Chrissie Wellington celebrates winning the Challenge Roth Triathlon with a new long distance world record on July 10, 2011.

Editor’s Note: Chrissie Wellington is a four-time World Ironman champion and a guest coach for CNN’s Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. Follow the “Six-packon Twitter and Facebook as they train to race the Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 8.

Story highlights

Triathlete Chrissie Wellington says true champions focus on the journey, not the finish line

Wellington recommends setting clear goals and sharing them with friends, family

"A champion knows he or she is not an island" and leans on others, triathlon coach says

CNN  — 

I’m often called a triathlon champion. I’ve won four World Ironman championships, which I suppose qualifies me for the title. But in my view, you don’t actually become a champion.

You act like one.

To me, the six members of the CNN Fit Nation team are already champions. But what, you might ask, does being a champion truly mean? Is it simply crossing the finish line of the Nautica Malibu Triathlon? Is it setting a personal record on each leg of the race? Or is it a label that can only be bestowed on those who have won a global sporting event?

True champions demonstrate the behaviors and habits of a champion daily. It’s the manner in which they try to achieve their potential that defines them as champions, rather than their race outcomes.

Here are 10 winning behaviors of champions:

1. Champions remember that success is a decision, not a gift.

They decide what they want and, even more importantly, why they want it. To quote a wise friend, “Look deep inside yourself and find out what your passion really is.” Yes, you might be worried about failing (or even just not being able to remove your wet suit), but face those fears. Champions try.

We should all have an ambitious, yet realistic, vision that inspires and excites us.

2. Champions document and communicate their goals.

Tell your friends, make it your screen saver or stick Post-it Notes everywhere. And set intermediate goals along the way, celebrating when you reach them!

3. Champions make choices.

Mediocrity is a choice. Excellence is a choice. Seeking excellence in every part of your life is a conscious decision – so I would urge you all to do your best at whatever you do, whether it’s walking the dog, loading the dishwasher, running or listening to a friend in need.

(Keep in mind that excessive doughnut consumption is probably something we should all choose not to excel at.)

Behind-the-scenes: Training for a triathlon

4. Champions have a plan.

Reaching the finish line of any race requires a focused, detailed strategy. As an athlete I arm myself with information – about different training methods, nutrition, my competitors, race courses, how to avoid chafing. You name it, I’ve read about and (in the case of Vaseline) applied it, and then have used the info to devise my training program.

5. Champions tackle their weaknesses and strengths.

They view training holistically; swim/bike/run sessions are not more or less important than nutrition, strength training, muscle massages, relaxation and life balance.

6. Champions lean on others.

A champion knows he or she is not an island. It was hard for me, as a fiercely independent person, to depend on others, but I couldn’t have achieved what I did without support.

The word “competitor” is taken from a Latin root meaning to “seek together” – with help I learned to dig deeper and discover reserves I never knew existed.

Sometimes, you just have to lose control

7. Champions accept change.

If you risk nothing, then you risk everything. For me, it wasn’t simply about winning – it was about being the best I could be. That meant being prepared to assess, adapt, evolve and even take calculated risks. This might include trying a new coach, a new training location or a new technique.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got.” That doesn’t mean blindly adopting every new innovation – sometimes simple, time-honored techniques are best – but the key is to avoid getting permanently stuck in a rut.

8. Champions prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

In an ideal world, everything goes as planned. Our Fit Nation triathletes-to-be will wake up full of beans, be injury-free and the sun will shine during every ride. But that’s a utopia.

I have sunk in the swim, had bike failures, catapulted over crash barriers and relieved my GI tract in bushes. It’s these mishaps and mistakes that help us learn and grow. They help us become slightly wiser, slightly stronger, slightly bolder and much more determined.

Triathlete conquers first time in ocean

9. Champions keep things in perspective.

Win, lose or sink, triathlon shouldn’t define you. Your emotions should never be solely wedded to a specific outcome. The journey to Malibu is what matters for the CNN Fit Nation Team. If they have given it their all, then they’ve already won.

10. Champions stay positive.

There are occasions when even the most cup-overflowing individuals get down in the dumps – but an ability to trade “I can’t,” for “I can,” to believe in yourself and all that you are is what makes true champions.

Learn more about our CNN Fit Nation team