Following my layoff from the pool due to life changes (all good) it has been interesting to return to swimming. This morning was almost revelatory, defined as… “revealing something hitherto unknown.”
How romantic, you might say!
Well, it’s not too hard to find revelation when you’ve been slacking off for a couple months. But let’s confess: we all know it could go a completely different direction in the swimming pool. After time off it’s easy to feel out of shape, poorly prepared and sunken in the struggle with this damned thing we call water. Who invented that stuff anyway?
In the name of dealing with reality, I decided not to coddle myself this morning. That mean leaving the float behind to warm up in the pool. Instead, I just stuck the ankles in the water a couple minutes to let the body get used to the water temps (a mild 82 degrees) and start swimming.
See, the float is a mental and physical crutch for me. It takes all the pressure (and effort) off my lower body to kick. To put it bluntly, it’s cheating. No one ever improves in a sport (or can deal with reality) by cheating. Plus it only sends the message and builds the perception in your head that the only way you can succeed is by cheating.
That mentality was and is still rife in sports like cycling and running. Pretty much the top ten cyclists in every Tour de France for eight or ten years was tossed from the sport at one point for doping. That’s because cycling is really hard. There is just no way around it. So to gain advantage by even 1% or 2% amounts to a lot over 2,000 miles of riding. Last year Chris Froome won the tour with an overall time of 89h 04′ 48″. That’s 5,344 minutes of riding. He won by four minutes.
But you may recall that Chris Froome had a potentially devastating bike mechanical that could not be repaired in the moment. So he literally ran without his bike until he could get a bike with another team cyclist or get to the team. Technically, that was against the rules. Cyclists in the Tour are required to ride every inch of the competition. No running. But he was forgiven for some reason because he wasn’t really trying to cheat, per se. He was trying to overcome the obstacle created by the fact that the Tour is such a traffic cluster fuck there is no way a team vehicle could get him a new bike.
Small decisions can turn into big results
So the world of cheating is a gray area sometimes. But for those of us who aren’t leading the Tour de France, and are simply trying to train and race the proper way, there are still moral or ethical decisions to make. Some of these might seem small. But it is the small decisions, such as avoiding use of float crutches in the pool, that can turn into big results.
It surprised me (the revelation!) what actually happened when I skipped the whole “use the float during warmup thing.” I felt much better in the pool. More comfortable. Without that initial ‘crutch’ there was no regressive sensation when I started to swim without it. I did a set of five 200s at a consistent pace (that was the goal) with some hard 50s (for me, down around 50 seconds) thrown in between. So I’ll admit I’m not yet fast in the water. What was more important is that I had a good time in the pool.
This morning after the swim a clean new thought appeared in my head. It was the thought that I most wanted to appear in my head for over a year. “I could swim a mile. All it takes is eight 200s,” my little brain spoke. “And I can do that even without a wet suit.”
It’s funny what can happen in this world when we’re truly honest with ourselves. Why be anything else? The seeming gains ‘earned’ by cheating never stick anyway.
So take your honesty on the road or int the pool with you this week. Accept that what you’re doing is hard, but not so hard that you can’t do it. The confidence gained by addressing reality on its own terms is worth the challenge.
You now it’s true. The reason that I had a good time for once in the pool is that I was perfectly honest about what needed to be done. It’s the only real way to achieve progress.