This past week welcomed a flood of memories as I was staying in the same hotel as a large group of Swimmers for long course nationals. Oh the memories......
Crushing on the boys in speedos
Decorating posters for hotel door rooms
Smelling like chlorine for days and days
Eating, sleeping and swimming....several times throughout the day
And just loving the sport of swimming
From around 11 years of age until my Senior year of college at Transylvania University (2004), I swam competitively. Despite 11 years of competitive swimming, 8 years later I have been getting in the water 2-3 days a week (although, much less yardage) for my triathlon lifestyle.
What's so neat about triathlons is that it welcomes a new crowd to competitive sports. Perhaps individuals who did not do sports in HS or College or consider themselves "active" for much of their adult years. I know individuals who are in their 50's and starting to learn the skills of triathlon training and then there are those less than 10 years of age, getting into the sport. For someone like me, the cycling portion was my "unknown" as it has been a work in progress but a fun one. Watching Karel progress with his swimming has been a lot of fun because I know we all have work to do when it comes to competitive sports. But what's great about tri's is that most people can consider the thought to train for a multisport event - even with little or no background in competitive sports.
For Karel and myself, we both grew up as athletes. From an early age, like many people, sports were part of our daily routine. It's easy for me to make time for training or exercise because there were very few times in my life, when I didn't "train" for something.
My parents were never forceful with my brother and me and our sports of choice. My brother was a gymnast and I was always a swimmer (although I tried other sports like track and volleyball but I was never good-enough for the coaches). Swimming was always something that I loved and I looked forward to it every single day. My parents encouraged my brother and me to do what we love and they provided us with countless opportunities to succeed in our sports. Ask any parent of a swimmer and certainly, the early morning wake-ups make for tired parents (funny - I still love to work out early!) but they never complain.
As for my brother, he excelled with gymnastics. A full scholarship to University of Michigan and one of his highest honors - Aaron was the Big Ten Champion on the High Bar in 2007. Aaron trained at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado several times but after his senior year, his body had enough and he was ready for a "normal" life.
Aaron's winning routine - with lots of difficult moves.
With so many thoughts coming back to me from my childhood - growing up with a very active family who encouraged my brother and myself to reach both academic and athletic dreams, it occured to me rather quickly that despite the hard workouts, the tiring days of balancing school and sports, the aches and pains that come with athletic sports (boy, I wish I knew then what I knew now! But glad I'm a coach now so I can be smarter with training and racing thanks to a full academic career in exercise physiology) and most of all, the isolation from "normal" kids/teenagers/college students who have a bit more "free time" - I would not have traded it all for the world. For what I remember on top of those more painful moments, are lots of great memories of being around great people who supported me and my brother in our sports of choice. The excitement of cheering for others has not left me nor has the enjoyment of using my body and seeing what I am made of.
Although I can remember a few extremely challenging workouts, the thing that kept me returning to swimming - year after year - was the fun of working toward a goal.
So often, triathletes and runners get overwhelmed with a goal (or a goal that is not well-defined) and it is easy to get wrapped up in the training. For I remember that with the pool time, came strength training, core work, physical therapy, massages, lots of food, off season training, skill work and most of all - being specific with my distance/strokes (100 breast, 200 IM, 200 butterfly).
I encourage everyone to focus less on the miles and rather, what you are doing within those miles. Next thing, address what you can do when you aren't "training" to become a faster, stronger, more powerful and more balanced athlete.
My most memorable swim workouts:
8 x 400's IM (fly, back, breast, free by 100) - can't remember the cycle, but it hurt!
8 x 200's butterfly - did this one a lot since I was a butterflier. Couldn't lift my arms after this practice.
4000 reverse IM - Free, breast, back, fly. This never ended!!!
8 x 50's no breath (off the block) - no cycle and you had 1 hour to complete 8 of them. If you took a breath, you had to repeat it until you finished 8 of them (I don't recommend this for anyone).
15 x 100's - I remember this one as we did it a lot on Saturday morning's when I was in high school. If you missed a cycle (I'm thinking my cycle was 1:10 or 1:15), you had to start over at the beginning! One time I remember I had to start over :(
8 x 100's fly off the block - all had to be under 1:10. 7 minutes rest in between. This one BURNED!
4000-5000 kick - I remember in college we would do an entire workout with kick sets!
And of course, the new year day swim practices. Back then - 95 x 50's, 96 x 50's, 98 x 50's, etc.
My arms, back and lungs are hurting just thinking about this! But I still love swimming and will always love swimming.