The Volunteer Challenge

Posted: August 22, 2016 in In Transition, Motivation
Tags: ,

(Disclaimer:  This post was written not to be abrasive, accusatory or argumentative in anyway.  It was inspired by both something I am passionate about as well as some of the recent observations I have made over the past few years in pursuing and impacting that passion)

There are lots of unique “challenges” out there to incite and inspire healthy lifestyle choices like the “30 Day Plank Challenge”, the “Push-up Challenge” and the “Sun Salutation Challenge”.  Strava alone is full of specified challenges to swim, bike and run certain distances, or climb a specific elevation, or maybe “race” a certain event within or over a set period of time.  Others challenges are more aimed at creating awareness around a very deserving cause, charity or foundation and will, likely, ask you to video tape yourself doing something silly like jumping into snow bank naked or dumping a bucket of ice water over your head.  You can view my own HERE.

It’s all for fun.

Ultimately the point is to inspire and motivate others to do something healthy and positive while raising awareness around something important…be it whatever it is.

My own cause is helping kids, even more so in recent years when I actually become a parent.

To this extent, I have supported the Strong Kids program at my local YMCA which provides healthy lifestyle programs and opportunities for disadvantaged kids.  Each year I swim 10 kilometers for Frank & Friends and participate in a Cycle-a-thon in support of the cause.

I have also just completed my 4th year working with the SunRype Tri-KiDS Triathlon series.  I started as a volunteer and have now graduated to becoming a part of the actual race crew responsible for organizing and running all the kids events in Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta.  Through doing this, I have learned just how important and vital volunteers are in making these events successful.

But the reality is, volunteers are not easy to come by and this never ceases to surprise me.

Most sporting communities with which I am associated tend to suggest that they are interested in “community”  and, often “giving back”.   I hear these two terms being thrown around a lot but, truthfully, I don’t always see these sentiments being put into practice…at least to the extent I think they should anyway.

My own triathlon group has this built right into their mission statement:

“…a supportive community of multisport athletes for all ages and abilities”.


It goes on to add:

“…as a club we train with a focus on having fun, building a sense of community, and the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.”

Sounds great, right?

I agree.

So why then are volunteers often difficult to come by?  So I am throwing out another challenge to all my friends and peers:

The Volunteer Challenge.

My challenge is simple:  add one specific day or event to your calendar this season (or next) that involves sacrificing a bit of your time to instead help create a positive experience for someone else.


Full stop.

I’m suggesting that you actually go out there and volunteer for a group or organization that matters to you as a way of actually “giving back”  to that “community”  you are proud to be a member of.

Obviously, I am partial to kids and the SunRype Tri-KiDS organization in particular.  I mean, it’s the best of two worlds:  I get to help kids have a positive experience in their own triathlon endeavors and in doing that, I’m “giving back” and helping to establish the “community” that is very important to me.  I am encouraging then all my triathlon peeps (no matter where you are) to, similarly, also give it a “tri” (if you’ll pardon the obvious pun).

Here’s what you likely won’t get to do:

  1. Swim
  2. Bike
  3. Run

Notice that nowhere did I use the work “workout”.

But I’ll come back to that.

I do understand though why this might be intimidating for some.  They likely have a goal that they are 100% committed to and working towards.  Time is of the essence.

I understand that.

I’ve been there.

Really, I have.

But I have also learned this:  missing one long bike ride, or swim or your anticipated weekend LSD run isn’t going to solely cause you to tank on your being able to accomplish your goal…whatever it is.

It won’t.

Trust me.

In fact, it might just be absolutely the best thing for you in accomplishing that goal.

Allow me to explain:

Here’s what you will get.

  1.  A workout like no other

You may not be swimming, biking or running but, I assure you that you will be physically exhausted by the end of the day.  I guarantee you that you will be physically and mentally fatigued.  Often, I am more worn out after 8 hours of duty at the bike mount line than I am after any of my long workouts.  Everything is sore; my feet, my legs, my back, etc.  It is not an easy day but you’ll absolutely 100% have a smile on your face.  Can you say that about all your other workouts?

Think of it as a unique cross training activity.

  1.  Infinite motivation

I mean, c’mon!  If seeing a child complete their first (or third, fourth, or whatever) triathlon isn’t inspiring in and of itself isn’t motivating – particularly if they’re doing it with a smile on their face – I don’t know what does.

What I can also tell you is this, in my own big event back in 2012 (Ironman Wales), when the wheels started to come off and I started to go into that dark place that will inevitably come with long distances, it was the memories of some of these kids that helped inspire me to keep pushing and to continue moving forward to the finish.

And, hey, there will also be moments like this (click link below).

5-year-old Wesley was one of our VIP’s this year.    Wesley, as a result of coping with and overcoming brain cancer, lost mobility in his lower body and the ability to speak.  Despite all this, Wesley managed to complete a triathlon…a fucking triathlon!  I will admit, that seeing this brought tears to my eyes and you had better believe that this is going to motivate and inspire me during those guaranteed dark points in my future events.

What motivated you on your last workout?

  1.  The ultimate feel good factor

Think about it, you will help to enrich an experience for any number of kids.  In an average day at the bike mount line, I directly interact (and hopefully, positively) with around 400-500 kids.  That’s a lot of impact to feel good about.  Yes, you will have the same opportunity to directly make the experience as positive as absolutely possible.  And as with anything positive, there is inevitably a darker  side and, usually, (for me anyway) this comes in the form of some parents.  It absolutely shocks me sometimes in regards to what some parents feel is appropriate “encouragement”.  My favorite so far is overhearing being yelled from the sidelines: “GO FASTER!  KEEP PUSHING!  YOU CAN BREATHE WHEN YOU GET HOME!”


The kid was 9-years-old…and in tears.


Now imagine if somebody had said, “You’re doing amazing!  Keep going!”, or maybe “just have fun”, or “wow, look at how awesome you are!”  instead.  What a different experience that would have been.

Well, you will get to be that  person.

And with people like that, your “community” can’t help but do well.

So, friends, peers, triathletes, I’m throwing down the gauntlet.

Go and volunteer!

And if not for triathlon or SunRype Tri-KiDs or whatever, get out there and actually do something to make that positive difference in whichever community it is that you feel so strongly about.  Forget about the all haloed “schedule”, or that today is supposed to be “long bike day”.  Instead, go out and give back whatever it was that inspired you to become a part of that community you love so much in the first place.

Be the change you wish to see in your world.

You won’t regret it.

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