PHOENIX, Arizona, June 4. TRINA Radke has held American records and competed in the Olympics, and on today's edition of The Morning Swim Show she talks about the mental steps that helped her achieve those goals.
Radke, the author of the new book Be Your Best Without the Stress, relives the experience of qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team in 1988, and what mental exercises she enacted before and during the 200 butterfly to achieve the honor of being called an Olympian. Many of those tips are included in her new book. She also talks about how swimmers preparing for the Olympic Trials can be mentally ready to race in such an intense environment. Be sure to visit SwimmingWorld.TV for more video interviews.
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Jeff Commings: This is the Morning Swim Show for Monday, June 4th, 2012. I'm your host Jeff Commings. Today in the FINIS Monitor we'll talk to Olympian Trina Radke, who's releasing a new book today on living your life to the best of your ability without stress. Trina Radke joins us now from her home in Excelsior, Minnesota. Trina, welcome to the show. How are you?
Trina Radke: I'm good. How are you doing today?
Jeff Commings: I'm doing very well, thanks. Congratulations on your new book.
Trina Radke: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. And just — I just wanna correct you. My title is Be your Best Without the Stress.
Jeff Commings: Yes, the title is Be your Best without the Stress. Easier said than done, right?
Trina Radke: Yes, it's a little long.
Jeff Commings: In terms of being your best without the stress, what exactly does that mean?
Trina Radke: Well, as you know, we all go through ups and downs in life. Sometimes we have different obstacles that show up for us. And the main goal is for people to find what makes them most happy inside. And so for me, I share a little bit about my Olympic story. When I was little in third grade, I actually wrote something that I found many years later about my — it was called “My Third Grade Dream.” In third grade our teacher gave us this assignment and it was to, you know, write a few sentences. And I wrote something, like, when I am 25, I will make the Olympics, win many medals in swimming, then I'll get a boyfriend, coach for a couple of years, and then get married. So I wrote a little bit about making the Olympic team and what the process is like in the book, but I also really encourage the reader to find how they can find their own Olympic moment, because not everybody is going to be an Olympic gold medalist, not everybody is going to make the Olympic team, but we all want to be in a place where we can strive and go after something we really love to do and, more importantly, feel happy doing it. So we may have moments where we have to test ourselves beyond what we thought was possible and we also may have moments where we feel like, gosh, I don't know if I can do this. I have this big dream but I don't know if it's possible. Maybe I should just give up and go do something else. And in those moments is when we really find what we're made of. And I think that's — so I really wanna share that piece here because when people read my book, I think they'll find that there's tools in there to help them, you know, take steps, if you will.
Jeff Commings: Well, I think everything you just said is encapsulated in that one race in 1988 at the Olympics Trials, 200 fly. You make the Olympic team, you get second place. Not a lot of people really even expected you to be kind of in that top two. So what was going through your mind in that race that kind of helped you get on the Olympic team?
Trina Radke: Well, it's very interesting. Up until then I had always been doing the 200 meter freestyle. And if you remember, back then there was no semifinals and I would tend to be — you know, I was coming from Coach Silver's program. We trained very, very hard, and some people called it overtraining. And so we often did better and better as the meet went along. And so we would have loved to have a semifinal format. So in the morning of the 200 meter freestyle I actually got tenth place, I believe, if I remember correctly, and in which other words, did not make it back to top eight and not even making the team in the 200 meter freestyle. And I was, like, oh my gosh, I didn't make it in my best event, now what? And I remember sitting in my hotel room. I had a few days. I swam a 400 freestyle and 100 butterfly as well, but 200 fly was my other best shot. And, as you know, Mary T. Meagher was still swimming, the world record holder and she was way ahead of everybody in her time. And there was about five or six other people in the heat that were either NCAA champions or national champions. And up until then I had not really done the 200 meter butterfly on the national stage. And so I was not known in that event. And so — but I was determined, if I didn't make it in one event, I want to still have a chance to get a slow career for the Olympics. And so in the morning I was just, like, I'm gonna let it all go and just give my best effort. That's all I can do and not get too attached to the outcome. And, luckily, I was fourth after the morning and then going into the nighttime I actually remember walking out. I used to have this little thing I used to do. I say A is for aggressive, B is for bionic, C is for competitive, D is for dynamic, and I just go through the alphabet. It was a way for me to just be in my own little world. Because one thing, as you know, when you behind the blocks, especially at the big meet, there's all the announcements of each person's accolades and it's easy, if you're not careful, to get distracted by those or get distracted by what competitors are doing or not doing or what you see in the audience. And so to be in my own little space, having a little rhythm in my head, listening to some music, and then also being in a place where I could just be in my little zone behind the block. And so that was the biggest thing. And then once I got in the race, I remember having a moment. You know, how we all have those moments sometimes where you alternately have your — you go, wow, that was a big, big potential moment where — maybe in practice or in the weight room or it could be on the — you know, in a race. So in that race I remember, I got to the 100 meter mark and I was actually in last place. And I was — I knew I was not in the lead by any means but I also knew I needed to go on if I was gonna have a chance. And so the third length, I remember having a thought, like, I need — you know, I really kicked it into gear, especially, you know, halfway down the pool and then the last 15 I, you know, just really kicked it home. And luckily, at the last 15 meters I didn't breathe in to the wall and I was fortunate enough. I think there was about three — or pretty close at the 50 meter mark. And then coming in to the finish, obviously, I was able to get second to Mary T. and make the Olympic team. That's the one meet where you — it's okay to get second and feel really good about it.
