A Day in the Life: Karen Atkinson, Day 3

BOSTON, Massachusetts, April 5. IN the third entry of her "A Day in the Life" series on SwimmingWorldMagazine.com, Boston Masters swimmer Karen Atkinson talks about setting lifetime bests as a Masters swimmer as well as her motivation for each practice.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007: Day 3
Well, it took a lot more time, effort and fingernails than I'd hoped; but I managed to coax the knot out of the drawstring of my drag suit. Phew.

I think I mentioned that I'm swimming faster now than I did in college. There are a lot of reasons for this, many of which involve the coaching I've gotten at Liquid Assets (LANES for short) and the camaraderie I have with my teammates there. In the past 6 months, I've knocked off my PR's in the 50, 100 and 200 free—all of which were set in college, 10 years ago.

I'm psyched, and I'm working my butt off to do the same in the 50, 100 and 200 fly, the latter of which is actually my favorite event.

A year ago, none of this was on my radar! I'd started coming back to practices after a pretty long lag in working out with the team…and I'd just joined the coaching staff. Our team has a bunch of seriously fast swimmers (including a relay team that holds a couple USMS national records) and the rest of our coaches are amazing. And, fact is, I wasn't very confident that I would be good enough to be a coach!

So I figured that, at least, I had enough integrity to train as hard as I was asking the team to train—even if I couldn't match everyone's speed. It worked better than I would ever have imagined. My water bottle reads: "Make your fear work for you." I originally wrote this to give myself a kick in the pants to tough it out on fly sets; but it's ended up applying to much more than just fly training!

I promised that you'd hear more about Dave because he's not only one of my training buddies but also one of our coaches—and he has been an awesome coach for me. I like his sets, especially his stroke sets.

They give a lot of opportunity to work on mechanics and specifics, but at the same time they're also huge confidence-builders. He also has given me a lot of advice and feedback; just enough at any given time, just enough pressure, just enough encouragement. The difference has been staggering, and it's fueled me even more in my determination to blow all my old times out of the water.

Tonight's set opened with kick—not traditionally a strong suit of mine, but one in which I am determined to improve. We followed with a stroke set: 4×75 scull/drill/build by 25, 4×100 descend, 100 easy, 4×25 fast. Ordinarily I would have swum full stroke on all 4×100; tonight I mixed in some drill since my stroke last night felt awful. That, and I was swimming with my friend Brian—another favorite training buddy who, like Dave, is really fast. I didn't want to hold him up! It all worked out pretty well, and we joked around a fair bit along the way. And my stroke felt a world and a half better.

Wednesday workouts have an amazing way of making everything better. I feel much more like myself in the water after tonight's practice!

Right now, though, I mostly feel hungry and tired; so I'm going to sign off to remedy both. Until tomorrow, Fast wishes, –K

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