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Unlocking Training’s Full Spectrum

Unlocking Training's Full Spectrum Run Tri Bike JoAnne Bullard

Endurance athletes take on numerous feats, requiring them to stay dedicated and committed to their goals throughout their training. Their perseverance is shown through conquering challenges both mentally and physically throughout their training and races. Confidence and achievement motivation are two critical elements regarding the mental side of performance and can fluctuate based on success and failure. Understanding success and failure can help with unlocking training’s full spectrum.

The Supportive Endurance Community

The endurance sports community is usually supportive and encouraging, regardless of experience level. For every endurance athlete, there is typically a group where they fit with like-minded athletes and a supportive environment. Sharing success stories and race experiences is very common. These success stories can include sharing personal bests to inspire other athletes. Today’s society relies on social media to help amplify these wins and showcase accomplishments.

Behind the Perfect Picture

But what about the struggles, the setbacks, and the failures that athletes experience throughout their training cycle? How can understanding the role these play in our lives help us with unlocking training’s full spectrum?

Although many share their successes, every athlete experiences setbacks or failures during their training or race. Discussing failure could open the athlete to becoming vulnerable, which might be uncomfortable for them.

Breaking the Invincible Image

Sharing success while hiding failures is widespread in our society. Most will post or share the perfect picture on social media without addressing that several other photos weren’t perfect. Athletes often feel pressured to maintain an invincible image of others. This image might be in place to avoid their fear of showing their vulnerabilities to others, which could potentially diminish their standings in the eyes of their peers, coaches, and social media followers. This mindset alters the authenticity of being human.

Lessons from Failure

Being reluctant to share failures impacts the endurance community in numerous ways by taking away the importance of valuable lessons that failure teaches! Failure is not a sign of weakness! Failure leads to growth and provides the opportunity for improvement.  Rebounding after failure plants the seeds of resilience, determination, and grit. Learning to embrace failure and recognize failure as part of the process will help athletes enhance their personal growth and provide more realistic and supportive support to their community.

Embracing Vulnerability

Normalizing failures fosters empathy among athletes. It silences the need for perfection and instead creates a space where athletes can be honest with each other by sharing experiences that offer the opportunity for empathy and support from one another. Building a community built on these principles opens the door to transparency and mutual understanding. This transparency allows athletes to recognize that they are human and that experiencing setbacks does not degrade their athleticism.

The Transparent Athlete

When athletes share their entire story, including their successes and failures, it shows that they understand that setbacks are a normal part of the process and nothing to fear. It can also help other athletes feel that what they are experiencing is par for the course and that they are not alone. Shifting this mindset embraces the understanding of overcoming adversity while unlocking training’s full spectrum.

Overcoming Adversity Together

Although hearing success stories might be great, there is nothing more motivational than hearing the truth and rawness being shared when an athlete discusses the obstacles they experienced, the setbacks they encountered, and how they grew throughout the training process.  Opening discussions about setbacks, creating safe spaces for sharing experiences, and promoting vulnerability as a strength are so important. This concept embraces a holistic approach to training and support systems within the endurance community. Breaking down the barriers around sharing failures and embracing the importance of vulnerability will help athletes build a culture of celebrating success, setbacks, and growth.


Dr JoAnne Bullard Run Tri Bike Magazine Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology

JoAnne Bullard is a Doctor of Sport and Performance Psychology and a Certified Mental Performance Consultant through the Association for Applied Sport Psychology. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

She serves as a tenured Associate Professor at Rowan University and is the owner of Absolute Fitness, LLC.  Her goal is to provide a holistically applied approach for clients through performance psychology consulting. She has experience working with athletes of all ages, including endurance athletes, in individual and group sessions.  Her research areas include mindfulness, performance anxiety, goal setting, coping strategies, and mental well-being of athletes.

She has completed five marathons, numerous half-marathons, and is always looking for her next race.