Expect it to be hard
Expect it to be hard
By Olivier Leroy
What's happenin'!
Here's a fun fact about me:
I tend to look forward to Monday morning workouts. (When I say “morning” I mean, like, 11am.)
The reason is simple: With Sunday being a day off, and Saturday’s workout being relatively early in the day, I have about 48 hours of time to recover from the previous week’s training.
As a result, my expectations for Monday’s workout are always high.
I’m rested, after all.
Which means that I should be able to throttle Monday’s workout.
Go time, right?
Not always.
When I look back through my log book they are actually rarely that good. At least, not according to the comments and ranking that I leave myself.
It took me a while to wrap my head around why Monday mornings are so spotty, but the explanation is quite simple…
The expectations I had for the workout weren’t helping me perform better.
I wasn’t expecting it to be hard…
I was expecting it to be easy.
And as a result…
When the workout didn’t go smoothly, or I didn’t feel as good in the water as I expected, it was hard not to feel discouraged.
But here’s the sneaky reality of our expectations…
Expecting it to be hard keeps us motivated. It prepares us for adversity. And it keeps us working away at things even when it’s hard.
Let me explain…
Expecting it to be easy sets you up for disappointment in a big way.
In my experience (both personally, and with swimmers that I’ve trained with and worked with over the years), it’s the wishful thinkers that always end up the most disappointed.
They expect things to be easy.
They feel they deserve for things to be easy.
Or that because they have suffered through some hard work and persevered through some trying times, that it’s all downhill from here on out.
But “easy” expectations aren’t realistic.
Nothing hard is ever easy. 
Swimming a best time is hard. Crushing the competition is hard. Demolishing a two hour, 6,200m workout is hard.
If what you are trying to accomplish is certified terrifying, than yes, it’s gonna be hard.
It’s gotta be hard, in fact.
Expecting it to be hard keeps you motivated.
Not only is “easy” success a myth, but it’s also pointless because an easy win is a totally hollow victory.
The moment it’s easy is the same moment it loses any meaningful sense of reward and satisfaction.
When you race against a swimmer who is super slow does that motivate you to swim your best?
Not likely.
But when you race against someone who is a little faster than you, does that push you to a new level of effort and achievement?
You bet your soggy chlorinated bottom it does.
The “hard” part makes it rewarding…
Beating the swimmer who should be beating us. Chasing down the world record holder on the anchor leg of a relay. Out-working the faster swimmer in the next lane.
You don’t celebrate the easy wins.
It’s the hard ones that we celebrate and ultimately motivate us.
“Easy” doesn’t prepare you.
When you expect it to be hard you are better prepared, mentally and physically for competition.
You already understand this, even if it is just on an intuitive level…
If you walk on deck at the championship meet with the expectation that your warm-up will go just so, your feel for the water will be exactly as good as you want it to be, and your competition will swim just slow enough that you beat them, you are in for a world of disappointment.
You know this. I know this.
And yet, we fall for this “it should be easy” line of thinking more than we should.
But, if on the other hand, you go in with a hardened mindset that things will be challenging, you are better ready for the surprises:
A bad race on opening night. Choking on one of your best events. Not getting the “perfect” warm-up.
It always turns out to be harder than you think.
Swimming history is littered with examples of swimmers who had to work harder than expected to achieve their goal:
Michael Phelps’ goal of 8 gold medals? Sure, he did it eventually at the Beijing Olympics in 2008—but most people forget that he failed the first time he tried to do it in Athens in 2004.
Pablo Morales was the world record holder in the 100m butterfly in 1984…but didn’t win gold in the event until coming out of retirement for the 1992 Olympics (after losing the race in Los Angeles in 1984 and then not even making the team in 1988).
Vladimir Salnikov, who only wanted to win an Olympic gold medal in his event, the 1500m freestyle, with the whole world present, had to wait 8 full years for his opportunity, finally clinching it in Seoul in 1988 (when even the Russian coaches thought he was too old and “washed-up” to even make the team).
Don’t fall for the illusion of easy.
If it was easy...
Every swimmer on the planet would be doing it.
Go in with the mindset that it will be tough, that it will stretch you and that it will challenge you.
See you in the water,