Dealing With Adversity in Sports

As we go through life we get tossed curveballs all the time known as “adversity” and we need to learn how to overcome it and keep moving forward. This is especially true in the world of endurance sports. As an athlete who competes and coaches others I see this all the time. Something happens during a race that gets our mind off track and heading in a negative direction and its how we deal with this that helps us reach our goals and finish with a smile.

I think this quote really sums it up:

“The highest form of spiritual practice is self-observation without judgement”  ~ Swami Kripalu

 I’m also a big fan of Danny Dreyer and his Chi-Running books.  Here is an excerpt from Chi-Marathon that I think says a lot about overcoming adversity:

 “Adversity is anything that challenges your copacetic state: mild discomfort, pain, emotional angst, physical ailments or injuries, the weather or even just having a plain old bad day. That being said, adversity is never really a problem. I like to think of it as a lesson masquerading as a challenge, It’s your response to adversity that could either wreck your day or be a learning opportunity that could change your life. This is where your observer comes in handy.”

That sums it up right there and really put a new perspective on how I look at adversity and life’s challenges. Attitude is key to everything, you must have an open mind a positive attitude and be prepared to roll with change and make the best of it. The minute we start getting down on ourselves, the minute we play head games and mess with our plan, or let uncontrollable forces mess with us, we are done and nothing good can happen.

All we can do is keep working hard, train smart, eat well, get good rest, and keep our mental focus and positive thoughts going. Once we derail from that and get down over a bad workout or bad race then all we have done is kill everything we have worked so hard for.

Something I tell my clients who are preparing for a race is “control what you can control and don’t worry about what you can’t”. The Boston marathon this year was a prime example of this.  All the runners worked so hard for months to prepare for this race, chasing their goals and dreams, but then Mother Nature tossed a curveball and brought us dangerously hot temperature that made running a fast marathon completely out of the question. This was a great example of dealing with adversity because we could not control the weather but we could control our outlook on the day and do our best to make the most of a tough situation. When you train and run a marathon so many things have to align to have a “peak performance” race and its how you deal with things when they don’t line up that will make for a positive or a negative outcome. This is dealing with adversity.

As you train and prepare for your next event whatever it may be know that there are forces you just can’t control and to not get worked up over that. Just keep your head on straight focus on the elements you can control and make sure you take care of that and then just let the chips land where they do and make the most of it and do so smiling.

Happy Training, Best of luck racing! See you on the roads and trails.

Mike Buenting lives and works in beautiful Minneapolis where he divides his time between being a great dad, a highly successful realtor, and a stellar marathon and triathlon coach. Check out his blog at