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Passion and Gratitude — Getting Back to the Basics

By Natalie Kirchhoff | June 28, 2012, 12 a.m. (ET)

natalieAfter two crashes in two weeks and a less than ideal front half of my season, I put on the brakes and took a breather. I went on a road trip up to the Smoky Mountains. I had a great time hiking, enjoying nature, being with family and giving my body and mind a rest. I was beaten up physically and mentally. I had some war wounds from my crashes and my motivation was beginning to wan. I knew I needed to pause, regroup and get back to the basics. 

Going into this season as a newbie pro, I knew there would be challenges. There are definite perks of racing and training as a professional, but there is also a lot of other "stuff" that goes along with it. It's easy to get derailed and off-course if you're not careful. As a pro you can quickly feel the need to perform, please sponsors, live up to expectations, seek out sponsorship opportunities and get good fast. All of that can be burdensome and counterproductive to actually performing at your best. When we lose site of the simplicity of triathlon — swim, bike and run — suddenly it can start to feel weary and tiresome. 

So as I took a step back and asked myself the hard questions like why am I doing this? Who am I doing it for? What's my driving motivation? I realized I had gotten away from passion and gratitude. I had made it a job and gotten caught up in the business side of it. The main thing (swim, bike and run) was no longer the main thing. I had lost sight of the simplicity of the sport and thus, my passion had begun to wan. I was reminded through this that sport should be fun. "Sport shouldn't define our lives, but help us LIVE our lives," as my high school coach told me years ago.

natalieWhen you compete and train with passion and gratitude, you are in the moment, in the present, in the now. You aren't concerned with what others are doing, your next workout or your next race. You are focused on you, your performance and being fully present in the moment. It's moments like this that athletes call the "sweet spot" or being "in the zone." It's hard to be fully present that's why many people live disjointed and distracted lives. Yet when we are in the moment, we perform and live at our best. We are living out our passion and grateful for the opportunity to do what we do. 

Watching the U.S. Olympic Trials for various sports take place over the last few weeks has been a huge reminder of this. When asked post-race what they were thinking about and how they felt during their event, many athletes shrug and say, "I was in the moment, that's all I was thinking about."

The reporters of course probe to get more of an answer out of them, but the athlete is aglow and answers so simply, "I'm grateful to be here." It's a reminder that we perform at our best when we are in the moment and just grateful to be out there with the ability to "tri." 

natalieSo with that food for thought, I hope you fellow triathletes are learning more about yourself this season — meeting new friends, seeing new places and enjoying the journey. As Eleanor Roosevelt so eloquently said, "Today is a gift. That's why it's called the present."

If you're not enjoying the journey, consider taking a few days off and re-calibrating. Ask yourself the hard questions and get back to the basics like I did.

Live, train and race with passion and gratitude!