Friday, June 7, 2013


I got into a conversation today that stemmed from Reid Coolsaet's broken collarbone, acquired while out mountain biking with chums. An ultrarunner friend of mine cited this as evidence that he was right not to cross-train, even recreationally, as it might keep him from running.

I had to call him out.

I'm not paid to be an athlete. As much as I may question the idea when I'm halfway through the run at the end of a tri, I actually do this stuff for fun; it's a hobby, and really nothing more. When it comes to hobbies, I have quite a lot even beyond the various permutations of swim/bike/run - motorcycling, snowboarding, paddling, sailing, cross-country skiing, hiking/backpacking, golf, camping, climbing, tobogganing, snowshoeing, hockey, rollerblading, volleyball, basketball, hell even darts and billiards. I like to hit the dirt and the velodrome on the bike, and have been known to enter the occasional cyclocross race or other thing that puts me in way over my head.

Though not always out of my depth..
Yes, there's an increased risk of injury when taking part in some of these things. My father was killed in a motorcycle crash last year, and I myself gave a dramatic demonstration of what happens when mountain biking goes awry

Broken sucks.

I could just as easily drown in a paddling accident, fall off a cliff while climbing, or have a dart ricochet and hit me in the head (I'm not very good). I do, however, refuse to stop doing any of these things! I've pretty well proven that even a broken wrist won't stop me from doing what I love, and most of the injuries I've sustained in the last few years have actually been a result of training for triathlon (hello, over-use injuries!)...but the real issue here is that there are so many other things I love apart from triathlon.

I actually had one of the best swims of my life like this.

There are great benefits to supplementing your sport of choice with other activities, as you'll work more muscles in different patterns - that can help prevent injuries and keep you training and improving, rather than having you sidelined because of a stress fracture or tendinitis. Humans were made to move in lots of different ways! The biggest benefit, though, can be psychological. In the past, I've let single activities start to dominate my life - when something is fun, you want to do it all the time! But eventually I always end up unhappy, because living life through a single medium eventually gets dull. I know people who define themselves by one hobby, and as long as they're happy that's great for them, but a one-dimensional life simply doesn't satisfy me.

Even one dimension that's actually 3 sports.

If you, as a recreational athlete, ever find yourself wishing you could do something - be it entering a dance competition, trying kiteboarding, throwing down in a competitive eating contest or just going for a spin through the woods with some pals - and figure you can't because it might interfere with your sport of choice, perhaps it's time to examine your priorities. You could be hurt in a car accident, get hit by a meteorite, or even just do something as mundane as slip and fall in the shower, too.

I'm not saying you have to throw caution completely to the wind..

We're only given a certain amount of time on this plane of existence, and I am completely convinced that our purpose is to have as much fun as possible during that time. So please, if you're shying away from what could be an amazing experience out of some sort of ill-conceived sense of duty to your sport of choice, you owe it to yourself to really think about the place of that sport in your life. If you're an elite or professional with a real shot at making yourself a name in your athletic pursuits then this may not apply (but note that even Reid Coolsaet will go out mountain biking with his buddies!), but if you're paying your own entry fees and racing for the pure joy of competition, why should you feel obligated to trade one kind of fun for another?

You'd miss out on moments like this.

I was definitely slower racing Lakeside with a cast last year than I would have been otherwise, but I guarantee you I had just as much fun as I would have unbroken - maybe even more, since I had no expectations and could just enjoy the day as it came. I got right back on the bike that broke me, as shown in the photos above from the Tour de King 50k raced just 5 weeks after I broke my wrist. Had the injury been something like a broken leg instead, I could still swim and paddle!

Probably not all kinds of paddling, though.

So the next time you get the opportunity, go on and try something just for the sheer hell of it - give anyone that tries to remind you of your athletic "obligations" a big ol' "Where's The Fun?", and tell them I said it's all right.  You never know if this new thing might become your next favourite hobby! Just don't let it consume your life, ok? There's always something new to experience.

Go get 'em tiger!

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