Saturday, March 10, 2007

Swimming and toast: Motivation

Some of my favorite memories all happened during my years of high school swim practice. I would wake up around 8:30 a.m. to go to swim practice on the weekend. We would practice at the city pool-a 50 meter Olympic competition pool. The water was always nice and cool on those Saturday mornings. During my morning practices, the water would be a little too cold, but then after swimming a couple lengths, not cold enough. The wind would often pick up around 9:00 a.m. To take advantage of the pickup, and rid us of swim cap headaches, we would dowse our heads with water from the pool while we were lectured on how many hundreds we had to do and in what time to do them in, letting the wind take to the wetness and soak our sweaty faces.

Churning the water, arms flailing, but steady, I maintain my course, all the while thinking, if only I could possess the speed of my teammate in front of me. Once I get into position of lead swimmer, the pressure builds…am I going fast enough, does my teammate behind me want to pass, how can I maintain this momentum in the next set of hundreds, will I be able to prove endurance, what song can I imagine that would put me in a constant-continuous beat, but bring the most benefit, my arms are aching, do I need to let my teammate pass me and let them lead for a while, what am I doing after practice, can I make it to the wall in the amount of time given, did I call my friend back last night? Distracted, I struggle with aches, thoughts and temptation to quit. I look ahead, seeing nothing but foggy, fuzzy water. Breathing hard, lungs bursting, kicking beyond beat, trying to concentrate on my technique, seeing my teammates in the other lanes pass me, disappointed in my lack of speed, I determine that I am at least accurate. I look forward (not too much because that causes strain in the stroke….but just enough.

The goal is not too far distant, I see the wall and motivate myself to push all those other thoughts behind me. TOAST TOAST TOAST, I repeat in my head. I don’t know why the word toast pushes me to outperform what I think I am capable of. The word ‘toast’ means, I am almost there…and I am going to give my all and finish knowing I have done just that.

I reach my destination. I realize that I sprinted all that way. There are others who finished before me, others who finished shortly thereafter and I see the strugglers in the middle of the pool, wading but not pushing. I am relieved to know that I put up a good fight and made it to my destination. And that was only one of three sets of 300’s.

Ah, knowing I would have to subject myself to that again….do I do it? YES. Why? The feeling….the feeling of knowing that I did the best that I could. Knowing that despite my aches, fiery lungs, doubt, misinterpreted trust that I could do it, wandering thought—losing the goal ahead….I would do it all over again. And I do it with fervor.

Looking back at my swim team experience, I see now that I view my life like every 300 push. TOAST TOAST TOAST…..hold out, keep going push to the end….sprint your hardest and then, do it all over again and accomplish something new. The thing I must remember is how much I enjoy the journey.

Just do it: Improve technique, focus on the goal, fight for it because you love it. Your hard swim becomes a coast, gradual development, but still room for improvement.

1 comment:

brent said...


I'll take mine with butter and cinnamon and sugar, please.