Focusing On The Things That Matter (by Mohamed Lahna)
Updated: Feb 7, 2018
As an athlete, we all set short-term and long-term goals for ourselves and often they involve achieving certain race results. For me, my ultimate goal was making podium at the Paralympics. While goals can be great motivation, I have learned that it is important for me as an athlete to focus on the process of my training and not just the outcome. These wise words were repeated to me many times by my coach Matt Dixon. After a disappointing finish at a race, I sometimes would get bogged down on the details and become obsessed with improving my results for the next race. I need to improve my swim by x minutes. I missed podium today even though I trained so hard. I didn’t push hard enough on the bike. Sometimes we have a bad race and sometimes we have a great race without the results we expected. The important thing that I’ve learned is to stop worrying about things we can’t control and trust that the training will be there on race day.
Triathlon is an exciting and challenging sport. It involves 3 different disciplines, each with their own eccentricities, and usually involves racing outdoors. Any number of things can go wrong on race day from equipment failure to poor weather conditions. If we only think about the end goal result, we lose sight of all the little steps in between. This is what the training is all about. To make sure on race day, we just focus on these little steps and manage the course as best we can.
When I finally made it to Rio for the Paralympics in 2016, I couldn’t believe it. Of course I was nervous on race day, but I knew that I had trained well leading up to it and there was no more I could do at this point. I didn’t exit the swim as quickly as I would have liked, but I felt like I had a great swim. The technique was there, my breathing was in control, and I didn’t panic coming out of the water. The rest happened in a blur, and before I knew it, I was on the run. Half way through the run, I felt so happy already even without having secured a spot on the podium. I wanted to perform well at this race so badly and had been focused on it for so long. There was a strange peace and contentment at this point knowing that I had put everything in it that the result didn’t matter anymore. I knew personally I had achieved everything I set out to do. I was happy to cross the finish line and secure my bronze medal, but happier that I had put in a great effort when it mattered the most.
This past year at the World Championship Finals in Rotterdam, I finished the race in 3rd place, however, a judging decision (not involving myself or my performance) pushed me off the podium to 4th place. In previous years, losing out on a podium finish like this would have been really upsetting, but I knew that I had a good race and had put in a consistent effort. The race result was out of my control at this point, but I could go home proud knowing that I could be confident in my training, regardless of the final results.
So while results can be a great indication of our performance and progress, I am starting to understand that managing all the things around a performance including training, nutrition, recovery, and mental strength are vital to growth and maturity of an athlete. Hopefully this continues and will lead to even further success for the future.