Winners vs. Champions

Many people think the words winners and champions are interchangeable, but to me there seems to be a huge difference. Its all in their attitude, their approach to the game or challenge laid out before them.

Winners are easily satisfied. They get the “W” and are happy. Once the goal is in sight they can glide in. Like a boat approaching a dock, they shut the engines down and coast up the moorings and all will be OK. This approach will effect the results as much as negative attitudes will. A winning attitude may not seem like a negative one, but it’s  negative in the sense that it will not create the best possible results. I call it a neutral attitude.

Champions, on the other hand, are never satisfied. Champions are thinking of the next step. they are wondering how they could approach the dock better, more efficiently. They reach a point that others see as a pinnacle and ask themselves if they could get to that point again only better or faster. The unrelenting drive to overcome obstacles builds them, when winners are busy looking at what they have already accomplished, champions are looking for the next challenge.

Winners are happy that they have achieved a new goal. They will spend time relishing in their accomplishments. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but a champions is never content. They are constantly looking for a new goal.

Have you ever watch some sort of championship game where one team dominates the other? That is a prime example of winners vs. champions. It almost seems like one team comes out like a steamroller and the other has given up. The steamrollers will stop at nothing to get to the top, while the other team acts as if they’ve started the off season and are ready for a vacation.

Can a winner become a champion? What about someone who isn’t even in one of these categories? Can someone who has never wanted to achieve anything eventually achieve greatness? The answer is a resounding YES! It’s all in the mindset. One must work on the mental aspect of their chosen endeavor, but it can be done. Muhammad Ali said “Champions aren’t made in the gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision.”

It is up to you to create that desire, that dream and that vision. There must be a fire within that you ignite yourself. No one can do this for you. The only way to light this fire is with a passion. It’s this passion that will turn you into a steamroller instead of a early vacationer. Movies are made about champions not winners. The constant pursuit of excellence makes for a better story.

This being said, I’ve come to realize that I am a winner, I get close to the finish line and I cruise in. My next big goal is to work on my championship attitude. When I’m in the last stretch, drive harder not glide in.

Team Red, White and Blue

We all have our reasons that start us on our fitness journey, for some its the military. Many times I hear people say that they haven’t ran since they were in ______(insert branch of service). What is it that makes people stop exercising when they leave the service?

Often times the need to transition to civilian life overshadows any desire to include fitness. Eventually, not exercising becomes a way of life, a habit. Life just tends to get in the way and priorities change.

The problem is that when they get out of the service, the motivation and encouragement are gone. A camaraderie is lost. There is almost a feeling of isolation among those who have served when they enter the civilian world. Many times these individuals entered straight from high school or college, they never saw what it was like in the “real” world. The way of life is completely different from anything they have experienced.

Devotion is probably the one big thing that they miss. Devotion to the team, to the goal and to share success. Many times a veteran feels isolated, so to speak; those around him may not understand the level of devotion that a vet has experienced. To go on a run and know that you can depend on the person next to you is one thing but, to have gone out and proved it is another thing altogether. Some have trained for years together and fought in wars, side by side.  

There is an organization that is trying to help the veteran fit in, it’s called, Team Red, White and Blue. Members, or eagles as they call themselves, are veterans and civilians who support the military. Their mission statement is “enriching the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity”.

Team RWB, has provided me, along with thousands of others, with many opportunities to grow through the national training camps they host and through more local and personalized events.

As for myself, I can honestly say that without Team RWB, I would not be where I am today. They have provided me the encouragement and knowledge to get to the point of running in ultra-marathons and I am not alone. Across the country and around the world via United States military bases they are changing lives.

Their reach does not stop at running, they offer support and encouragement in many fields: triathlon, cycling and yoga to name a few. Each chapter has individuals with unique skillsets that they are encouraged to share.

Whether you are a veteran or you just want to support our veterans, I would encourage you to join them. It’s free and vets get a Team RWB tech shirt for the cost of shipping.

Pushing Your Limits

At almost every race I’ve been to, I have seen people who were obviously broken and emotional. You can see it in their eyes, there is a lost look on their face. They stare off into the distance, oblivious to the bustle going on around them. Their eyes are glazed over, they move delicately. Some have finisher’s medals, some have tears, but all have a new appreciation for themselves and what they can accomplish.

These are the people who have my respect, above those on the podium. The runners who come in completely broken down, who have pushed themselves to a point that they never thought possible. When you look into their eyes, you can tell. It’s like they have scared the hell out of themselves and somehow in the process, they have learned what it truly means to live life to the fullest.

There are many things to fear, but fear of preconceived limits is the worst. We have no reason to think that we can’t do something, we just need proof of what is possible. Maybe these false notions of our limits come from others, after all negativity tends to rub off and multiply. These near zombies that I see at the finish line have ignored the limiters and naysayers. They have gone out and looked for that magical wall for themselves. This deserves nothing but respect and admiration.

For centuries we have celebrated great explorers, men who scaled the highest peaks, drove into the unknown forests or sailed off to the vast oceans, not knowing when or if they would ever return. We’ve idolized humans who have driven the boundaries of technology further than we thought we could ever achieve. I think that we should put the people who have explored their personal limits, and perhaps moved them, on the same pedestal.

There are times when a person hits a limit that they cannot overcome, the mental or physical demands are just too much. The task is just too strenuous to overcome. They scratch and claw to get past it, but to no avail. Some would see this as a failure, but is it failing when you have found what you’re looking for?

This journey is one of the most personal, internal struggles we face. Others can guide us or they go on their own journey that parallels ours, but in the end we must face these barriers on our own. We can have mentors counsel us, but the deep, dark trenches of our minds are our own territory to battle through.

The beauty of watching someone push these limits is that you get to see a newer, greater version of that person emerge.  It’s not like looking at a baby, who is a blank slate, full of possibilities. It’s much deeper than that. Like an entirely new soul being built from the ashes and recycled materials of the old one.

If done right, this is a never ending process. We will continue to push our internal limits, growing and evolving in the process. When we do find that point that cannot be overcome, that permanent boundary, we just turn and go another direction finding another way around that wall.

So the ones who are brought to tears at the finish line, whether of pain or of joy, are the ones who deserve our respect. The ones who limp in long after the awards are over, after the winner is home, they are the true victors.