Caution: Deep thoughts lie ahead
When I was in college, I joined a fraternity. At the time, all I could think about was Greek Week, away weekends, homecoming, and the parties. I had a blast during those four years and I would definitely consider them the best four years of my life. One thing about Greek life that a lot of people don’t realize is that behind the letters lies a set of values. These values, which are the basis of each and every fraternity and sorority, believe it or not, guide us through our undergraduate years and lay the foundation for our futures (that is, if your organization does it right). I am thankful each and every day that I was part of such a great fraternity that stayed true to its values. I’ve gotten off track here and there, but ultimately, I have learned to live by these values.
So what does my college fraternity have to do with endurance sports? Aren’t fraternities all about blacked out weekends and animal house-esque parties? Not necessarily. My fraternity is based on the values of virtue, diligence, and brotherly love and our motto is Sound Mind, Sound Body. (Fun Fact: The shoe company ASICS stands for “anima sana in corpore sano, which is latin and translates to “a sound mind in a sound body”). I never truly understood the significance of this motto until after graduation. I realized that in order to get the most out of life, you not only need to be physically strong, but mentally strong as well. I also found that each of these support one another. Essentially, one cannot be physically strong without being mentally strong. It’s well known how mental and physical health interact and how they are positively correlated. In the beginning of college, I lacked both a sound mind and sound body. I struggled to keep up grades and struggled to stay in shape. As I progressed through my exercise science degree, I began to put theory into practice and started to pick up running again. As I did, I not only got stronger physically, but got stronger mentally. I was able to focus better and study smarter. As my body got stronger, my grades got better. Ultimately, I graduated college and found myself at a crossroads. I had this degree, but didn’t know what to do with it. I did some athletic training here and there, did some work in a chiropractic office, and then ended up doing some physical therapy work at a nearby clinic. As I worked at these various jobs, I encountered several people who influenced my life. Working in the sports medicine field I came across several runners, swimmers, and triathletes who I could quickly relate to with my running. I would talk to my clients about my degree and running background and they would enlighten me with their stories of century bike rides, ocean swims, and their long distance triathlons. Eventually, a group of triathletes who I met at the gym I worked at convinced me to sign up for a triathlon. It was nothing special – a small sprint triathlon in the area. Immediately, I was hooked. I went home, bought a bike, got a wetsuit, and jumped in with both feet – literally. I met up regularly with this group at the gym and they helped me hone my biking and swimming skills and taught me how to balance my swimming, biking, and running. They taught me about the transition areas, how to race, and how to race to my strengths. In a short period of time, I transitioned from the guy changing from bathing suit, to bike jersey, to running shirt and shorts, to a somewhat decent triathlete.
Triathlon changed my life. I learned to eat better and I learned to balance the training with work and school (I ended up going back for a nursing degree). I got more energy (and I still think I have an ungodly amount of energy), slept better at night, and was able to manage the ever increasing amount of stress. I also made an amazing group of friends. These people are truly amazing. We get up at 5 in the morning to train together and stay up until 10 at night to get a last minute work out in. We push each other to swim, bike, and run harder when we’re gasping for air. We stop to make sure everyone is okay when one falls behind or gets injured. My training group is like my second family and without endurance sports, I never would have met them. By being blessed with all of this, I finally truly understood what my letters signified. Virtue, diligence, and brotherly love.
- Virtue – High moral standards. Everybody I train with and everyone I worked with on my journey has exemplified virtue. We support each other and push each other. We hold each other to the highest standards by setting goals and working towards those goals and holding each other accountable. Outside of sport and in the health field, being virtuous is vital to providing quality care. These moral standards we set for ourselves guide our practice and, in the end, saves lives.
- Diligence – Persistent work and effort. This one’s obvious. My training partners are the hardest workers I’ve ever seen. Who else gets up at 5 in the morning to achieve their own goals? What’s even more amazing and humbling is that it is an internal diligence. There is no award, no money, no promotion, no significant accolade when working to achieve these goals. The only (and greatest) award is that feeling of self worth, hard work, and knowing that anything is possible. In my career, diligence is vital. I have a great study group that works hard to achieve the ultimate goal of graduation and starting careers.
- Brotherly Love – Brotherly (or sisterly) love. Caring and supporting those around you. Picking people up when they fall. Providing a shoulder to lean on when needed. This is essentially the core of a training group. They are the ones to help you through the hell you put upon yourself to reach your goals. This is also so important in my career and in my studies. Without the support of the amazing people in my program, I would not have gotten this far.
It only took me 6 years to figure out how to truly incorporate these values into my life. But now that I have, I can tell you I’m a better person. These values and endurance sports have taught me so much about myself. The main thing I’ve learned is that I’m smarter and stronger than I could have ever imagined and with hard work and a support system I can do anything I want. And I truly believe that anyone can achieve anything they set out to do. All they need is a set of core values to lead them there.