Building Confidence through Sports

Have you ever had breakthrough ‘innovative’ ideas while out on a run and thought to yourself – if only I had a brain ‘idea’ monitor to capture it – I just might remember it when I get back.  For me completing running events or triathlons built confidence in my capabilities and it gave me the inspiration to set more goals and try harder – even though the day in and day out grind can be a challenge.  So you could only imagine my excitement with my next blog as Mike Lenhart is another dear friend that seems to have amazing energy and passion for life!

mike5I asked Mike why he got involved in Endurance Sports. Mike stated ‘I was fortunate to graduate from West Point in 1990 and I incurred a 5-year military obligation as a result of the “free” education from the military academy.  I was commissioned a 2nd lieutenant in the Army, serving in the Infantry branch.  I was having such a great time in the military that I actually served a total of 7 years on Active Duty.  My father is a retired Army colonel, so I found working in the Army to be a very comfortable, easy adjustment after graduating from college,’ Mike replied.

‘When I left the Army, many things changed in my life, most importantly the camaraderie I got from working around soldiers.  I missed that and it wasn’t until I started becoming involved with endurance sports, namely “triathlons”, that I was able to find a similar connection that I had in the Army.  Like many who start doing triathlons, I started with smaller distances, sprints and then olympic.  Eventually, I moved up to Half IRONMAN events.  Now, nearly 10 years since doing my first triathlon, I have nearly 100 races under my belt, including 4 IRONMAN events,’ Mike Replied.Mike1

‘Along my journey, I found I enjoyed volunteering at races, helping out several local race directors around Atlanta, and learning more about the sport by watching others.  This volunteerism eventually led to becoming involved in the governance side of the sport.  I served 6 years on the USA Triathlon southeastern council, including two terms as the regional chairman.  I am currently the national chairman for the USA Paratriathlon Committee, a group who’s mission is to expand the participation in triathlon by individuals with physical disabilities.  So, kind of a long way of answering your question.  I suppose, for me, it was both health related (regaining the sense of camaraderie) and inspirational (by assisting with disabled individuals),’ Mike Stated

I went on to ask Mike what events he enjoyed the most, Mike said ‘The West Point Lake triathlon in Lagrange, GA has always been one of my favorites because it was my “first” triathlon and I became great friends with the race director, Jim Rainey.  For several years after that initial race, I would go back annually and compete at West Point Lake as it was a great way to see how I was improving year-to-year,’ Mike replied.

‘Next, I love the Gulf Coast Triathlon (half iron distance) in Panama City Beach, FL.  Besides the challenge of the longer distance course, this race is always held on a Saturday.  So that meant I could take a trip to the beach, race on a Saturday, be done by lunchtime, and have the rest of the weekend to enjoy the sand and sun with friends,’ Mike stated.

‘Lastly, I raced the inaugural IRONMAN Chattanooga in 2014 and absolutely loved it.  It certainly wasn’t my best performance at that distance but what made the race so special for me was the large number of “friends” who traveled from Atlanta to compete or cheer on participants.  I raced as a member of the Atlanta Triathlon Club and it was inspiring to see nearly 100 teammates competing on the same course that day,’ Mike said.

mike4I went on to ask Mike about the Non-Profit he started and its inspiration, Mike said ‘In a nutshell, I started The Getting2Tri Foundation as a way to encourage participation in triathlons by individuals with physical disabilities.  The organization puts on sport camps a few times a year to teach swimming, cycling, and running to individuals with limb loss, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, and other injuries that might otherwise limit their ability to stay healthy and active.  Beyond the obvious benefits of teaching individuals to participate in sports, it’s the hidden gem of “confidence through sports” that I’ve witnessed time and time again by many of our camp participants.  We might have someone on day 1 of a camp barely make it one length of the pool swimming.  But by day 3 that same individual is doing multiple laps without stopping or requiring assistance.  That’s the confidence I’m referring to that is further extended to the individual’s personal, family and professional life,’ Mike commented.

I asked Mike why he choose Triathlons, Mike said ‘For years, the sport of triathlon has been one of the best amateur sports where you can toe-up to the start line with all kinds of abilities and individuals next to you.  While on the course, you’ll see other age group athletes, novice “first timers”, paratriathletes, and elite racers.  That sense of “invitation” was always appealing to me; competing in a sport where nearly anyone could likewise participate’.mike6

I then asked Mike what advice he would give someone new to the sport, Mike stated ‘Train with another person or group.  Long ago, I started training with a group of triathletes, many of us new to the sport.  But there was great accountability within the group.  And that sense of pushing one another not only led to better performance in races, but also to many lasting friendships.  My advice is simple; don’t train alone, life is better when you’re part of a group!’

Such great advice Mike and I can’t agree with you more – as we continued our conversation I asked him if participating in endurance events has impacted his career, Mike said ‘Great question!  I think participating in endurance sports requires some very long hours of training.  If not managed properly, an athlete can let himself or herself fall behind in other important areas of life, such as family, work, etc.  For me, I had to become even more organized than I already was. One tool was I would treat workouts as if they were regular meetings on my work calendar.  I would schedule those on my calendar and, with some exception, I wouldn’t break those “meetings” just as I wouldn’t break normal “work” mike3meetings.  So I’d say becoming better organized was a great by-product of my participation in endurance events’.

