In the movie "Contact," the lead character, played as an adult by Jodi Foster, is shown in her childhood learning to use a ham radio. Her father is teaching her that small changes are needed when searching the airwaves for signals. As an adult, she applies that knowledge as a researcher working for SETI (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence).
It is advice we can all take to heart in our pursuit of triathlon.
As we hone our skills in the various disciplines of our sport, we must remember that small changes are best. Rather than attempt to become perfect swimmers overnight, we seek gradual improvement through drills that reinforce one small change. Then we move onto a another small change.
As we strive to make our bikes as comfortable as possible, we make minute adjustments. Millimeters, clicks, or portions of a degree are all that are needed when altering heights, lengths, or angles. Major changes are likely to create more problems than they solve.
On the run, we do everything we can to stay in the same shoe, as even minor differences between pairs can cause discomfort. As we tweak our outfits, nutrition, and stride, we seek that perfect mix that we will use, without change, as long as possible.
And the day to day changes we see are also small. Weight loss fluctuates so wildly that it is difficult to tell if that half-pound loss is water, actual loss, or an erratic scale. Changes in physical appearance and clothes size are also hard to judge. From our perspective, improvements in performance may be negligible or non-existent.
Over time, though, those changes quickly accumulate. Physical changes that seem non-existent on a daily basis become readily apparent when viewed over a six month time frame. Clothes that barely fit in December are three sizes too big in August. And workouts that would have killed us a year ago are now standard weekday sessions.
Diligence in training pays huge dividends. If you struggle to see these changes, find aco-worker or friend who exercises less consistently and have them train with you. If they complete a workout with you once or twice a month, they'll be able to tell you how quickly you are improving.
Small changes. They're difficult to see, but they make all the difference. Whether trying to find signs of alien life, run that first 5K, or complete an Ironman triathlon, those small changes the key to success.