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Multisport Empowerment: Beyond Aerobic Fitness

By Shane Alton Eversfield | Oct. 27, 2009, 12 a.m. (ET)

That question we all hear: "Why do you do triathlon?" Mastering three childhood activities and enjoying the synergy we call triathlon develops more than just aerobic fitness. Your response may provide the inspiration that transforms someone's life. To answer insightfully, you will describe an ongoing experience that is rich and deep. Multisport isn't just a hobby; it's a lifestyle.

: To ensure multisport health, we must continuously ask of ourselves, "is this lifestyle enhancing or diminishing my quality of life and those around me?" I confess: On occasion, I skip a potentially wonderful and valuable experience with family and friends to get in yet another training session or for the sake of optimal recovery. "Are my pursuits solely toward athletic excellence, or toward a broader life excellence?" Yes, sometimes I do choose athletic excellence over life excellence. These instances are infrequent and provide valuable lessons for balancing sport with life.

:  Pursuit of multisport excellence makes us stronger and more functional – physically, mentally and emotionally. To put it concisely, we are more responsible – more able to respond – to the circumstances, situations, relationships and tasks of everyday life. All this, because we engage daily in activities from our childhood!

Spiritual fitness: I call this enhanced functional capacity for life "spiritual fitness." As multisport athletes, we develop spiritual fitness across the spectrum of religious orientations. Simply put, it is our capacity and our willingness to embrace the experiences of our daily lives as training opportunities for growth, discovery and knowledge. With spiritual fitness, we disengage from judgment, resistance, aversion and attachment; we move forward with faith, gratitude, curiosity and humility. Spiritual fitness empowers us to transform tragedies into triumphs.

The same laws and principles are at play for developing spiritual fitness as developing aerobic fitness. Your unique combination and balance of swim, bike and run fitness comprises your overall triathlon fitness. To train effectively, you must maintain your strengths and challenge your weaknesses. Similarly, as a "life-athlete," you have a unique combination and balance of physical, mental and emotional fitness that equates to your overall spiritual fitness. With self honesty, each of us recognizes unique character strengths and weaknesses and trains accordingly.

Training triangle: Like aerobic fitness, we develop spiritual fitness by balancing the three elements of the training triangle – stress, recovery and adaptation. We eagerly take on the challenge (stress) of a swim/bike/run workout, knowing that with adequate recovery and adaptation, we gain the rewards of aerobic fitness. The choice and the rewards are so clear for us! However, in our day-to-day lives, the choice and rewards for spiritual fitness are not always so clear. If we are angry with someone, it's easy to regard that person as a perpetrator and assume the role of victim. More challenging is to welcome and embrace the stress of our anger as a "training opportunity" for spiritual fitness. Victimization and resentment will prevent us from moving beyond the stress component of an experience into recovery and adaptation.

Clear choice: Discipline and clearly defined goals are two of the essential tools we acquire as athletes that enhance this capacity and clarity to "choose" the stresses of everyday life, and to balance them with recovery and adaptation. However, there are also specific approaches, techniques and even motor skills we employ to excel in each of the three childhood activities of triathlon that enhance spiritual fitness as well.

As an example, let's consider fast and efficient swimming: brute strength in the water gets us no where fast. However, yielding to the resistance and density of the water by streamlining the body's position, produces the fastest gains in forward progress. Rather than fighting that resistance, we use the water's density for balance, buoyancy and leverage, creating a win-win situation. Yielding can be just as effective in approaching our relationships. Rather than struggling for dominance and control, yield to your companion's energy and learn to honor and appreciate the unique qualities of the individual. Yielding is a compassionate response that allows us to see deeper into our companion's motives. With patience and insight we may be able diffuse the fear or anger that is behind an action or communication initially appearing to be malicious.

Shane Eversfield is author of "Zendurance, A Spiritual Fitness Guide for Endurance Athletes." He is also a Total Immersion Swim Coach and Zendurance Cycling Technique Coach. To purchase the book and for more info: