growth is a series of transitions | the bookish athlete

triathlon transitions

There are two transitions in a triathlon: swim to bike and bike to run. I’ve had enough experience with triathlons to know what to expect in each of these transitions. And I don’t expect it to be comfortable.

Swim to Bike: stubborn wetsuit, numb toes, smashed ponytail under helmet, squishy shoes, and plenty of goosebumps

Bike to Run: wobbly legs, lack of coordination, and relief to be off the bike while questioning who thought this whole triathlon thing was a good idea anyway

As uncomfortable a triathlon transition can be, it doesn’t last forever. And with experience, you learn what to expect. For example, I know I need about fifteen minutes on the bike to forget about my numb toes and smashed ponytail. And about ten minutes of running will un-wobble my legs.

Obviously, transitions are necessary for triathlon. It’s how we get from one stage to the next. Without them, we’d be stuck.

life transitions

But what about the transitions that go beyond the sport of triathlon? How do you get from where you are to where you want to be – in life, relationships, and your career?

To be honest, the non-triathlon transitions drive me a little crazy. Not my biggest area of strength. It makes sense to me that to get from where I am now to where I want to be, some stuff has to happen in between. Without “that stuff,” there is no change, and there is no growth.

growth is a series of transitions.

But it’s also something I resist.

When I’m in the middle of a transition, I don’t know what’s going on or what’s going to happen. I feel unsettled. So to avoid feeling like this, I try to regain a (false) sense of control. Or, I resist the entire process and end up back to where I’ve already been. Stalled out on the path to where I want to be.

signs of transitional resistance:

Transitional resistance sounds pretty fancy, and I’m not sure if it’s a real thing. All I know is that my transitional resistance looks and sounds like a toddler who’s in desperate need of a juice box and some fruit snacks.


“What I’m doing now is working; why would I want to change anything? Go away and leave me alone.”

I’m more stubborn than a wetsuit that’s stuck around your ankles. When I set my mind to something, it’s hard to convince me to change it. This works out well in endurance sports, where setting your mind to something can get you to a finish line. But what might be a strength for swimming, biking, and running, could get me in some trouble in other areas of life. Areas where I sense something is shifting, giving me the cue to dig in my heels and resist the change.


“I’m the boss, and I didn’t ask for this change. I want nothing to do with it, so go away.”

My need to control is my kryptonite. I have to know what’s going to happen next, and nothing can ever catch me off guard. If I didn’t plan for a change, then I don’t want anything to do with it. This transition has been canceled.

inflexible thinking

“My way’s the best way, and it’s obviously working. How could there possibly be any other way? There couldn’t.”

Starting a project one way should mean that’s how it should continue for the rest of time. The first way has to be the best; there are no other ways. No transitions needed, move along, move along. Changing something now would be a sign that something was wrong in the first place. This is the way.

yes, I can hear myself in that resistance.

Which is why I’m working on getting more comfortable in the gray area of transitions. This means I’m confronting the voice of that inner toddler, along with the instant gratification monkey. It’s quite the party. But not really.

Something that’s helped me face my resistant chatter and take on transitions has been enlisting some help from a few of the good guys. (The good guys are also known as patience, self-discipline, confidence, persistence, and acceptance.)


Transitions don’t come with shortcuts. So what do you do when your instant gratification monkey needs to be fed immediately? You wait. But what if you can’t wait any longer? You keep waiting.


A triathlon transition is full of energy and surrounded by cheering friends and family. But in almost any other transition, no one is around to tell you to keep going or get back to work. If you’re not willing and disciplined to complete the transition to the next stage, then it won’t happen. The toddler wins.


Unless you’re completely out of it, there is no question which way to go when you leave the transition area in a triathlon. Unfortunately, most transitions aren’t marked like this. There are no volunteers to point you in the right direction. Just because there aren’t any footsteps to guide you, doesn’t mean that you’ve taken the wrong path. To go forward, you have to be confident in your ability to figure out the way. Even if that means a different way.


How much do you want to see what’s on the other side of change? The more determined you are to get to the next stage, the more likely you’ll be able to dive headfirst into the gray area and manage the uncertainty for as long as it’s necessary.


Changes will happen that are beyond your control, forcing you to go through transitions. And while you can’t prevent unwanted changes from happening, you can use acceptance to counteract the lack of control. Why stand around throwing a fit about having numb toes (yep, back to the triathlon metaphor), when you can use that energy in much more productive ways.

Growth is a series of transitions. To get from where you are now to where you want to be, you have to fight resistance over and over again. It might never be comfortable, but you’ll get better at knowing what to expect.

(If you’re an athlete looking to transition into a new phase of training, I’d love to help. Send me a message to learn more about endurance coaching.)