Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
It happens on an almost daily occasion, to the point it’s become a part of my workout.
I’ll be cruising along during my workout when a public swimmer, baggy shorts and goggles around the neck, strolls over, walks past 4 empty lanes, does a couple arm swings, hops in and pushes off to do some head-up breaststroke up and down the black line.
It shouldn’t surprise me. It happens so often, so routinely that if a slow moving public swimmer doesn’t hop into my lane to swim a couple laps before moving to a speed-appropriate lane I view that training day as a special treat, and leave the pool feeling unabashedly spoiled.
Sometimes, however, a light scolding is in order.
On one such occasion I politely asked a man who was floating (key word being floating) up and down the black line to swim circles according to the posted signage, to which he looked at me blankly and said – “I don’t think I will.”
And floated off.
I’ll admit – he owned me with that comment, leaving me stupefied on the wall for a couple minutes afterwards. (There was also the lady that tackled me mid-stroke to tell me to give more space to the swimmer ahead of me. But that’s for another time.)
My swim last night was no exception. I hit up the pool late because it would be quiet. How quiet? Including myself there were 4 swimmers in 17 lanes. Yes, you read that correctly – 17 lanes.
So imagine the disappointment when baggy shorts and goggles-around-the neck dude hopped into my lane just as I was coming in to execute a mildly awesome flip turn. He pushed off, and not wanting to interrupt the rep I was totally crushing, I pushed off the wall and nearly went head first up the bottom of his shorts.
Ducking around him I sped across the pool and stopped at the wall.
It was at this point that I went into the 3-stages of lap swimmer-rage:
Stage 1: Disbelief.
“No way…he’s not going… there’s no way…Really?”
Stage 2: Indignant and Entitled
“How dare he… What could he possibly thinking… This is, like, totally my lane… Can’t he see that I am in the middle of a megaton set and that I am totally killin’ it??”
Stage 3: Hulk Smash
“That’s it! Where are my fins and paddles! Tahiti Break engage! Time to drown this fool!”
I continued with my workout, swimming essentially head up freestyle and just like Keanu in The Matrix ducking the sweeping breaststroke-sidesweep kicks, until he realized that there were open lanes elsewhere.
The only hesitation he felt in choosing a different lane was that those other lanes weren’t marked as being the “fast” lane.
The default lane choice for most lap swimmers – absolutely regardless of ability – is the fastest lane. It doesn’t matter if the moderate lane is empty, the leisure lane is empty, or that there are 5 swimmers in the fast lane and the rest of the pool is empty.
It’s understandable. Nobody wants to swim in the slow lane. Nobody wants to be known as the slow guy or gal in the pool. And so what do these lovingly ignorant public swimmers do?
They reach. They extend themselves beyond their abilities. They pick the fastest lane because, well, they ain’t got time for the slow lane.
Something the rest of us should be doing a little more often as well.
BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
All too often swimmers play it safe.
They will go the lane where they will lead, not where they will be challenged. There are heaps of reasons for this. You don’t want to step on anyone’s toes. You don’t want to appear too ambitious. The thought of getting passed by the older kids terrifies you.
We play it safe with a lot more than just our lane choices. We set the bar low with our goals because we are scared that we won’t be able to handle the disappointment of not achieving them. We undervalue our talents and abilities. We think ourselves less capable, less tough, and less flippin’ awesome that we oughta.
Next time you are walking out on deck embrace some of that ignorance that our local public swimmers hold. Reach higher than you can grasp. Challenge your comfort zone. Dream big and act bigger.
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