I graduated from college in 1994 and got a job as a physical education teacher. As a lifelong athlete, I was trying to find a way to stay somewhat competitive, so I started doing triathlons. Triathlon seemed like a logical sport for me to participate in because I was a swimmer and a rower in high school. I continued to row in college and during the summer I lifeguarded at my hometown lake.
Introduction To Triathlon
It was during my time as a lifeguard that I was ‘introduced’ to triathlon because there was an event at the lake that I worked at. One summer, a former classmate of mine raced the triathlon and I thought ‘That looks like fun, I can do that.’ The next year, that same classmate and 2 current classmates competed in the triathlon and when I saw the three of them, my thought became ‘I can do that, why didn’t I sign up?’
Finally, the time came to sign up and I did. I borrowed a bike and participated in the race. I found it was a great way to stay competitive and over the years it has become my lifestyle. My friends became triathletes and my social life became centered around triathletes.
When I moved to Dallas Texas, my students and athletes would see me on my bicycle all over Dallas. Since I taught at a private school, there were students all over the greater Dallas metroplex, and every time I went for a ride a student would cheer me on.
It was at this point that I realized I was also a role model for my students and athletes. The students saw me exercising in many different ways and realized that being healthy went beyond going to a gym and lifting weights.
Inspire and Motivate
Since I have left Dallas, I have seen five of my former athletes at long distance triathlons, and I have heard from many additional former students/athletes about their accomplishments in marathons, mountain biking, cycling, and rowing.
The words from these former students and athletes resonate with me on a regular basis. I have had a former athlete say to me ‘You are a big part of why I even train for anything, even if I am last across the finish line. Thank you for instilling in me the passion to finish.’
Another former athlete has said to me, ‘Watching you train, and compete with discipline and passion has prompted me to follow the passion in me, and be the best I can be, but to remember regardless of how fast or slow I move. it is moving forward that will take me to the finish line.’
Those words continue to inspire and motivate me, especially on the days when training feels like a chore.
As a physical educator, I feel it is important that I model physical activity and healthy eating. Physical education teachers have been associated with a negative stereotype, but I think it is important to walk the walk, model the behaviors we want students to adopt. Being active can be many things, and over time activity levels change and the types of activities change. My students get to see many different ways to be active and participate in a variety of both competitive and noncompetitive events throughout their lifetime.
For Beginners And A Reminder To Veterans
I tell my students and those that are just beginning their endurance sports journey that they need to go out and have fun. Do your best, encourage others, smile and congratulate yourself for all you accomplished. Getting to the starting is a journey, getting to the finish line is also part of the journey but we all need to start somewhere. That is the reason that I continue to participate in endurance sports. I am having fun and making sure others are as well.