I couldn’t agree more as its a balancing act and if you are passionate enough about something you find ways to make it happen even during challenging days which happen often.

 

Thanks Mike and good luck in Charlotte..


Creating a New Lifestyle

During the past 10 years as I participated in various running events and triathlons, I got to meet a lot of inspirational people and I am honored to share this story of a dear friend I met by way of the Triathlon Community. I have to admit I didn’t know much about him outside of brief conversations on what event we were participating in next or what organization needed help setting up events, but I can now say learning more about him taught me a great lesson on persistence.never_give_up

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.

Meet Beau Bearden — I jumped right into my first question with Beau as I wanted to learn why he got involved in endurance sports, Beau said ‘I grew up athletic and stayed very active in College. After college I got wrapped up in work and I gained a lot of weight in my 20s and 30s. Then one day I decided to go see a doctor about this issue and he put me on medication for high blood pressure.’

‘I was also wearing a size 42 but the day finally came where I couldn’t get them on, so I bought a size 44, it was at that moment I said to myself – no more, that is it! I needed to start losing weight! I told myself I was only going to buy one pair. My highest weight was 268lbs. So I decided to target one healthy thing at a time. I was drinking about 10-12 cokes a day, so I started to cut-back.’ Beau replied.

fatpic‘The next thing I was going to cut back on was my 2-3 days per week drive thru trips to McDonald’s for breakfast. So I replaced coke with water, McDonald’s with banana and oatmeal or similar healthy choices. It took me 3-4 months to conquer each phase and it took me 4 years to go from 268lbs to under 200lbs, just by eating better. It was creating a new lifestyle – which took a lot of discipline.’ Beau stated.

Beau went on to tell me, ‘When I was at 220lbs I decided to do my first 5k, so I went out for a 1 mile run and I couldn’t even complete a half mile – I wasn’t upset as I always tried to stay positive and realistic about these milestones and my health. So every day I would go out on that very same route and eventually I could start to go further and within 4 months I could finally complete a 5k. So I signed up for my first 5k and I was ‘soo’ emotional when I completed it – it was a big deal for me.’ Beau said.

From not being able to complete a half mile to finally being able to run 3.1 miles is a huge accomplishment and something everyone can relate to, even lifelong runners – we all got started somehow. Beau replied ‘When I got started I didn’t know anything about 5ks.’

‘I learned that running also needed to become a lifestyle so I signed up for another 5k. I was targeting at least one 5K per month in my first year and I actually exceeded it. I then graduated to doing 10ks and I eventually got comfortable with that and advanced to Half-Marathons and then Marathons where I found myself doing 6-7 marathons a year,’ Beau stated.

‘I then got into Triathlons and took the same route starting with sprints and then slowly moving up to a full Iron-Man where I have completed twelve. mikeI also recently completed Race Across America with a team and I entered a 41 mile swim – yet I didn’t finish it,’ Beau replied.

‘ I have learned that not finishing a race for me isn’t a big deal.  I would rather go out and push my limits and not finish a race vs. take on a race I know I can accomplish as it pushes me to test my limits and really challenge myself.  If I go out and DNF but give it my all I am truly happier than doing a race that I finish and it not challenging me.  I have a number of DNF’s on my resume but it’s what allowed me to ultimately get to the next level,’ Beau responded.

I went on to ask Beau what motivated him to push himself to further distances; Beau said ‘As the distance grew with these events the passion grew as I enjoyed being out there. It got harder each time as I am not a good runner or swimmer – its sucks when you are training or doing the event, but the sense of completion is like no other experience – it’s awesome. I feel so much better about myself as it’s a healthier way of living.’

I went on to ask Beau about his favorite events, Beau said ‘Race Across America was the best, everything that goes into it from the crew to being able to see the US by bike, it’s like nothing ever experienced. The next favorite Event(s) are all the Iron-Man races and of course my first 5k that I completed in Brookhaven, ‘ Beau said.

Beau told me that getting to the start line of that first 5K was one of the most difficult things he’s ever done simply because of the lifestyle changes he had to make and the weight he had to lose just to do it. Then Beau went from participating in events to putting them on and I asked him about that.

Beau stated ‘As I reflected back on the positive changes in my life I wanted to help grow the sport and give options to others – to help others and give them different types of events to do. One goal was to put on a series of difficult races as there didn’t seem to be many.   I wanted to increase the level and create uniqueness, for example, throwing in a tough 1 mile hill climb in the middle of a 10K or something that significantly raised the difficulty level of that event.’

raam1So I asked Beau what advice he would give someone new to the sport, Beau replied ‘Not to worry about how to do it – don’t wait, get started now– don’t worry about the right shoes, it won’t hurt to run a couple miles, just get out and get started as everything will fall into place,’ Beau responded.

Thank you Beau as this story touched me in many ways and is a great example of the lifestyle changes we all need to make at various points in our life and that it’s never too late to get started.

See you out on the trail or road!