Swimmers, in general, thrive on routine. We all have our specific warm-ups, behind the block rituals, even the way we get ready for a practice is a part of a routine. Routines quickly become habits. We do the same thing day after day, going through our repetitive routines on autopilot. How often do we question these habits? Or even still, how often do we seek to change these habits?
Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”. While he might have been talking about science, the same is true about swimming. By this definition the very essence of swimming sounds insane- after all, swimming is repetitive laps down and back the same black line every single day. But when we recognize that every lap is a chance for something new and something different is when we reach new results.
The problem is, swimmers like routine. Change can be uncomfortable, scary and hard to embrace. We tend to think we know what is best for our swimming and are stubborn about letting go of old habits.
My sophomore year of college, we got a new coach. He began to switch our training from long yardage sets to shorter sprint-oriented practices. I would like to say that I believed in him and his program from the start, but that’s not the case. I was hesitant and reluctant to let go of my 7,000 yard practices. Little by little I began to see the advantages to a new way of training and my times improved. By the end of the year I was hooked. Not necessarily on the idea that sprint training was more effective than distance but rather on the idea that change is necessary for progress.
As a new season of swimming begins, challenge yourself to change. Add a good habit, drop a bad one. Choose to focus on elements outside the pool like the amount of sleep you get or add a strength program. Re-learn your flip-turn or fix your butterfly breathing. Most importantly, be open-minded. There is a comfort in the familiarity of the long black line on the bottom of every pool, strive to make this the only familiar part of your new season.