For this month’s article, and given that Masters swim meets are finally returning to Oregon, I want to talk about the hardest opponent you will ever face.
This particular person is much tougher and far more critical of you than any coach that you’ve ever had. They’ll drive you crazier than that one teammate that gets on your nerves every single practice.
They’re always nipping at your heels as you train, trying to run you over and out of the pool.
They will not hesitate to throw you to the ground and beat you when you’re down, and won’t ever let up.
But this person can also push you to new heights and achievements that you never thought possible.
I’m talking about YOU.
Whether you’re in the middle of a grueling set or in the hardest race of your life at the big meet at the end of the season, you’re not trying to out-touch your best friend training alongside you, nor are you truly competing against the other swimmers in your heat.
Your primary objective is to outdo yourself…and in the process, there’s a good chance that you can grab those elusive state/zone/world records, and such. In my own personal experience, it is far more satisfying to get, say, a personal best, or swim that perfect race, than get any title or record.
Even if you don’t win first place or hit your goal time, if you do everything in your power to succeed, then all that stuff really doesn’t matter. You’re a champion in your own right.
Yes, you do race others, in both meets and practice. That can and will help you get better, but you have absolutely zero control over what they’re doing…and don’t worry, your teammates and opponents are experiencing the same physical and mental strain that you’re no doubt going through.
When you’re training with your team, it doesn’t matter who is faster or slower. Maybe you’re lapping them, or maybe they’re lapping you, but if you’re all giving the same amount of effort, it is equally hard, and you’re fighting the same exact battle.
The same thing goes for your opponents at any given meet.
They’re also nervous and wound up and excited to swim fast…and if they’re not, then they’re not taking the race seriously, and won’t perform up to their potential.
But that’s not your concern.
When your heat is called to the blocks and the horn blasts, the objective is the same, all across the board, but each swimmer gets to decide how to respond to the pressure. You have complete and total control over yourself, and no one else.
There’s only one person you should be worried about.
The beauty of this sport is that, when you’re training, everything else is secondary. It doesn’t matter what happened earlier in the day and/or outside of the pool.
Yesterday’s practice didn’t go well? So what! Today’s another day, and you are only one great practice away from getting back on track!
Anyone who has been in this sport long enough knows that swimming is a fantastic outlet, and will help you cope with any difficulties you might be experiencing outside of the pool, because it allows you to just get away from it all and forget your worries. In fact, if you’re frustrated about something, take it out on the main set!
Use that frustration as fuel to push yourself harder!
I even know many people – including myself – who have had to cope with some pretty tragic events, and swimming helped get them through it.
At the end of the day, whether you’re the fastest swimmer in the state or the slowest on your workout group, your true goal is one and the same – to overcome obstacles and be the best that you can possibly be.
There’s only one person that you need to worry about beating.