The annual Great Migration has begun. Each July, thousands of cars filled with smiling Arizonans wind their way down the I-10 from the scorching desert towards the seaside oasis that is California. Upon reaching their destinations, these people enjoy pleasant temperatures, ocean air, and lively bonfires with their fellow migrants. Meanwhile, those forced to remain in Arizona are hardened by the 115 degree days and blazing sun, only venturing outdoors in order to get from one air-conditioned place to another.
We swimmers are among those left behind.
Success is achieved through determination and focus and that, in order to maximize performance, one must be willing to make sacrifices. Social plans are cancelled in favor of naps and practice. Travel meets become our annual vacations. Sleepovers are simply an inconvenience; we have morning practice the next day.
Accepting these sacrifices is a part of the road to greatness. The feeling of winning an important race or hitting a cut far outweighs the fun of a pool party or beach vacation. However, the constant grind of swimming can take its toll on even the most motivated swimmers, and this is only exacerbated as the summer months roll around. For many swimmers, summer is one of our peak training periods. The freedom of life without school allows for more time in the water, and we forgo the summer sunshine for the dark havens of our bedrooms as we nap after practice. There is no question that a swimmer’s summer differs greatly from a typical person’s, and, with our unique schedules often comes a sense of “swimmer’s block”.
It can be hard to stay motivated as you scroll through the Instagram photos of your school friends’ summer vacations. It can be hard to stay motivated as you wake up before 5:00 am for morning practice when some of your more wild friends haven’t even gone to bed yet. It can be hard to stay motivated as you work hard in the pool rather than lounge alongside it. It can be hard to stay motivated during the summer, but stay motivated we must.
Summer vacation is an opportunity. It is our chance to work hard, recover, and focus on what we love to do. All of the extra hours spent in the pool allow our training to reach a level that will only result in great achievements, and it is vital for athletes not to lose sight of that. It is easy to get caught up in how other people spend their summers, but doing so will have no productive impacts on our ultimate performances. Rather than grumble about waking up early and staying home from vacations, it is imperative for a swimmer to focus on two key points: setting goals and embracing challenges.
Swimmers are often well-versed in the art of goal setting. Whether it be to qualify for a championship meet, to win state, or to anchor a relay, goals are the driving forces that propel swimmers through grueling training and provide the energy needed to drive to morning practice. Losing sight of one’s goals in the face of summertime woes is a recipe for a disastrous end of the season. By making a goal sheet and setting personal challenges, it becomes much easier to focus on the importance of training rather than the inconvenience of it.
Not only must we keep in mind the reasons for our training, but we must also welcome the process. Embracing challenges is a key step in promoting a healthy relationship with anything, and that is especially true when it comes to the sport of swimming. A demanding workout is the predecessor to an amazing swim, and, by choosing to welcome discomfort, the road to achieving that success becomes much smoother. Accepting obstacles not only makes training more bearable, but also makes it more interesting. Attitude is everything, and by making the cognizant decision to welcome a less-than-ideal situation (such as training all summer break), one will be able to push past other and more serious challenges (such as anxiety and physical pain) come race day.
So while summer life may seem better by the pool, as swimmers, we have chosen to live our lives in the pool. We must make the choice to remember our goals and to embrace the challenges that come with working diligently at the sport we love. By working hard and loving what we do, we can replace any semblance of our summertime sadness with an inevitable summertime success.