According to various research we use only a fraction of our full potential in our lifetime. Though there is no consensus among experts, generally it is believed we only tap into 10-15% of our capacity. When I first heard about this I was very skeptical. How could 90% of our abilities lie “frozen” somewhere in our brain and muscles?! However, after years of observations of my own and other people’s development I experienced the truthfulness of this claim.
For example if you told me a couple of years ago that I would be able some day to cover the full distance of Ironman (3,86 km swim, 180,2 km bike, 42,2, km run) and then improve my personal best by almost 2 hours I would find it hard to believe it.
I have just completed my 4th Ironman, this time in Zurich and its picturesque surroundings. Though the weather was again extremely challenging (37 C, or close to 100 F), and because of too high temperature of Lake Zurich we could not use wetsuits (I am about 20 min faster in it) I consider it a success. BTW, it was my first completed Ironman after which I did not require any medical help, like IVs etc. I guess the past experience and a few learnings really paid off.
When I was starting my triathlon adventure 5 years ago, there was hardly anybody in Poland interested in this sport. Things have changed a bit now. Ania counted as many as 30 Polish athletes on the starting list in Zurich. Though it is a mere 1% of all participants the progress is noticeable. In my first Ironman in Lake Placid I was the only Pole.
Instead of describing my race this time I would like to share with you a few words about my motivations and general reflections on this subject.
I have recently come across a funny list of 20 things, which can truly confirm if you are an Ironman or not. Yes, completing an Ironman race is not enough . Let me share a few of my favorite ones:
„None of your friends will train with you anymore.”
„You spend more money on your bike than your car.”
„You have more workout clothes than work clothes.”
„When you stand looking out over a beautiful lake, and your only thought is … I’d like to swim that!”
„When your cologne is chlorine.”
Many people ask me why I do such an endurance sport. I have no simple answer. Besides my motivation has evolved over the years. In the early days it was all about finishing a race and hearing the magic words “You’re an Ironman!”. Then came the typical thoughts of trying to become better at it. Obviously human ambition knows no boundaries! Today I actually enjoy more the preparation process and daily exercise discipline than the racing itself. I try to park the thoughts of continuous improvement somewhere in the background of all this and not to identify with them too strongly. Doing such things it is so easy to lose a sense of right proportions. After all triathlon itself is about maintaining a good balance among three different sports, nutrition, hydration and keeping yourself and others safe. When you are going downhill on a bike and making 80 km/h anything can happen.
For me triathlon and Ironman is an interesting and challenging hobby but I would not like to sacrifice other things in my life such as family, work or other passions for it.
One of the best tests of balance for me is whether I continue having genuine fun in it and whether I do not fall into a pride trap. The latter is unfortunately a common syndrome among all of us achieving great things in life, be it sports, business …. or even in spiritual matters.
Luckily for me, often times when I am successful at something my internal “pridemeter” gets activated showing me if I get too close to an unhealthy territory. It is so easy to fall into self-admiration and megalomania. It is particularly tempting while others are in awe of our achievements or when we are around people who are extremely proud of themselves and their achievements as well.
Sports, like life, is a great lesson in humility and modesty. You can be proud and boastful of this or that. But if you cut a corner here and there in training or do not get support „from above” or get lucky, you might fall short of your potential.
There is something counterintuitive in human activity. The more active we become in different walks of life (BTW I am not praising here daily rush and workaholism), the more strength we gain to free up untapped potential in ourselves. This relationship works the other way round too. Try to goof off for an extended period and suddenly we all become weak and do not feel like doing anything.
Therefore I encourage you all to ask yourselves how much of your full potential and talents do you actually use? To move you forward in a more courageous usage of your full capacity I urge you also to cry out loud, as some paratroopers do, Geronimo!!. So go for it.