What Would Janie Do? Coaches Corner with Nick Gregory

As many of us work towards the final race(s) of the 2018 season, balance the multiple hats that we wear, and also try to have some semblance of a social life, it can get increasingly more difficult to match the level of intensity and drive found in the beginning of the triathlon season.

As an athlete, I tend to see my drive ebb and flow throughout the year. I like to work hard; I love the feeling of approaching a session where I just don’t feel I can quite possibly push myself any further, and smash it. But there are days when getting going can seem an insurmountable task.

Motivation comes in many different forms, and sometimes in the most unsuspecting of places.

A few weeks ago I went to my gym to knock out my tempo run on the treadmill due to the lovely summer afternoon showers we get daily here in the ‘Sunshine State’. It was my second session of the day, and quite honestly I had zero motivation for the workout. It was a feat in and of itself that I got into the car to head to the gym, especially after another mentally exhausting day at work. I arrived at the gym in a pissed off mood; to put it bluntly the monster within me came out. I had thoughts of “why do I HAVE to do this?”. I didn’t want to do it, but …

Rewind back to my previous blog post a few months ago where I talked about changing the ‘have to’ verbiage to a reinforcing statement of “I get to”. I had to use my own advice and make the mindset shift.

It worked for about 3 seconds.

I started my workout and my legs pretty much just told me, ‘Hey asshole – we aren’t going to cooperate’. I pressed on in a fairly negative state struggling to take my own advice. Then towards the end of the warm-up I happened to look over to the right and in the corner of my eye I saw a woman doing an interesting movement on the rowing machine. A combo rowing motion and overhead press. I didn’t really think too much of it, but then I took a second glance. The woman doing the workout was an individual I had seen many times before either at the gym or out running. The second glance was caused not by me recognizing her, but by the fact that she was newly an amputee from the knee down on one of her legs. About this time my first interval started and I focused as best as I could, but in the back of my head I was thinking of how terrible I felt for the woman. I put myself in her shoes and the thought of me having to undergo something similar and how that would devastate me. Suddenly the ‘I get to’ verbiage really hit me in the face hard. Here I am pissed off because I had to go to the gym to do a tempo run – not wanting to do any movement, and this woman is adapting her workout routine(s) to allow for her to get any type of movement she possibly can.

The next 6 miles I was fully engaged in feelings of wonder and awe. What happened to her? What was going through her mind? The miles were also motivated by her willpower to say fuck it and keep going despite what life had thrown at her. She was working harder than the ‘bros’ in the free weight area that were chatting more than they were actually doing any true work.

To put it quite simply, she was busting her ass and giving zero fucks.

After I got done with my workout I walked over to tell her that she was a badass. She had inspired me to shut up and get to work.  I had the opportunity to chat with her a bit further, and learned her name - Janie. Janie was a marathon runner and told me how she recently had tried a few different prosthetics with the hope of being able to return to some semblance of running. She had not had much luck, but you could tell that she was not giving up and that her drive was present throughout most of how she approached life. I didn’t ask what happened to her leg, and honestly it wasn’t my business to ask. What we talked about was how she was constantly overcoming challenges, and she laughed off the many follies that she had gone through in her new situation.

Janie did not have to go workout that day, or any other day for that matter after her procedure. She chose to, and adopted the mindset of “I get to”. She truly loves working hard for her own personal satisfaction. Not for Instagram likes, or Strava Kudos, or posting  workout stats. Janie puts in the work silently and diligently, and when she faces a challenge she adapts and overcomes.

The last few weeks I have thought about Janie quite a bit as I am in the final blocks for Ironman Louisville. Janie was front and center in my mind this past weekend while racing the Litchfield Half Ironman. The race did not go as planned right from the beginning of the bike when my electronic shifter malfunctioned and automatically shifted to the extreme lowest gear on the cassette. I sat on the side of the road, and for a split second I thought about pulling out of the race. It was windy, overcast, cold, and my bike wasn’t working. I took a deep breath and tried to figure out how to get the bike to work so I could at least finish the race. While I stood there cold and frustrated,  Janie’s smile as she was busting her ass in the gym popped in my mind. I got on my bike, and went right to executing the race (in perhaps some of the windiest conditions I’ve ever raced in), full of the typical ebb and flow of racing including a bottle cage with my last bottle of nutrition coming off due to the rough roads. I didn’t get upset when any of this happened, instead I laughed and smiled. I thought about Janie and tried to embody her way of adapting to and overcoming anything that life throws at us.

That chance encounter in the gym was one of the most powerful lessons I have had in a long time and reminded me once again, that there is always a positive outcome to a negative situation; some are just more difficult to find.