code of conduct by which anyone can expect either one to adhere; hence coaches and trainers exist without any risk of ever being accused of fraud or malpractice.
Which brings me to the problem for novice athletes: in the early going, thrill-seeking seems a lot like being an athlete: with the coach advising you to get all the equipment you need to race, get all the apparel to look like an athlete, get watches, power meters, all the devices to track training… it all seems appropriate. Heck, novice athletes don’t know any different… you could tell them they need to drop thousands just to get started and why wouldn’t they? If they feel that they are with a qualified coach, and if they are intent on their goals… then why wouldn’t they do as is suggested? Unfortunately, if this sounds familiar too you… I’m sorry but you were duped: the individual who calls themselves a coach may look, sound, and smell like a coach, but they ain’t. A “do-gooder”, a ‘nice’ person, someone passionate (yet blatantly ignorant) about sport… likely… but educated and experienced to coach anyone in their health, no way!
Reality doesn’t kick in for novice athletes because results come quickly. When you start to do something (i.e. train) after doing nothing for years, well… results come quickly. That’s the next problem for novices: quick results make it seem like the coach actually knows what they are doing. By the time the roller coaster of alternating periods of injury & illness sets in, the belief that the coach knows what they are doing is far too ingrained for the quality of coaching to be questioned. All that remains for the athlete now is to rotate between periods of hope when there is partial recovery from injury/illness to disappointment when something else gets injured or they fall ill yet again, in the end blaming themselves (when it is the coach who failed the athlete and should be blamed).
Now… the novice athlete is stuck because what they think is appropriate coaching, appropriate training, appropriate racing… ain’t, but because of a lack of context as to what is healthy and what isn’t healthy coaching/training/racing… they don’t know the difference; hence… stuck.
noun: caveat emptor
the principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made.
Maybe there was a time when you could trust that when someone said that they are a coach… well, that they were qualified. Honesty today seems highly over-rated as money worship takes priority. So I encourage all athletes, don’t take anyone’s word that they are qualified to coach. Seek evidence. Seek proof that the coach has helped people develop ability, skill, capacity, acquire and refine sport specific technique yielding consistent year after year improvement without coming at the cost of consistent injury and illness, or life altering accident. If athletes of the coach are consistently injured and/or ill… then why do you think you will be the exception?