Friday, June 28, 2013

Type A-thletes

I've heard and read quite a bit that triathletes are typical Type A Personalities.  And while nothing is a hard and fast rule, and there is plenty of room for exceptions, after a little research, I have found that this is an overwhelmingly accurate characterization of your garden variety multisporter.  Whether a newbie who is trying the sport of triathlon for size or a seasoned Ironman, I think that it is safe to assume that there are certain traits that lend themselves to success in the sport.**

What do you think of when you hear Type A?  I know what I think of.  I think bossy, I think go-getter, I think domineering, I think a not-wait-around-for-something-to-happen-in-my-lifer, I think ADHD.  How close am I to the real interpretation of this no-so-exact science of defining the psyche of an entire population of individuals and limiting them to a narrow scope of traits?  And how well can they be applied to the sport of triathlon?  Let's see...

Urgency regarding time. Type A folks are always racing against the clock, whether it's on a work deadline or in traffic, so it stands to reason that a sport that requires you to race from one discipline to another with the intention of shedding mere seconds off a T1 or T2 or even beating a previous bike or run split is IDEAL.  The challenge is in the chase for Type A's, therefore triathlon is the perfect place to exercise this tendency with absolutely no restraint.

The competitive streak. Type A's are competitive, so duh.  Triathlon is a superb place to get your competitiveness on, from racing against the clock, racing against yourself, and the very the best thing of all - racing against other Type A's.

We are multitaskers. Because of the urgency we create in getting things done faster than anyone else in the world who has attempted the task previous, and because we also want to do it better than they do, Type A's excel at attempting to do a laundry list of things at once with measurable success.  What better place to get that out of our systems than in a triathlon?  Not only do we get to basically do three races in one day - talk about time savings! - but we have the opportunity to constantly break down each component of each part of the race as it happens.  For example, during the swim, we might simultaneously be thinking about sighting buoys, when and how to push through a group of swimmers, the best place to pee in the water, and what the hell we would do if a jellyfish wrapped itself around our heads (or a water moccasin, if it's a fresh water swim). During the bike, we might be considering shifting, eating, drinking, passing without drafting, and praying to the triathlon gods to keep our tires fat and happy with air all at once.  And during the run, we are likely thinking about PRing, peeing, and trying to remember if there is a beer truck at the finish line (and hoping that there is beer left if you are slow like I am).  A triathlon is a Type A personality's dream scenario.

Independent streak.  We Type A's are somewhat independent creatures.  Maybe it's because others can't keep up with the demands we place upon ourselves, or maybe it's because we are annoying.  Maybe both.  But what I have found is that even if you train with a club, a group, or even a partner, triathlon is by and large a very selfish and individual sport at the end of the day.  It requires a huge amount of ambition and motivation (other Type A traits).  Most people aren't going to get out of their warm beds to go for a 6 a.m. swim or a 4:30 a.m. long run or a 3-hour sunrise bike ride.  Even with you.  No matter how good you smell or even if you bring them coffee.  So we are left to being our own best cheerleaders, our own best coaches.  But if you are like me, that lends itself to a certain level of satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.  Which is a great thing.

One thing that I read that I take issue with is that Type A personalities do not like routine.  I find this a little contradictory.  Regarding triathlon, I can think of no more concrete routine than the almighty training program.  I am so married to the idea of a training calendar that I feel lost when I am not following one.  Now, that is not to say that I don't adapt to change because I do - yep, another Type A trait.  Each plan is different, and I look forward to getting all squishy and comfortable in the middle of each one.  But I also like starting a new one for the next race.  It's like a new Christmas gift each and every time.

Type A and triathlon go together like peanut butter and jelly, ham and swiss, or foam rollers and biofreeze.  But, while it seems that all triathletes are Type A personalities (or seriously lean in that direction), not all Type A personalities are triathletes.  

What do you think of the correlation between Type A personality traits and the sport of triathlon?

**Success, of course, is relative.  Whether you aim for the podium finish or you just bust your balls to beat your previous time or you simply aim to cross the finish line in the upright position, everyone who puts in the time, sweat, and training and finishes a race is a success.  This is not subject argument or debate.

Sources consulted:

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