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Under the Covers: A Life Without Limits by Chrissie Wellington

Welcome to Under the Covers, an on-going series of book reviews to enrich the way we think, move, eat and connect.

In my Under the Covers book series, I will rate each book based on its “Life Wisdom” value (from 1 to 5 wise owls). I will review books that inspire, motivate and teach life lessons. Some of our greatest wisdom comes from those whose journeys may be quite different from our own.

When we escape into their world, we can learn from their trials, tactics, and courage. Through their wisdom, we add to our own.

I have to admit one of the greatest boosts I ever get in a triathlon is when I pass a guy somewhere along the route. Let’s face it. No guy likes getting “chicked.”

Professional triathletes like Craig Alexander, Chris McCormack and Andreas Raelert now have to face the reality that their toughest competition may have a ponytail. Her name is Chrissie Wellington, 4 time World Champion of the Ironman. The only world records she breaks are her own.

She is called a “freak” by many, albeit unfairly in my judgement. Whenever a top achiever brings you into their home when they were a child, alongside them in their struggles, into the thoughts in their head, you soon acknowledge how human they really are. Chrissie Wellington does just that in her new book, A Life Without Limits: A World Champion’s Journey.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Chrissie is an educated, compassionate Brit, whose background was focused on reaching out to others less fortunate. She courageously worked to help underdeveloped, desperate communities in need of basic services.  Her resume is impressive before she ever stumbled upon triathlon.

As a child she describes herself as having the coordination of a baby giraffe. Very accident-prone, clumsy at times, she earned the nickname “Muppet.” No amount of road rash or broken bones would keep her out of the saddle for long.

Much of the book focuses on her controversial relationship with her first triathlon coach, Brett Sutton. A relationship that would influence her athletic endeavors well after they parted ways.

Chrissie shares openly about her training regimens, eating issues, teammate struggles and her intense desire to win every race. You ache reading about the physical agony. You identify with her insecurities.

It’s easy to envy her undeniable talent but harder to acknowledge the unimaginable effort she is willing to invest every day to remain a champion.

My main criticism of the book would be her timing in writing it. I think her greatest lessons await her. She has won all 13 iron distance races she has entered, deservingly so. Therefore, she didn’t have much to offer us about overcoming failures. At least the kind most of us are accustomed to.

Here are a few life lessons I learned from the book (*my favorites):

See your body as a holistic system.

Love your body, your talents, and your effort. These are not to be scrutinized or manipulated but allowed.

“When things are tough, you are tougher.”

You will rise to the occasion. When situations demand that you step it up or improvise, you will find a way.

Those with “brave face” syndrome need friends who “smell the roses.”*

Brave face types want to appear strong and successful and not show weakness for fear of being judged negatively. Those who smell the roses can teach you that life’s joy is about the traveling over arriving.

When you find yourself becoming short tempered at things that were once only mere irritations, it may be time to change your path.

Your destiny awaits you if you’re willing to listen to the signs.

Your efforts should spur you on not wear you down.*

Enjoying my favorite beer after breaking record in Challenge Roth

You can work to improve your weaknesses through willpower and discipline.  But imperfection is a given so “pick your battles, and accept yourself for who you are.”

“Talent needs work in order to flourish.”

You cannot rely on talent. True talent can lie dormant unless you are willing to experiment. “Hard work and an open mind–it’s the only way to realize the potential that is inside every one of us.”

Relinquishing control to someone else so you can concentrate on the “doing” can be liberating but it carries risks.

Beware that you can become attached to their approval and direction to the point that you no longer trust yourself.

Be careful of winning the battle and losing the war.

You can relish the fight toward success but you also need rest, relaxation and fun in order to be genuinely happy.

Remember that your limits move. So don’t believe you know where they are.*

Don’t latch onto pain and the limits your brain is imposing. “You go into a tunnel where everything outside your head, including your body, becomes peripheral.” Limits are assumptions.

You can’t reach perfection.

Instead strive to overcome imperfection. The only measure that counts is the knowledge that you had nothing more to give.

On the side of Chrissie’s water bottles is the poem,  “If,” by Rudyard Kipling. She was given this poem when she first met Brett Sutton, the coach she credits with turning her into a world champion.

 “If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you…”

The pro men triathletes will certainly be losing their heads when the nip at their heels turns out to be a girl who just won’t stop smiling.






Purchase hardcover or Kindle version of A Life Without Limits, by Chrissie Wellington.

"There is never a destination just the impulse to grow." Chrissie Wellington

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  1. Brianna Ortbals #

    I read that poem…good stuff! 🙂

    June 25, 2012

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