Fitness · mental health · Nutrition

When the Mind and Body Work Together: How Triathlons Changed My Life

August 18, 2014 6:00 AM; The morning of my first triathlon

I remember standing by the lake with my swim cap on waiting to start. The fog was still coming off the water and the sun had just started to rise. I looked around at the other  9,000 women. They looked so confident and athletic. I was wide-eyed and nervous as can be. I felt absolutely terrified. I drowned out all the noise , the loud music, the laughing, the chatter and all I could hear were my own thoughts saying

Danielle, you’re like these other women”…

…”There’s no way I can do this”…

…”What in the world did I get myself into?”

The racers took off two by two and the complete stranger standing next to me chimed “Good luck!”. It interpreted by deep, self-deprecating conversation. I snapped out of it and turned to her. “Thanks,” I forced out.  The girl skipped up to the starting line ready to leap in the water and start the race. I turned to my family on the sideline and got a thumbs up. I waved, sucked in a deep breath and tried to ignore the violent beating of my heart in my throat. I stepped up. The buzzer went off and I ran into the water.

I haven’t looked back since.



Almost 3 years later this is how my room is decorated.

4 triathlons and more 5Ks and 10Ks then I can count, I can definitely say things changed from the very low confidence, nervous girl I was the morning of my first race.  Doing a triathlon is no walk in the park. It’s a violent battle between the mind and body for a solid 2-3 hours, where the mind will scream for the body to stop and but somehow it rebels and keeps going.

Through the pain, the doubt, the fear and the laughter, it has taught me SO much! It taught me about myself. It taught me about my body.  It taught me how incredibly connected the two are. It taught me how to help the mind and body work as a team (to be actually on the SAME team and get along). It taught me about how to not give up.

I learned how incredibly strong the human body can be. And how tough my mind is. Because those self-defeating thoughts didn’t simply stop. They kept going that first race and I had to learn to silence them.

Doing a race taught me that I can do anything I put my mind to. I didn’t play a single sport in high school. I was never known to be athletic or fit. I wasn’t into fitness or health when I started doing triathlons but it definitely lead me to a new passion and breathed a new life into me that I hadn’t seen in a while. It give me what I was looking for: a new version of me.  A healthier, more confident version of myself.

I learned how to silence (or at least turn down) those self-deprecating thoughts as I race. I learned to listen to the people cheering me on more then I listened to my own doubt. My mental health grew stronger than I ever thought it could be. My mind grew stronger along with my body and that was the part I never expected. My sleep got better, my eating habits changed. I didn’t’ want to go out for drinks on Friday nights because I had early Saturday morning workouts. I made it a priority and my health became so much better because of it.

Doing a race, weather it’s an Ironman or a 5K will teach you so much you need to learn about yourself. It’s a completely different world when you set a goal to finish a race and actually accomplish it. It’ll give you more confidence in yourself then years of therapy could ever achieve (and this is coming from an actual therapist!!)
Below is the picture of my race last year. The biggest take away I have gotten from training and racing is described best in this picture.  Always keep your head down and focus on the finish line.  I’ve applied this to many areas in my life  If someone in my world is trying to distract me from my “finish line”  (weather it be at work, or  personal) I put my head down and keep going, one step at a time. I visualize the finish line and how great I’ll feel crossing it. I use it as a metaphor for everything I do.


Now it’s time to apply this to your own life!
It’s spring time and everyone it trying to get that “beach body” (whatever that means) but I want you to get fit to improve your mind. To improve your sleep, your confidence, your way of life. Spring is a time of new life and new beginnings. It’s  perfect time to sign up for that first 5K, etc.  I never in a million years thought I could do a triathlon and I’ve done 4, training for my 5th. Let’s see what you can do. And of course I’ll be on your sideline cheering you on!!


Wants some tips on how to get started? Shoot me an e-mail, I’d be happy to help!

Follow my instagram, my own personal diary of food, exercise and motivation @collidehealth. See you at the finish line.

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