I often find myself thinking about a chapter from our book Becoming A Consummate Athlete, titled “The Importance Of Finding Your Support Crew.” If you’re a pro racer, your support crew is likely pretty obvious. But for the rest of us (and even for pros when they look beyond team mechanics and directors), there are so many other people in your life who play into your support system as an athlete. And almost equally importantly, there are some people who are in your circle who maybe are less than supportive, which isn’t always a sign to kick them out of your life, but it does mean you need to look for a strong support system elsewhere. And sometimes, the people who you don’t feel are supportive perhaps would be if you had that conversation!
Here, we’re sharing a bit from that chapter, where we break down the different “crews” and support systems that an athlete should have in place, or at least consider.
If, as you’re going through this list, you realize you’re lacking support for your athletic or healthy living endeavors in one or more of these areas, that’s both okay and totally normal. But it may be worth having a conversation, however hard that may be, with your friend/boss/husband/roommate about how he or she can better support you. Most people in your inner circle want you to be the best version of yourself, they just may not know how to best help you do that.
This might be your team, or it could simply refer to your inner friend circle, the crew who’s there for happy hours, baby showers, birthday and bachelorettes. It’s good to have a balance here: You don’t want to surround yourself with people who only want to talk about sport, or only have that one specific thing in common with you. It’s important to have a good balance in your life, between riding buddies who can be counted on to show up in rain, sleet or snow to pedal with you every Sunday and friends who just want to have a good game of Pictionary on the third Saturday of every month.
The only thing you want to avoid are the types of friends who are constantly questioning your healthy choices or urging you to make unhealthy ones. Our general rule is that it’s totally fine to hang out with a few friends who will definitely order the third or fourth glass of wine… It’s only a problem if, when you switch to water after the second drink, they give you a hard time about it.
It’s also important to remember that not every activity has to be a group one—if you’re more extroverted and running or riding with friends is what fills you up, that’s great, and by all means, coordinate with friends. Just make sure you’re still able to get your actual workouts done, if you are working towards a goal. And if you’re more like me (Molly) and are on the introverted side, you do need to find a balance of running / riding with friends as social time while still getting that solo training time to refill and recharge.
Your Partner / Children
Does your partner or spouse support your goals? Your partner doesn’t have to be your biggest cheerleader, nor should you expect them to be, but to be successful as an athlete, having them at least understand your ‘why’ and that sport is important to you is key. A partner doesn’t have to write your name on his stomach and be jumping up and down at the finish line, but he could help by making a big salad for dinner two nights each week, or by agreeing to cut down on wine consumption, or by taking over an extra chore or child-minding duty so you can sneak in one extra training session.
Your kids can be a major source of inspiration and motivation, and terrific cheerleaders—if they know what you’re doing and why. But if all they understand is that on weekends, you’re not around because you’re out on the bike, that won’t help your relationship. They can be on your team or they can be reluctant spectators. It’s a lot easier to make gains in your healthy habits if you bring them on board and get them excited about your sport.
Your Boss and Other People You Report to
These are the people in your life that control chunks of your day: This might be a boss, or if you work for yourself, it could even be the ‘boss’ side of you. It can also include parents that you care for, like an aging mother that needs help getting to certain appointments. We also include children here as well—that’s right, you report to your children, in the sense that someone has to be around to take them to certain practices, help with homework, or even simply spend time with them. Heck, even pets might make this list!
Like your spouse, these people don’t have to care about your goals but they do need to understand them. A boss knowing your Ironman goal and understanding that you’re doing everything you can to make it to the finish line in under 12 hours might be willing to let you shift your schedule to take a slightly longer lunch in order to sneak in a run and refuel during the workday, or be less likely to make a snide comment when you opt out of taking a cupcake that a coworker has brought to the staff meeting.
Unlike your teammates or the members of your run club, who may end up racing against you and who have their own athletic fish to fry, or your spouse, boss or kids who frankly, don’t really care one way or another whether or not you PR your next race, your coach is literally paid to be in your corner. He or she can be one of the most critical parts of your personal team, especially if you don’t feel like you have anyone else to talk to about your sport. (Read more: Of All the Reasons To Need a Coach, Witnessing is the Most Interesting)
Want to learn about how to find a club, team or crew? We talk all about it in our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, and you can grab a copy right here: