For a long time I had considered “wellness” as only referring to eating healthy or staying fit, but I soon came to realize that it is so much more. I believe that wellness begins with an inner call to be the best version “yourself” and it entails finding a balance between physical and mental wellbeing. I was able to hear that call when I began racing triathlons; then, I knew I wanted to devote my time to improving my physical health in order to compete. However, it was not until recently that I learned about the psychological side of the sport and how much my own beliefs affected my performance.
Triathlons are more than a three-discipline sport (swim-bike-run); I believe they encompass a life-long learning curve about facing and defeating obstacles. It is a beautiful sport that constantly tests the body and mind.
Almost two years ago, I lost complete interest in triathlons. This happened after losing my father to ALS disease. He was my number one race supporter. I finally began attempting to race again, and had completed another triathlon, when I was involved in a bike accident where I broke my collarbone. At that point I began to think the universe was sending me a sign. Telling me to quit: triathlons we’re just not for me.
But, as time passed by, and after recovering from my surgery, I realized I missed the sport. I began to think about the excitement of signing up for a race, the preparation through several months of training, and the possibility of improving my own records. I also missed being part of a team, but mostly, I felt I missed a piece of me when I stopped training.
I realized it was time to abandon my self-pity party and find my way back to racing. So, in June 2017, I decided to race again and give triathlons another shot. This time, I took a different approach. I convinced my sister to race Ironman Miami 70.3 as a team instead racing alone; I would swim 1.2 miles and bike 56 miles while she would run a half marathon or 13.1 miles.
Once I signed up, my biggest challenge was not to fall into self-sabotage once again. That is, because I would usually feel very optimistic every time I signed up for a race, but once I would begin training, and even after I would finish the race, I would feel disappointed about my performance. In my mind, I felt I needed to justify to others my devotion for the sport by delivering tangible results, such as podium finishes or money prizes, but in reality, all I needed to do was to accept and celebrate my accomplishments, and learn from every moment in the sport.
It was at this moment that I no longer wanted to make any more harsh judgments against myself and made the decision to race again, only this time my goal was to enjoy the experience.
I had to realize every athlete is unique about his/her physical demands and abilities; there is no right or wrong “body” in triathlons, anyone can potentially do it. The only requirement to breakthrough in physical performance in triathlon is patience and consistency. Negative mindsets achieve negative results.
During race week, my sister and I felt quite nervous about the challenge ahead. I still had doubts on whether I could improve my swim and bike splits from previous races, and my sister also had doubts about even completing her portion of the race because of a stomach flu she had caught during the week. I kept repeating “this race is supposed to be fun, not stressful”, “no one is going to judge our performance but us” to myself. On the morning of the race I was still on edge, but as soon as jumped in the water along with my fellow competitors my nerves went away, then, all I could think of was: “GAME ON”.
By the end of the day, I was happy to not only better my swim split by 14 minutes, but I was also excited that my swim was as fast as one of the many girls on the podium that day. I was also happy to have mentally and physically endured through the toughest 56 miles I have ever ridden by far. My sister had a wonderful half marathon despite her stomach issues and she certainly exceeded her expectations about running. But perhaps the biggest accomplishments were to be able to humbly recognize our efforts, appreciate the opportunity to compete together as a team, and still feel motivated about racing again.
My sister and I look forward to more challenges ahead. She will race Weston’s half-marathon on December 10th, while I focus on the training foundation for next year’s I Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga, TN on May 20th 2018. I'm deeply committed to improving athletic performance, but more so, I look forward to inspiring others to dismantle their mind blocks (or fears) to find that better version of themselves.
About the Author:
Anya Machado is a passionate swimmer, biker, and runner. She discovered triathlons in 2013 and since then, she has been on a long journey towards physical and mental transformation. Her background is in Economics and Business Administration, and she is currently building her own social media management business.
Follow her on Instagram (@anya12x3) to to learn about journey towards Ironman Chattanooga 70.3 in 2018.