I’m a big fan of Macolm Gladwell’s book by the same title as this post in which he described what the tipping point means as they relate to a group’s momentum toward something – an idea, trend, etc – until it reaches the “tipping point”. Until the momentum in a way becomes self-perpetuating because a critical mass has developed.
Over the course of this spring I’m noticing a lot of similarities with the tipping point in how I was approaching my training. I’ve been participating in various types of races for a long time and after discovering triathlon have turned up the volume on the amount of training I do each year in preparing for goal races. For the past several years, even though I’m not a competitive athlete in the sense that I’m trying to make the podium, the idea of beating my best time or moving up the rankings in my age group has been an important motivator to keep training consistently. I’ve approached the calendar year like a true competitive athlete by staying fit in the off-season and following a periodization plan in an effort to build, peak, recover and do it all over again for the goal races I establish.
One definitive trend I’ve noticed from year to year is that my motivation level changed significantly after signing up for a race. Even if I was planning on a race but hadn’t yet signed up yet, the act of clicking submit on the race entry seemed to trigger a physiological reaction that brought me right from early spring until the end of the season. This annual process had become so routine that I never put much thought into it until now.
Why now? It’s now almost May and I have yet to sign up for race. I have some plans and goals but haven’t clicked the submit button on any of them yet.
Despite this I trained all winter, to the point where I over trained and injured myself forcing me to take several weeks off. I rode the trainer in the basement and got more than my money’s worth from my Netflix subscription, I got to the pool to keep my swim stroke consistent and I ran, a lot, always outside. I ran in blizzards, sub-zero temps, freezing rain, you name it. I hadn’t signed up for a race. I hadn’t done that kind of off-season training unless there was an Ironman in the near future. Why the disciplined schedule?
My conclusion after having lots of time to ponder the question during many hours or training over the past several months is that I reached an internal tipping point. Call it a critical mass of experience or a desire to stay fit or even just the joy of exercising. At some point it became more important to me to just experience swimming, biking and running than to use them as a vehicle to reach some destination (finishing the race). Maybe it was my first DNF last year, maybe it’s reaching a birthday with a zero in it this year. Frankly, I’m not sure of the reason and maybe it’s a combination of several.
I do still have goal races I want to do this year and in the future (and it will be interesting to see how I react after actually signing up for those races), but for now I’m grateful to be in a place where I train to have the experience and not just to get ready to race.