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How to stay happy while undergoing physical and mental torture during training and competition

So, here you are all prepped-up to do a swimrun race. Training has gone well, preparations are on point and you and your partner are aligned in both spirit and performance. But then post-race, you can’t really shake that feeling of being uncomfortable, or lacking happiness.

What happened and why do I feel like this?

The post-race feeling

What many can experience just after a race is a state of “Nothingness”. In the philosophical world, this is a term that denotes the general state of nonexistence, sometimes reified as a domain or dimension into which things pass when they cease to exist, just like a race performance. The philosopher Kierkegaard has debated this at length in his existential philosophy, that nothingness arouses fear and that they are always found in company with one another. Where fear in itself can act as an obstacle to a successful achievement, and consequently also to some extent push people to train and race beyond their own physical capacity and mental state of well-being, to get rid of this fear.

Hands up all of you who have “gone down in the basement” during a race.

Individual achievement vs. absolute performance

A study looking into the phenomenon of training and racing and its effect on one’s state of happiness has found that frequent thoughts of giving up during a race, will most likely affect you post-race happiness negatively. Also, that mental torture during training and racing is negatively associated with happiness in the weeks after the race. That training and racing this hard in the long term of a season, can create a negative spiral. The study however found that satisfaction with a race outcome positively affected happiness, suggesting that achieving individual goals was more important than absolute performance in terms of pushing oneself to finishing times and ranks.

Train and race for you and your partner, for pleasure and not pain

Consequently, it can be concluded that happiness as a reward for torture is only productive in the short term, but negative in the long term. To stay overall positive and make the swimrun season last, it’s best to train and race with a long-term perspective in mind and with more moderate individually set goals, and to have fun while doing it.

Thus, stay happy!

/The WoS Team

You can find the full study here:

Happiness as a Reward for Torture: Is Participation in a Long-Distance Triathlon a Rational Choice?

Joel Maxcy, Pamela Wicker, and Joachim Prinz

Photo: ÖtillÖ Pierre Magnez

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