Jeff Commings: You know, that's a great story. Something just stood out to me. You didn't breathe the last 15 meters?
Trina Radke: Or so, yes. I think it was about that mark, yeah. My husband, who, you know, isRoss Gerry, who's a — he used to be a Stanford coach and he's Olympic coach in 2000, he jokes about that because he's actually watched the video more closely than I have. But I think it's about that point, yes.
Jeff Commings: Gosh, you must — your mind — you must have been ready to explode when you hit that wall. Just a big — I mean, 200 fly, to hold your breath that long.
Trina Radke: Well, you know how it is when you really, really want to just go after it. You have to give your best, right, and you don't want to leave — it's that funny place. It's, like, what you're doing, Jeff. I know you're doing a fabulous job and I'm so excited to watch you at Trials. I feel like if you don't at least try and see what you can do, that's harder to live with than if you actually go for it and don't do what you wanted. And so it was one of those things where there was no guarantee. I mean, especially, after not making it in my 200 freestyle, which I was really sad about. I was, like, wow, I need to have something happen here. I can only just leave it in the pool and see where it lies on the end.
Jeff Commings: That's a really good story. You know, I actually remember watching that race and years later just thinking, you know, this girl must have really had a lot of determination and it really does show that you did.
Trina Radke: Well, thanks.
Jeff Commings: So we also want to mention that you're a licensed therapist and college psychology professor, so, obviously, you have a lot of insight to how the mind works. Swimming-wise, with the Olympic Trials coming up in a few weeks, what do you think is the best way for a swimmer to get mentally ready for a big race?
Trina Radke: Yes, that's a great question. I think the biggest thing, if I were somebody who's coming in to Olympic Trials and I'm in a position where I'm close to making the team or want to have a big drop to make the team or I'm a favorite to make the team, I think the best thing is to stay present. I think it's so easy to get distracted by how did I feel yesterday, what did I eat, so a certain athlete that I'm competing against about a certain time a month ago. And in the end nothing matters except for you on the pool deck on that given moment. And I think it's easy to get caught up in all the other stuff that goes on and it's important to come back within yourself. I mean, it sounds so simple and basic but just breathe, like kind of let it all go and being in a place where even behind the blocks, if you notice your mind going, feel the water on the pool deck touching your bare feet, you know, feel — put on hands and put your goggles on your face, touch the block. And if you're kinesthetic and you like to feel things, put your hands on the block and feel the roughness of the block. I mean, get in your own little space. And most importantly, beyond thinking about, you know, sometimes — sometimes when you need to be in a place where we review the race in our mind and then there's other times where we need to be able to just let go and be goofy and listen to music or dance around with our friends, and the more you pay attention to what you need to do in that given moment, you'll know what's best for you. So for me I know sometimes when I raced I play tic-tac-toe with my Coach Shoulberg just before I race. Other times he'd be so nervous and I'd be nervous I'd run over to the national team masseuse, Dianne, and say, please, you know, check me out, make sure I'm all loose and ready. She's like, oh, you're ready to go. And then there's other times I just need to have my feet up against the wall and listen to music and just rehearse what I wanted to do on my race. And then my best moments were really when in a place where I'm just there. It's almost like I finished the race. I don't even know what happened where things are moving really slowly and I can just be in it experiencing the whole experience and also noticing that, wow, time can move very slowly in that place. It's like, basically, like as if the universe is using me to be an instrument to do this amazing thing in the water. And when we're in that place to freed up, we're no longer attached and needing a certain outcome. We're just letting our body do its thing. And I think sometimes we forget that, you know, it's, like, kind of an athlete saying, oh my gosh, I've been out of the water for a week, I'm out shape. And, yes, we may feel different when we get back in the water the next day but our body knows what to do and we have to trust it. And when we can trust our body, amazing things can happen from there.
Jeff Commings: That's right. Now, speaking of Olympic trials, there are a couple of swimmers up there who have a good shot of making the Olympic team, David Plummer and Rachel Bootsma. Have you have any opportunities to talk to them, counsel them, and get them mentally ready for Trials?
Trina Radke: Yes. We've actually worked a little bit with David Plummer. He's actually a friend of ours, too. Great guy and I'm really excited for him and Rachel. I think, obviously, David has a little bit more years in terms of having been on the top level. And I think that event is gonna be a tight one, you know, there's him and there's, you know, there's basically three guys right there. But I know he's ready and ready to go and I — between Rachel I've never actually met her except for I gave her an award when she was 12 for winning state championships here, and so I'm so excited coz she's going to my alma mater at Cal Berkeley and so I know that 100 backstroke is a big event for both females and males and I think she has a great shot also.
