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Discover your (natural) talent

Posted Mar 15 2013 4:51pm

I can't help but smile when people ask me if I get jealous or upset about Karel's "natural" talent to go from 20+ years as a competitive cyclist to a triathlete who can run crazy fast. Karel and I both grew up as "athletes" so we both understand what it means to work hard for results. Of course, 6.5 years ago, when I met Karel on the bike, I never thought that I would now be married to a triathlete.

It's often said that cyclists can run.....but I would have to disagree that just because a cyclist is fit on the bike, it doesn't mean that fitness will transfer over to a weight bearing activity like running. Karel found running uncomfortable and often unbearable during the off-season in years past but then again, he only liked to run for beer and he never "trained" for running races, just used it as "exercise".

Since starting a new multisport lifestyle in June of 2012, Karel has mastered his running form and has found great enjoyment of running. With no injuries, he has had some incredible racing performances....
11/17: Native Sun 10K: 36:39 (5:53 min/mile)
12/16: Jax bank half marathon: 1:22 (6:17 min/mile)
2/16/13: Donna half marathon: 1:21 (6:14 min/mile)
3/9/13: Gate river run 15K: 55:35 (5:59 min/mile)

Although I love my husband very much and believe he is naturally talented, I will confess one thing about Karel....he trains harder than anyone I know....and he trains smart.

Karel does not mess around with training. There is no junk mileage- just one workout a day for 1-2 hours during the week and no more than 5-5.5 hours of training on the weekend (for half IM training). For a whopping total of around 10-12 hours of quality training, Karel trains hard in both body and mind. Training is consistent, it is balanced and it doesn't consume his life. As his wife and "Sumbal" teammate, I love his approach to training as it is something he has enforced with me over the past few years.

So enough about my fabulous husband, let's talk about natural talent.

Do you have it?

Natural talent is often used when describing an athlete who succeeds at his/her first try. But aren't we all talented in our own way by starting something that perhaps others feel is impossible?

Maybe you don't run sub 6:30 min miles like Karel (only in our dreams, right?) but perhaps your 10-13 min/miles is enough to carry you through a marathon or half ironman and that is enough to say you are extremely talented to be able to train for a race and finish what you started.

We all have talent in some extent. Although the beginning may be the hard part, you have the ability to get started and that is what makes you talented and from there, you grow confidence, skills and fitness and then your talent turns into a lifestyle. Talent doesn't have one definition - whether you run a 14 min/mile, bike 25 miles per hour or have the capability of run/walking a marathon. Perhaps you may not have been born with the physiology to run, swim or bike "fast", but that is all relative to who you are comparing yourself to. You get up every day, wanting to make yourself better than yesterday, even though  no one is paying you to workout or to train for a competitive sport. Sometimes you train alone, for an audience of one and when no one is watching you push yourself to the limits, drenched in sweat and satisfied with your effort.
So maybe you feel you weren't born with natural talent but your talent for something has made you interested in the possibility that you can improve and succeed.

Natural talent may be a term that you use for those who make it seem easy but you only get one shot at showing off your natural talent. Second, third, fourth time around...you have to work forbetter results. Therefore, if you don't work hard, you don't build your skills. Secondly, if you don't want it, don't expect to keep improving. Anything is learn-able if the want, desire and motivation is there.

Not to take the attention away from people who may appear "gifted" but never lose sight of your own personal goals. It's up to you to create a routine that is balanced, practical and realistic so that you move forward with your own talented body - the body that gets you up in the morning whereas others sleep in and lack the energy to get in a 1-2 hour morning workout. The body that may get sick at times but not sick to the point that you can't recover on your own, without the help of a hospital. The body that can consistently train for 8,12, 4 months at a time, day after day, letting you do what you love to do and rarely will it fail you.

There are many people in this world who lack natural talent but love what they are given in life. Some have more natural ability than others in a certain areas. But no matter your skill set in an area, if you never take that chance to test out your talent, you will never discover your true abilities.

Maybe you aren't heading to the Olympics or even to a World Championship but maybe down the road you will win your age group. The bottom line is that we all take risks to try something new and the reason why we have stuck with it is because we want to grow our talents.

As a society, we like to judge the end result. The race performance time or the age group or overall result reflects past training so if the end result isn't good, the effort of preparation was a failure.

Sadly, this is why athletes get way too wrapped up in mileage and junky training because the thinking is that it's much better to fail when you have overtrained than to enter a race slightly undertrained yet question your ability to have done more.

We tend to focus on final outcome instead of thinking about the process and the journey. Perhaps your drive for your career gave you the skills needed to succeed in sports, later in the life. As for many athletes, perhaps it was a passion for fitness that paid off in a huge way at your first running, cycling or triathlon race. Regardless of natural talent, if you are lazy or unmotivated, you can't get anywhere in life. Talent can only take you so far until the non-"gifted" athlete outrains you or finds a way to outsmart you in his/her race week/day approach.

Not everyone is willing to work hard for a goal and often the fear of the end result expectations is so great that athletes start to doubt the process, try to rush the journey or stop having fun. Not everyone is capable of designing a consistent training plan that keeps life balanced. Sure, it's easy to judge talent by a race results but behind closed doors, tenacity and patience is a gift that not everyone has and often has nothing to do with natural talent.


It's interesting thinking about sports and the lessons they teach you in life. I know for Karel and myself, it's hard to imagine our life in any other way for the skills we use in sport (mental toughness, hard work ethic, flexible, determined, etc.) we also use on a daily basis with our careers.

As I mentioned before, some things come easy for some and challenging for others. Regardless of the athlete, if you want it, you have to get after it in the most practical way possible, at this point in your life. Never lose sight on your goals, whether they happen now or 10 years down the road.

Consider yourself talented. If you want something out of your life (and for many, it involves a finishing line or body composition goal), consider the natural gift that you have in front of you to work hard for something that you are passionate about. As long as you don't give up and enjoy the journey along the way, you too will find success.
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