There’s a famous scene from the movie, Grease (don’t pretend like you don’t know it), when Danny tries to play it totally cool in front of his friends when he sees Sandy at school and she lights into him. “You’re a fake and a phony and I wish I never laid eyes on you,” she screams right in his face.
It was a cringe-worthy moment for Danny. Why? He was being an imposter in front of his wicked cool T-Bird buddies. He didn’t want them to know that he had fallen head over heels in love, so he decided to foolishly act like someone else. Thank goodness Sandy called him out, right?
Well, I don’t know about you, but there have been more than a few times when I’ve been in coaching or leadership situations, standing on my soapbox of knowledge dispensing tidbits of wisdom, just waiting for someone to stand up and quote that line to my face.
Coach Carrie, you’re a fake and a phony and I wish I never laid eyes on you!
Yes, it’s true. There are moments and days when I’m playing it as cool as Danny Zuko while feeling like a big ol’ imposter on the inside. I’m willing to bet you’ve also been guilty of trying to fake it till you make it, too (while clinging to hopes of not getting called out for faking it).
The so-called Imposter Syndrome is all too real for professionals, performers and athletes at any level and, ironically, no amount of training or fancy initials after your name can completely eradicate the occasional feeling of, “Do people truly think I have it all figured out?” Comedian Joe Rogan even has a bit about how we thought that once we became grown-ups everything was just going to make sense. “Then you grow up and realize we’re all making it up,” he says. The audience, naturally, erupts into the nervous laughter and applause as if to say, “Thank goodness. It’s not just me!”
The world of sports, especially, is full of self-proclaimed imposters. But, think about the last time you lined up at a race or any competition for that matter. In a twisted way, in order to compete, you actually have to become someone else. Consider this:
You Take on a Different Role – By day, you’re an accountant, programmer, or home builder. By night, you are a super athlete who can lift heavy things and crank out huge power numbers.
You Act Convincingly – Regardless of the situation, you act like you know what you’re doing. This trick works for dating, job interviews, sales pitches, and even competitions. If you act like you know what you’re doing, you can even become an “expert!” (Ha!)
You Dress and Talk The Part – In conversations with friends about your sport, you start talking incessantly about electrolyte consumption, crank length, wattage and how many hours of training you put in this week while wearing compressions. This will guarantee that people will think you know what you’re talking about.
So, there you have it. We’re all imposters to some degree. Sadly, this can prohibit us from trying new things. You are not alone. If you’re reading this and thinking you could never fit in or finish a race, think again. We all question our knowledge, experience and ability levels on a daily basis.
The real question then, is, how can you avoid this fear and lack of self-confidence that comes with feeling like an imposter or a rookie? In spite of feeling like a “fake” or a “phony,” how can you progress and do something you never thought you could do?
Accept The Success that Comes With New Challenges: A confident athlete accepts their success instead of constantly brushing it off with self-deprecating comments about being lucky or at the right place. Be gracious and tell yourself, “I worked hard and deserved it! It was more than luck, thank you very much, and perhaps I do know what I’m doing here!”
Find a Similar Group of People You Don’t Think Are Imposters and Learn From Them: There are a plethora of training groups in town full of both new and veteran athletes. Teammates are always more than willing to lend a hand to help someone new because, as I mentioned, even the most experienced people are probably feeling the same way you are from time to time. Helping others along their journey makes both parties feel more confident, fulfilled and less like an imposter. Sharing experiences with others actually makes you an expert witness to that event. Is there anything more cool than being called an “expert witness?” I think not.
Learn from Your Mistakes: Admit that you make them and then learn from them. Every mistake made in training is a new bit of wisdom you didn’t know before. This expedites your journey from feeling like an imposter to becoming an expert.
Work on Your Weaknesses: There are beginner swim clinics, along with runs and rides throughout the city. Identify those areas that hold you back and work on making yourself better. When you become more confident in your weakness, the rest of you feels more like an expert.
Cross the Finish Line With The Gusto of Donald Trump: Don’t be shy or timid about your accomplishments as a newbie or a self-described imposter. When you cross the finish line, know that you’ve earned it! In that regard, you’ve now become a bona fide expert because you took on something new and succeeded.
The Rookie Triathlon takes place on May 1 and was created for imposters of all levels. Over the next two months, I’ll outline a simple eight-week plan that will help you achieve your goal of finishing and when someone calls you a true triathlete, you won’t timidly say, “Oh, no I’m not a real athlete,” you’ll stand up Danny Zuko-style and proclaim, “That’s my name. Don’t wear it out!”
1) Continue to use walk/run intervals as necessary, but as you progress through training, increase time running and decrease walk breaks.
2) Consume 16-24 oz of water per hour of activity.
3) Week 4 is recovery week
4) Bike Rides can be indoors, but safe outdoor rides are recommended, especially if you can ride on the race course a few times before race day.
5) Running outdoors is also recommended when possible.
6) Make sure bike, helmet and equipment is in good working order.
7) Carry ID and money on the bike rides. A Road ID bracelet is great!
8) If working out more than an hour, carry about 200 calories of nutrition