by Ben Muguia
There's nothing comfortable about a triathlon. Wet suits provide you with a nice little neck rub, goggles leave attractive raccoon eyes, your cycling kit gives wedgies that bring back elementary school memories, and saddle – well, you get where I’m going, and that’s just the attire. It’s a repeat cycle with constant training and (hopefully) racing. Most aspects of endurance sports aren't comfortable, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth the occasional awkwardness. As triathletes, we power through because in the end, we’re all doing what we love and we’re still going to get up the next day to do it again. The more comfortable you get with the uncomfortable, the better prepared you’ll be on race day.
One of the best ways to step outside your comfort zone is to train with a group. Training with a group will keep you accountable, force you to try new routes, sets, or speeds, provide the opportunity to meet other people who share this interest, and ultimately lead to faster race times. Plus it's a lot harder to ease up when others around you are pushing you. If you consistently challenge yourself and others, you will see improvement.
I remember getting little to no sleep the night before my first Longhorn Aquatics Masters practice. I had been swimming for only a few months, couldn't do a flip turn, and was sure that I would be the slowest one there. Much to my relief, there was a wide range of abilities among the squad. Not only was everyone friendly, but many went out of their way to show me the ropes. I'm confident that had I not joined Longhorn Aquatics, I would still be doing open turns, never have entered a swim race, and improved more slowly. Swim times in the pool that were once "all out" efforts have become slower than many of my steady set paces that I swim today. While I'm by no means the fastest person in the pool, I've seen major improvement since I joined and now have a group of amazing friends who keep me motivated throughout each practice.
Biking with a group has led to similar improvements. I had read about the ATC Ride for months, but I was always too timid to give it a try. I feared I would be bumped to the back of the group and left pedaling in circles in the Hill Country. During my first ride, it went pretty much how I expected. I was dropped by the front of the group like a bad habit, but luckily there were others around me to show me the way, and everyone regrouped a few miles later. Since then, and many rides later, I've learned to hang on to that front group and have met some great people along the way.
Joining a group ride, run, or swim can be intimidating at first, but don’t forget that everyone there has been in your shoes before. Showing up is the first step, and you’re only a newbie the first time. So I encourage you to take a step outside your comfort zone and attend one of the many group rides, runs, and swims that Austin has to offer. Come on out to the ATC Ride. You won't be the only one experiencing some discomfort out there, whether you’re new to the sport, have on a kit that isn't quite stretched out yet, or maybe you’re new to town. I can promise it's a good discomfort that you’ll soon start to look forward to.
Ben Munguia is an endurance sports enthusiast who has been training for and participating in triathlons since 2009. A Dallas native, Ben now lives in Austin with his wife Lauren and vizsla Tucker. In his free time, you 'll find him running Lady Bird Lake, biking his favorite Lost Creek/Cuernavaca loop, or swimming in local pools.