One of the most important things a beginner athlete needs is a social support network.
This has many levels:
If you do not have the support of your significant other, your kids, your relatives they will do nothing but poison your journey. Therefore, start early and be consistent about including them. Show them you are serious, because there’s nothing worse than the “fad of the week”. You prove to them you’re going to stick with it and they are far more likely to invest time and money into supporting you along the way. And trust me, this is absolutely essential. INCLUDE them in the decision making, the activity, the celebrations of success.
Similar to family, your local community plays a key role. If you can weave your day-to-day life interacting with your community and neighbors into your support, you are going to gain another group of cheerleaders. It’s very rewarding to go to a social gathering and have people come up and ask about your last race, your next race, and how your training is going along. This social support will further keep you on the path of this being a lifestyle, not a passing phase.
There are many online groups which can help support you along the way. You will build friendships, get advice, get support, and be able to “talk triathlon” (on the triathlon sites, of course) without anyone rolling their eyes at you! Facebook is slowly strangling these but these are still a great place to “hang out” a few minutes a day. Having a group of people who GET IT is just something you cannot undervalue. Whenever everyone else around you just cannot understand your desire, your fears, your problems – there is a virtual community which does. I’ve made some amazing friendships across the country (and Europe) and have met many of these folks over the years. We have an annual secret santa gift exchange, we’ve banded together to help virtual friends in need, and we’ve been a shoulder to cry on. How cool is it to be in across the country and bring your family over to their families home and share a meal? I got to do that this summer. Priceless.
Just a few I’ve been involved with which relate to swimming, cycling, running, and triathlon:
But don’t rule out running, cycling, and swimming specific sites! Or whatever suits your fancy. A triathlon isn’t for everyone. So whatever you are looking to do… find the resources. They’re out there.
Look for a club. If you cannot find one, start one. You would be surprised if you start asking around at the places your already hang out. For Triathlon, running, cycling, and swimming there are always clubs and groups in your area. Talk to the health clubs or shops that service them. In the chicago area near me, there are (3) clubs of note – Prairie Dogs Multisport club, Suburban Multisport, and Multisport Madness. And that’s just close to me.
You are going to need help along the way. There are so many professionals which, over the years (yes, I said years don’t be scared!) you will need. Some of them to keep your eye out for (and listen to others for referrals) would be:
- Massage Therapist
- Physical Therapist
- Sports Medicine Doctor
- Personal Trainer
- Running Store
- Cycling Store
- Swimming Store
- Food Store (not just groceries, but Gels, Sports Drink, etc)
You don’t need all of these elements but you do need to build on them, over time. Start with #1 and try to work down the list. Doing this, you will have that support in place when things get tough. And things will get tough. Life isn’t fair and bad things happen. If you have the support in place, you will be able to weather those storms and come out the other side stronger and more resolved than ever.
And if nothing else, come back here and we’ll give you a group hug!