I exercise…for fun?

When I told my friends I wanted to compete in a triathlon, I was met with a mix of reactions. My roommate, who has gone to the gym with me a grand total of two times over the past year, gave me the “are you crazy?” look followed by a “why would you do that to yourself?” My best friend from high school, an avid runner who finished her first marathon a few days ago, immediately supported my supposedly crazy idea with a “that’s awesome, I’m so pumped for you!” And my parents, who are convinced I spend far too much time glued to my laptop and cell phone, jumped on to the idea that I would be voluntarily making myself exercise and graciously agreed to help me make the financial leap of faith for a good road bike.

So why am I doing this? Why have I decided to spend the next several weeks training for a sprint triathlon, which will require me to complete a 500 meter open water swim, 20 kilometer bike ride, and a 5 kilometer run and hopefully not want to kill myself along the way?

For one, I was done making excuses for myself.

I had started entertaining the idea of competing in triathlons ever since I stopped competitively swimming when I was 18. I honestly didn’t know how to live life without swimming somehow being a part of it (what do you mean I don’t have to wake up at 5 am for morning practice?!), but I was getting tired of practices consisting of nothing but laps over and over again. However, after an admittedly blissful few months of no two hour afternoon practices and entire weekends dedicated to getting sunburnt at swim meets, I became complacent with making excuses. “I don’t have the money to buy a good road bike.” “I hate running.” “I’m scared of swimming in open water.” These excuses lingered in my mind as I started college, and stayed strong as I let the intensity of Berkeley’s academic rigor and all-you-can-eat dining hall food consume me.

I wanted a physical AND mental challenge.

Call me crazy, but I thrive off the mental battle I have with myself when I’m pushing myself through something strenuous, whether it be through a particularly dense reading or the burn in my quads as I “climb hills” during spin class. The feeling of managing to make yourself get through an entire reading without logging onto Facebook (celebrate the little victories, am I right) or the rush of endorphins after a grueling workout somehow make all the pain seem worthwhile. I wanted something that combined both the physical and mental aspects of a good challenge, and what better way to do that than through a triathlon, a sport that requires both mental and physical strength and endurance?

I wanted to prove myself to me.

This is probably the most important reason for my decision to incorporate training for triathlons into my lifestyle. Two and a half years into my college career and I’m tired of subscribing to the popular belief that whoever is the most tired and stressed out from taking the most classes and being involved in the most extracurricular activities wins. I’ve spent far too much of my emotional strength trying to rack up good grades, lose weight, and complete other so-called accomplishments for the sake of looking good to other people and not necessarily to myself. This year, my challenge (following in the footsteps of Mr. Zuckerberg) to myself is balance. A balance between what I have come to realize are the three most important things in my life: my body, my relationships with people I care about, and my work. Triathlon training has been an excellent way for me to be mindful of my body and provide that extra boost of energy needed to go out with friends on a Friday night after a long day of work and classes (killing 3 birds with 1 stone, talk about efficiency). It is definitely easier said than done, but 27 days in and I can honestly say it’s the best decision I have made for myself to date.

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