BAHRAIN ENDURANCE 13: We know growing up you played many different sports and in college you first discovered triathlon. You didn’t come from a ‘specialized’ swim, bike or run perspective.
BEN HOFFMAN: I had no specific background in any of the disciplines really, outside a couple years of running track in high school and some bike touring with my parents when I was in my teens. I played soccer, basketball, and some golf, but it wasn’t until I was in college at the age of 20 when I began to train for triathlon.
I for one can say I don’t think I have a particular talent for this. If I have a particular talent, it’s that I work hard, and I grind away and I think I become consistent and I continually try to improve year-to-year. I try to manage the details the best I can, I pay attention and I try to get all the help I can from people around me.
So that’s probably a good message for the people out there who are maybe just starting in the sport or want to get better because they’ve been doing it for a while. You just need to be consistent, pay attention to details, and work really hard.
BE13: What has been the most difficult discipline to master and why? Or is it still all still a Work-In-Progress?
BH: Absolutely no question that the swim has been the most challenging discipline for me. With no background other than being able to swim to save my life, it has been a long journey to be competitive. I think it is one of the hardest to master because it is so technique-oriented, and despite being able to move decently well in water, humans weren’t born with fins! It is definitely still a work in progress for me, and something I will always need to be extra attentive to in my training.
BE13: As with anything success is rarely instant, what would you say about this and how has it applied to you.
BH: From the very beginning, I had the long view with triathlon. I knew I would not be the best instantly, and I was committed to the process. I enjoy the hard work and the gains I see from season to season, and although the races are the biggest goal, I make sure to be passionate about the day-to-day development. The best way to make the big gains is to focus on the small ones each moment.
When I was starting out I worked a part-time job. Before work, after work I was always training, on the weekends. Piecing it together. I think I made about $1100 a month at my job and it was just enough to get me to the races, to cover my costs and everything else. I had basically zero sponsors at that time and I didn’t necessarily know it was going to work out. And it took a long time for me to break through; I think it took probably about two or three years of that before I finally got enough sponsorship support to continue. There were some hard moments there and a lot of self-doubt when I thought about where I was. I would look at the results and see those guys who were in first place, they were the gods of the sport to me and I was like, “How am I ever going to be one of those guys?” And now ten years into my professional career, I’m basically one of those guys, one of the best in the world. At the time it was a big challenge to imagine myself in that position.
BE13: How long and hard have you had to work at achieving success?
BH: Sometimes it feels like it’s been my whole life! I’ve always been competitive and innately motivated to see what I could get out of myself, but as far as triathlon goes, it has been just over ten years of professional racing now. I take an offseason, and some smaller breaks during the racing season, but the job is very around the clock and full-on. When I’m not training, I’m recovering for the next round of punishment, working with sponsors, and planning the various pieces of my season and brand-building.
BE13: What are the things that you would say are the most important to focus on in anyone trying to achieve their goals?
BH: I would say that focusing on what you are truly passionate about will help you achieve your goals. Whatever you want in life will require tremendous amounts of work, so when the moments get tough, having something that you really love and desire will keep you focused and lift you through the grind. Surround yourself with other motivated individuals, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and stay the course no matter what.
BE13: Do you have a constant source of motivation or have you had to refocus to find that driving force?
BH: I think anything in life is an evolution, and this is no different. When I started, I was much younger and had fewer components to my life and racing career. Now the balance has shifted some, and I have a little more on my plate. But they are also things I am passionate about, and it keeps the fire alive and strong for the overarching goals of racing at the highest level.
BE13: What keeps you motivated?
BH: The main motivation remains to see how good I can be in sport. I am always trying to get the best out of myself, striving to see what is possible. That said, I am also motivated to provide for my family, and to be able to enjoy some other things outside my training and racing career. Adventure is a strong motivator as well, traveling the world and meeting incredible people. Finally, I love to be an inspiration to anyone and everyone I can, whether by encouraging them to race triathlon, or just to be healthy and work to get the best out of themselves in whatever way they desire. I give a lot to my work, but it gives a lot in return.