“You don’t have to train, you get to train”. This is a genius line I heard from Irish endurance legend Gerry Duffy, a man who transformed his own life and fitness and went on to win the first ever Deca Ironman race.
That’s ten Ironman triathons, consecutively, over ten days. When it comes to training motivation, goal setting and A-game execution, Gerry knows his stuff.
Even so, at the time I heard this short phrase from him, its magnitude never fully sunk in. Truth told, it seemed just a bit too simple, more like a throwaway soundbite. Yet somehow it stuck in my mind, resurfacing every now and again over the years. Each time, it hit home just a little more.
So here’s why I think it matters so much, and how when grasped fully it can become one of the most powerful training motivation tools any endurance athlete can carry in their performance toolkit.
The linking step between ‘you don’t have to train, you get to train’ being a neat soundbite and it becoming a fully fledged piece of brilliance is when you add the concept of 'memento mori'.
The Reaper’s coming, get busy living before he shows up
This is Latin for ‘remember you are going to die’, and is the practice of reflecting on your own mortality, as first practiced by medieval Latin Christians.
I know, this has all got pretty weird, pretty fast.
One minute you’re reading about powering up your mental game for your next big race, the next we’ve gone down a rabbit hole involving an Irish hardcase, medieval Christianity and Latin mumbo jumbo.
But bear with me, because this is where it gets good.
Viewed on its own, that early morning run/bike/swim/gym session when it’s p*ssing down with rain, freezing cold and your body and mind are raging at you to get back in bed is nothing but a ballache. It’s an unpleasant piece of work you have to do in order to be where you want to be on race day.
Rain - either a pain in the behind, or the source of life. It all depends on your perspective
Change the perspective however with a spot of memento mori and things start changing. Fast.
Because one day, you will be dead.
Then there will be no more rain, no more air on your face, no more warm bed to get out of, and no more delighting in discovering what your body is capable of and the joy of building power and strength there.
Even before that, old age will - slowly - remove your ability to do all of the sport you love.
How quickly that happens is largely down to you (more on that in this post here) but there’s no doubt it’s coming.
Want some more perspective?
Well, the world over, there are millions who don’t even have the luxury of training. They live in war zones, in parts of the world ravaged by disease and famine, they’re sick, they’re missing limbs, or they’re simply one of the three billion people on this planet living on less than £1.70 a day.
Having a body that can train, a life that lets you train, and the freedom - financially, emotionally and physically - do do so, is a privilege most of the world can’t even imagine.
You have all of it. You truly ‘get to do this’.
You get to do this. Privileged doesn’t even come close
And even for you the day’s coming when you won’t be able to anymore, because first your body’s going to throw in the towel and then you’re going for the big sleep.
How great does that training session feel now?
Pretty f*cking amazing, no? An incredible luxury and a pure delight of near unfathomable proportions.
Are you bothered by the rain? Of course not.
Do you want to go back to bed and miss the whole thing in a semi-conscious doze? Hell no.
You don’t have to do it. You get to do it.
You lucky, lucky bastard.
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