My freshman year of college I received advice that immediately made its way to the top of my “Words to Live By” list. In the middle of the season I found that I had reached a point I had never experienced before: burn out. Knowing that I needed help overcoming this obstacle, I reached out to mental performance coach Robert Andrews from Houston, Texas. After listening to me unpack the clutter in my head, he challenged, “well…are you filling your tank?” His seemingly random response took me by surprise but what came next was a simple, yet powerful concept that would quickly change my perspective.
It’s safe to say that swimming is a time-consuming sport. When you combine swimming, a full academic course load, and attempting to have a social life, you quickly realize that you need 30-hour days instead of 24. The constant battle of balancing all these areas of your life is exhausting. At the end of a long day, it’s easy to immediately start preparing and planning for the next. We emphasize recovery, fueling our body correctly, and getting enough sleep but we don’t put that same emphasis on our minds. While physical recovery is an extremely important component to our grueling sport, the piece we often forget about is mental recovery.
Now, imagine your mental, emotional, and physical energy as a gas tank. The vicious cycle of school and swimming described previously burns a lot of gas. If you’re constantly using gas without refilling your tank, eventually you’re going to hit empty. But how do you fill your tank?
Discovering what you enjoy outside of your chaotic schedule is the key to “filling your tank”. These activities should make you feel recharged and ready to take on another day rather than dragging through them. Whether it’s spending time with family, watching a movie, drawing, playing an instrument, or turning up your music and forgetting the world exists; it’s important to find what makes you happy…and do it. Too often we use the excuse that we don’t have enough time. However, putting forth the effort to set aside time to take care of yourself is what will ultimately make the biggest difference in your happiness and help keep your focus on why you love swimming in the first place.
So, if you ever find yourself running on empty, don’t forget to fill your tank.