Reflection: a thought, idea, or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of meditation; consideration of some subject matter, idea, or purpose
Reflect: to bend or fold back; to think quietly and calmly; to express a thought or opinion resulting from reflection
(definitions from http://m-w.com)
The epistemology, or origin, of the word reflection in the English language, comes from the Latin word reflexio, which means to "bend back." Reflection is a word often associated with meditation, contemplation, and 'to process.' In a variety of forms we all reflect on activities and events that have impacted us. We reminisce about our schooling days, we ponder our first love, we meditate on various abstract ideas or concepts-whatever it is, our processing of these remembrances helps us to form thoughts, ideas, and insight into how we understand the past and plan for the future. We need to specify here however, that although it is healthy to contemplate the past, we must make sure we are not living in the moment of some historic event and thus stifling our ability to move forward into more wholesome and positive places/experiences in the future.
So what does this mean for the endurance athlete? It means a great deal, but specifically it means that 1) we as athletes can learn from our experiences, and 2) the concept of reflection can be utilized to improve our future performance.
As athletes that compete in a challenging sport, we often times face circumstances, in competition, that are unpredictable and unforeseen; our goggles get kicked off our face by a fellow competitor on the swim, our tire flats at the turn-around on the ride, our calves cramp up because of sodium depletion and dehydration caused by abnormally hot conditions, and the list goes on. Fortunately there are no wasted experiences in life, and the same is true for triathlon and endurance racing. When we look back to and reflect upon our experiences, we gain insight, wisdom, and understanding that cannot be read in a book, watched on a video, or imparted by a coach.
I encourage all my athletes to reflect after each race they compete in, and then reflect again at the end of the season about how it went, and what could be learned for the following seasons. This looking back and looking forward allows the athlete to put their past performances into perspective and to grow for future competition.
Now that we have a better idea of why we reflect and the benefits from it, the next question one might ask is, "how do I reflect and what questions do I ask myself?" I have attached a document that can help guide your through some of the necessary and beneficial questions to ask yourself. If you find this exercise helpful or you would like to set up an appointment to review your season with a coach, please contact me.
As you look back on this year's season may you relish in your accomplishments, learn from your short-comings, and look forward to next season with anticipation and hope.