By Abby Bergman, Swimming World College Intern
Because it is the middle of summer and many college swimmers are away from their teams, it is fitting to recognize how important training partners and teams are to swimmer performance. I have been following a distance training program all summer to prepare for my Catalina Crossing at the end of July and have recently realized how much I miss my training partner.
Eliza Cummings and I trained together from the end of our season in March until we headed home in May. She flew back to Colorado and I to California. But we have still been following the same training program, which allows us to empathize with one another from afar.
With some help from my training partner, I put together a list of the top five reasons to appreciate that person who supports you through your best and worst athletic moments.
1. They push you to be your best.
It can be tough to perform well in practice day after day, but having someone working hard alongside you can help make both swimmers faster. At the same time, having someone to share workouts with can also make them more enjoyable. Often, I can make faster intervals when I swim with Eliza then if I am swimming alone, simply because it is just easier to work hard with someone else.
2. They enjoy the sets you hate.
Some of the hardest workouts to do alone are the ones that contain some disliked element, and having someone who enjoys this part of the set can make it infinitely more fun. My least favorite sets are those with repeats of long (greater than 1500 yards) straight swims, but my training partner loves these and can push me to see the value in them. Conversely, I like to do repeats of 150s and 300s, while Eliza finds these to be too short.
Open water record holder Paige Christie explains, “They remind you that you are never alone, you are part of something greater than yourself, a team. Your extra effort in practice pushes someone else in your own lane or in a lane next to you. It creates synergy.”
3. They know you better than anyone.
You can communicate without words; all you need are quick glances between swims to know how one other are feeling. You spend more time swimming side by side then you spend with most other people outside the pool. My training partner knows my stroke so well that she can tell if I am in pain or feeling great almost as soon as I feel it myself.
Former Smith College swimmer Meri Millman describes, “Trainer partners know how to push you in and out of the pool, and they can get you out of your head on your worst days. I know I can always count on Erin [Walch] to make me laugh and goof off with me during practices and meets, and she’ll push me to my limits on sets.”
4. They help you keep count.
One challenge faced by swimmers is counting laps and repetitions while focusing on other aspects of the workout. Everybody counts in different ways and some are more skilled than others at keeping track of the seemingly endless laps. Having a training partner makes it possible to combine skills and count laps more effectively. For example, I am terrible at counting repetitions of short swims but can count laps during a long swim, while Eliza is much better at counting repetitions but loses track during long swims.
5. They make waking up easier.
No one looks forward to waking up before the sun to slog through the snow to the pool and swim miles before the rest of campus has even considered waking up, but having someone waiting to swim with you makes it a little easier. Just knowing that someone else will be there to dive into the pool with you helps shake off the last bits of sleep after the alarm goes off.
Knowing that Eliza will be in the locker room when I get there, motivates me to walk through the cold dark campus. Bulgarian National Championships silver medalist, Desi Stoyanova says, “Training partners build each other up. They motivate, inspire and push one another. Together they accomplish goals that would have otherwise been impossible.”