6 Important Things Learned During a Swimming Career

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6 Important Things Learned During a Swimming Career

I’ve been what you would call a swammer for about a month now. While I probably will pull a comeback at some point and make my return to the pool as a Masters swimmer, at the moment I’m branching out and trying other things. Currently, it’s weightlifting, and beer league softball looks like it might be next. When you’ve been swimming since the age of 7, across a variety of levels from summer league to club to high school to college, you learn some things. So, for all of the kids reading this, whether you’re just starting club swim or you’ve just made the commitment to compete at the college level, here are some of the various tips I’ve learned along the way.

The Good & Bad of Eating

As much as everyone hates to admit it, especially us college kids, we’re supposed to stay on top of our diets. What I’ve eaten over the last 24 hours should take away my authority on the subject, but this goes for everything from snacks to meals.

But some meals that are absolutely perfect after practice or a meet probably shouldn’t be consumed before. That Chipotle burrito might make you sink, although the bean farts could still propel you to greatness. An Egg McMuffin? Perfect. On the other hand, maybe there’s some sort of correlation between swimming records being broken and the ice cream machine at McDonalds also always being broken. Who knows?

Music Tips

Almost everyone I know, including myself, listens to music before their races. Some like rap, some like rock, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if there’s someone out there whose race playlist consists of the Mulan soundtrack and nothing but the Mulan soundtrack. There are even multiple studies done showing that listening to music before competition improves your performance.

Picking an uptempo song that has upbeat lyrics and matches the beat tempo with your stroke rate is a good idea. In other words, you probably don’t want to listen to “Bad Day” by Daniel Powter before the championship heat of the 50 free.

With that being said, you have to find a sweet spot. Get into the zone, but don’t get so far into the zone that you wind up like me and forget that you still have your headphones on. And yes, for anyone wondering, the headphones are fine. An official was kind enough to get my attention. Here’s the song, for anyone wondering what was so good as to steal my attention like that. RIP Mac Miller.

Success Takes Hard Work

In his 2011 song, Mac Miller (starting to notice a trend here?) says “and I know, that life is nothin’ easy.” From Michael Phelps to Katie Ledecky, many renowned swimmers have also become known for the absolutely brutal sets that they tackle during practice. For instance, look at this old practice schedule used by Phelps, courtesy of Swimming World Magazine.MP - Swimming Tech Macro/Mirco Cycle

That’s some pretty serious training and dedication, although we can see what it got the man – 23 Olympic gold medals, and pretty much stone-cold status as the greatest Olympian of all time. I still have a poster of the dude on the wall of my childhood bedroom.

Moral of the story? Becoming great at what you do takes hard work.

Treasure Team Time

You know you’ve found the right people when suddenly everything becomes an opportunity for team bonding. Everything from bus rides and team meals, to sitting in the airport together at 5 a.m. before leaving for a training trip becomes a place where memories could be made.

Auburn Teammates

Photo Courtesy: Shanna Lockwood / Auburn Athletics

There’s a video on the internet where Dennis Clifford, a senior on the Boston College men’s basketball team, is asked a question during a press conference after his team lost in the first round of the 2016 ACC Tournament. Upon being asked the question, about his favorite memory of being on the team, Clifford, who had clearly been crying, bows his head as he attempts to control his emotions, and shortly after raises his head and manages to get out four words: “Going out to eat.” Considering the team had just finished a fairly dismal 7-25 season, the video became a meme of just how bad their team was. And, if I’m being totally honest, it wasn’t until I realized that I had just a few weeks left of a fairly Covid-wrecked senior season that it hit me just how much those words meant.

When you think about how long a typical college swim season is, you kind of underestimate how quickly that time will pass. I know I didn’t when I was throwing back two plates of quesadillas along with a few brownies and a diet coke at the dining hall as a freshman. There’s something special about just sitting at dinner for an hour or so with some of your closest friends until the staff literally has to come to kick you out, and yet in the blink of an eye, it’s gone.

Don’t get discouraged

At some point, you’re going to hit a growth spurt, and unless you don’t race at all during the 3+ years of that happening, you’re going to drop some serious time. I think I finally broke 30 seconds in the 50 free during mine, and then dropped a few more.

On the other hand, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that at some point, you’re also going to have times where you aren’t really able to drop any, well, time. Maybe it’s right after that growth spurt, maybe it’s during high school, and maybe it’s during that infamous sophomore slump when you go freaky fast as a freshman and then by some stroke of bad luck aren’t able to find the same magic. Never fear, because there are most likely people going through the same thing as you. Sometimes, you just have to ride it out and hope for the best.

Have Fun

Last, but certainly not least and probably the most important one on here, just enjoy yourself and have fun. Was I a little mildly embarrassed after the incident in No. 2? Definitely. Will anyone who was there tell you that I shook it right off and hammed it up big time? Also most definitely. Sure, I added a few seconds in that race. Sure, I might have had to take the bus back to the hotel because my parents were too embarrassed to claim me as their own (just kidding. That Jimmy John’s sub was absolute gas). I crushed it in finals that night, though, and today it’s become something to laugh about, probably harder than I did when it first happened. In the words of Elbert Hubbard, “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it live.” I have no idea who this guy is, but that’s a pretty great quote.

Fifteen years after my mom threw me my first meet suit, I can say that learning these things (especially No. 2) helped me out. Hopefully, they do the same for you.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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