Triathlon and my Journey to Overcoming Depression

By Ryan Eckert | Aug. 27, 2018, 4:32 p.m. (ET)

Ryan Eckert

August 2, 2013 was the night I almost ended my life.

It was the lowest I had ever felt, low enough that I felt living wasn’t worth it anymore. Despite having a plan and an opportunity to be alone and fulfill that plan, I decided to call for help. I found myself in a psychiatric hospital for the next five days.

This was the beginning of my recovery.

Like many others growing up, I had my insecurities and my self-criticisms. Some are critical of the way they look, while others over-analyze certain personality traits. I was very hard on myself when I didn’t live up to my own expectations. Unfortunately, I often set unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of myself.

This self-criticism was most apparent in my days playing baseball. However, it loomed in the background of all that I did. I was hard on myself for everything, and I mean everything, that I did in my day-to-day life.

I convinced myself that I was a failure. Be it baseball, my personality, my looks, I criticized every single aspect of myself. This led to a deep, dark depression that I developed early in college at Arizona State University.

After I stopped playing baseball as a freshman at Arizona State, I felt that I no longer had anything worth living for as I had spent most of my life growing up with baseball to look forward to and to throw my energy toward. I had dreams of playing in college, but after a lackluster high school career, I found myself playing on the Arizona State club team lacking the same passion I once had for the sport in high school. All roads led me to that fateful day in August where I came so close to ending my life.

Upon getting out of the psychiatric hospital, I began to move forward and heal, albeit slowly. I still felt that something was missing in my life, however, despite my steady progress. I identified with being an athlete most of my life and felt that I needed an athletic outlet as sport had always been such an important part of my life growing up.

During my junior year at Arizona State, I was commuting to and from campus by bike and was running recreationally for exercise. I thought to myself, “I’m only one sport away from training for triathlon, so let’s give that a try.”

I started participating in duathlons, but quickly found myself eager to do a triathlon, something that, back in 2015 as a senior at Arizona State, seemed impossible! I had never swam growing up, and this was my biggest hurdle getting into the sport.

I set my sights on Ironman 70.3 Arizona in 2015 and had about six months to train for it from the time that I signed up. It was quite a bumpy road to get to the finish line of that race, but crossing it changed my life forever. I found a new passion for triathlon that started me down a journey of self-discovery and growth.

The sport of triathlon has helped me heal and learn to love myself more than anything else. The power of triathlon in my life is greater than any drug or form of therapy. Triathlon has been the vehicle through which I have discovered how strong I am and how unique my own personal journey is. Most importantly, it has taught me that I am worth it.

I think the sheer difficulty of the sport is what attracted me to it so much. I love the challenge, especially the challenge of the longer IRONMAN-distance races. I learn so much about myself in the process of training for an IRONMAN or IRONMAN 70.3 event. These lessons learned bleed into other aspects of my life and help me grow into a better person.

A few years into my triathlon journey, I decided to write a book in the hopes of sharing my journey with others. Two years after starting the process, I published my book in July 2017.

"Swim. Bike, Run: Happiness: My Journey to Overcoming Depression" is a personal memoir that details just how important triathlon has been to me in overcoming depression.

I am incredibly grateful to share my story with others as I feel that my story has lessons that everyone, not just triathletes, can take away from it. I am proud that my story displays the incredible power of triathlon as I know so many people in the triathlon community that have completely re-defined their life through the sport. I think the challenge of the sport is why so many people are passionate about it.

The challenge has given my life meaning and has helped me in re-discovering my happiness.

If you are interested in reading my book, it can be found at the following link on Amazon: http://bit.ly/SwimBikeRunHappiness

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