Jeff Commings: Well, speaking of your alma mater Cal doing very well these days, back to back NCAA titles, must be a little contentious in your household with your husband Ross, as you said, was with Stanford. But I imagine you've got the upper hand on this right now.
Trina Radke: Well, it's kind of funny. We joke about this one coz, as you know, he was the coach with Richard Quick for the woman at Stanford for all the '90s. And, of course, during those years they were winning many years in a row. And, now, I'm still — I mean, it's been so fun for me to watch Teri McKeever do a fabulous job. Coz my last year at Cal was her first year at Cal, and she has grown and evolved into this amazing coach and she's always been an amazing person. And so it was just fun to see Cal winning the last few years. And so — but Ross and I do joke. We often do score the psych sheet and compare how the teams are doing. And it's fun for him, too, because, obviously, Lea was somebody he coached who's now the coach at Stanford. So it's just really fun. More importantly, obviously, it's fun to see who wins. But it's like as, you know, it's not about the medal in the end, it's really fun to see how people develop and change and grow and see what's possible. And I know, like, for example, at Cal it's been really fun because I know Natalie did a fabulous job there and she's been, I know, a big mentor to some of the other younger kids there. And I think it's gonna be fun to — for the summer as well as having some of the other guys. Anthony Ervin coming back for Cal and some other people there swimming as well.
Jeff Commings: Does it ever get a little bit too heated during the annual Cal Stanford dual meet?
Trina Radke: No. You know, it's funny. He and I are pretty laid back to be honest. It's in — like I said, it's fun for us to see how they're doing and then it's also really fun to see how they progress, like, some people obviously swim really fast in the middle of season and try to understand how what they're doing for training strategies. You know, everybody — I remember, when I was swimming, for example, University of Arizona used to rest a lot in December and then, you know, then go into heavy training for dual meets and then rest again for Pac 10s and NCAAs. So it's always kind of fun to see how different athletes respond to heavy training versus tapered time versus the stress of everything that goes on with the — if expectations have come on them or if they're freed up to race. And so it's — I actually really enjoy watching how they move and how they look in terms of relaxation behind the blocks and as a team. You can kind of tell, you know. He's often told some stories when he was at Stanford, for example, like, there was times where they really try to rally a team together, and I'm sure Teri has done this with her, you know, obviously with Cal, is getting people just to have fun together, to go out there and do their best and be together and support each other and seeing what's possible. And when you're in that place everybody is free up to race us and it's fun and then it's no longer about, oh my gosh, we have to do this to swim fast, where the pressure comes on then we start feeling tensed and our muscles our tight, we can't race.
Jeff Commings: Absolutely. Well, I can see you get — you still got an Olympic connection behind you. You got to run as part of the Olympic Torch Relay. That's the Olympic torch you got to run?
Trina Radke: Yes. In 1996 I was in — here's the torch right here. And in 1996 I was in graduate school for Marriage and Family Therapy, I'm a licensed psychotherapist, as you mentioned, and it was really interesting. During that time I was very sick with chronic fatigue syndrome still so I remember when they contacted me to run the course, and when they gave me the course, I was so nervous because I had not been to any exercise. I have been bedridden and I'm basically just starting to exercise again. And they had given me my coulometer. It was a straight intense uphill, you know, hill, and I'm like, oh my gosh, I don't know if I can run. So I remembered getting back in shape enough to be able to do that and making sure my health was good enough do it. So, yes, it was a fun journey and to be able to be part of the Olympic torch. I mean, as you know, I mean, beyond, you know, competing Olympics, some of my favorite memories are being in a place where you realize that you have all these people from around the world giving their best in something they love to do. And then you come together and whether or not you speak the same language or not, you come together in community and that, in the end, whether — you know, regardless of color of skin or race or sex or, you know, what your religion is or political views, we can come together and see that we all have a deep connect underneath all that. And to me carrying the Olympic torch was about that, being able, you know, to be a part of this whole world that is really like one.
Jeff Commings: Yeah, sport brings us together.
Trina Radke: Yes, absolutely.
Jeff Commings: Well, the book is Be Your Best without the Stress, a great title and just a great mindset for everybody to live throughout the day. And you could find it on Amazon.com. And, Trina Radke, thank you so much for joining us today. Best of luck with your new book. And we'll see you down the line.
Trina Radke: Sounds good, Jeff, and good luck to you at Trials. I'll have fun watching you.
Jeff Commings: Thank you very much. I appreciate that.
Trina Radke: Okay, bye-bye.
Jeff Commings: All right. So that's Trina Radke joining us in the FINIS Monitor. That's gonna do it for today's edition of the Morning Swim Show. Thanks for watching and we'll see you next time.
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