As an athlete, coach and teacher in the world of ocean surf life saving sports and open water swimming I use and believe in the value of technology that helps swimmers become more proficient in the water from FINIS Agility Paddles and Tempo Trainers to waterproof underwater video cameras and post-workout analysis tools. However, a personal breakthrough in the water ultimately requires a choice, and that choice may be more uncomfortable than just an early morning alarm to attend a 6 AM practice. The most important choice is the one that requires you to accept that the transition from student to master is going to be both physically and emotionally uncomfortable. At some point you are going to have to stand at the end of a lane wondering what you got yourself into when the coach reals off a practice. You are going to have to ignore the self doubt brought on by the seemingly efffortless speed of those in the lane next to you. You are going to have to focus on breathing even when you feel there is no way you can breath enough to get to the next wall.
I tell new and returning swimmers that the worst discomfort will pass after a few workouts, but too many athletes let the initial discomfort pass only to then settle into a new comfort zone still below the potential that is in them. Water is unique in how it seemingly short circuits our ability to equate perceived exertion with performance. In the water we are challenged to push through with choices when drowning seems just a few strokes away. The lessons you can learn from choosing to shift to a new discomfort gear in the water will have a positive impact on how you choose to respond to similar uncomfortable challenges on land. Or in one of my favorite quotes,
“Forget what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you.”
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