Breaking it Down

 In my blog, “Why Not Tri?” I described how I got hooked after doing my first sprint triathlon and made comparisons to the spiritual life. But that is not the end of the story.

Because it was not always convenient working around the training schedule of the Andover triathlon training group, I decided to train and compete in my next sprint triathlon on my own. I had the goal of participating in one competition a year. I followed the workouts that were created by my coaches. I was fairly faithful to the workouts.

When I completed my second race, I felt like the air was let out of my balloon. I was bummed because my time was worse that my first triathlon.

I trained again the next year for another race. It went okay.

This year, a relatively new program caught my attention. It is called the Tri Cup. There are six or seven indoor sprint triathlons spread out over six or so months. Participants receive points for competing in each race and more points based on how the individual placed. After the final race in May, winners in each of the age categories would be announced.

This intrigued me enough that I signed up to do it. And it taught me another important lesson about the spiritual life.

Because the races were so close together, it was easier to identify actions that I could take to correct past errors. For example, during the first triathlon, I noticed that with each swimming pool being a little different, I would not always hit my flip turns well, negatively affecting my swim time, my confidence, and my rhythm. After the first race I decided to do one of my swimming workouts at the actual YMCA of the upcoming competition. This strategy worked great. I nailed all of my flip turns at the second race.

After the first race I also made resolutions to consistently get more rest and try to plan so I could do the entire time required for each workout rather than cutting it short. I also fine-tuned what I ate before the race. I wrote my times from the first race on my arm so I could pace myself to go faster at the second race.

I was pleased to learn that in my second race I had cut my time by over two minutes. I was even able to identify more improvements to make between now and the next scheduled race: take my vitamins every day, break down the times even more by minutes and laps on my arm so it is easier to see where I need to increase my pace, bring my stopwatch to time my laps, keep shooting for the complete time workout, don’t get any less than seven hours of sleep per night.

I could not help but see the parallels between my experience with triathlon in the Triathlon Cup series and going to Confession. When I was going to Confession once a year, it didn’t seem that I was making much progress in my spiritual life. However, when I set the goal of going to reconciliation every two weeks and not let more than every four weeks go between times in the confessional, things started happening.

I had a much greater awareness of when I was committing a sin. I was able to focus on three or so of my sins and develop ways to improve between confession visits. I had this sense of accountability knowing I would be going back to the priest, and did not want to face the priest feeling that I had not done any progress.

As humans we do much better and make more improvement when we can break things down. Frequent confession helps us do just that.

The Catholic Women’s Guide to Healthy Relationships Tip: Start accelerating your spiritual growth by going to confession every two weeks and at the most every four weeks.