Last week I was invited take part in my very first swim meet. I took swim lessons as a child and can still remember my Mom driving us to the pool in the San Francisco summer fog. We learned the basic strokes and how to dive off the board. I’d stay in the water so long that my feet would get cracks along the soles and I’d have to dry them off in the sun.
I was never part of a swim team or raced at meets. I started swimming again when I was 36 and wanted to race my first triathlon. To my delight I remembered how to do a swim stroke and stayed afloat quite well.
In the last twenty years training at the pool was only a means to an end – to get through the swim portion of a triathlon. Compare to the bike and run, swimming is where I perform better so you’d think that I’d have put more enthusiasm into it. But something never clicked… until last week.
The invite was for a Master’s 4 x 50 metres medley race. I enthusiastically said yes, but then realised I had no idea how to jump off a platform for the start and tumble turns made me anxious.
My team mates decided that with my zero meet experience I’d swim the freestyle leg of the medley relay. After changing into our suits and registering we were finally allowed to warm up. I took several practice starts and adjusted my goggles to cling to my eyeballs so they didn’t fall off during the dive. It worked!
When we finally raced we came in second place and my time for 50 metres was a surprising 36 seconds. I was really happy and incredulous. I had to look at the video several times to convince myself that I’d done so well.
The real magic started the next day at swim practice.
All of a sudden I paid more attention to every little detail. We have a swim coach on the deck that points out problems, but for the first time I was doing it myself. Where’s my arm entering the water? Is my forearm in position? Am I looking down or ahead? Is my kick straight?
All of the sudden I was in love with swimming.
I always tell my clients the importance of signing up for an event or race. It gives purpose to your training and places focus on where you might be able to improve. Even though many people shy away from comparing themselves to others, it can also be a moment to observe what experienced runners do and how they run. Just as I studied the others swimmer’s flip turns and diving during the meet, you can do the same at a running event. Watch the runners with good running form and study those that drag their shoes on the pavement. Or just concentrate on yourself and go with the flow of the runners.
I promise you that at your next training session you’ll have a renewed sense of purpose. You’ll look forward to training like never before. You’ll fall in love with running again… and again.