March 28, 2018
Are you holding your best average in practice?
By Olivier Leroy
It’s a glorious day outside here in the Pacific Northwest (I’m writing this on a Tuesday afternoon).
And I’m buzzing because I had myself one of those workouts that exceeded expectations earlier this afternoon.
Despite the soreness in the traps, shoulders and wherever else I can still feel things, there is a warm buzz flowing through me.
You know the combo: a mental buzz of accomplishment paired up with a stunning amount of soreness and fatigue.
I had an above average workout.
Which got me thinking…
We tend to judge our swimming by the extremes...
If we have a great workout we feel like we are on top of the world, everything is A-OK, and our goals are gonna get it real bad at the end of the year.
In the same vein, if we have a Stinky Stinkerton workout our confidence and belief fall butt-first through the floor into the basement.
Extremes are shock events: they stick out like crazy.
Especially the bad ones (this isn’t accidental or weird, we are purposely wired to “better” remember bad events). And because they stick out so much, we end up summarizing our swimming on the basis of them.
It’s why one bad workout can so easily turn into a couple bad workouts, which dovetails into a week of bad workouts.
But the extremes don’t tell the story.
That one brutal workout doesn’t mean your season is over and that your improvement is going backwards.
Not even close.
What’s your best average?
A better way to approach and attack your workouts is with a focus on doing it better than average.
After all, the way that things go down on race day is a reflection of the average of our training.
Read that again.
The way things go down on race day is a reflection of the average of our training.
And not only just how our practices go, but the average how much sleep we get. The average of how well we manage stress and anxiety. The average of how we eat.
This is just another reason I am so keen on grading my workouts after I get out of the water.
A simple 1-10 rating is what I’ve used since the age of 12, but I’ve seen swimmers use letter grades, smiley faces, blue stars, and so on to rate their workouts.
There are some better-than-average (ha!) reasons to keep track of your own average:
It keeps the extreme workouts in perspective.
Sure, I know I am going to flunk the occasional workout. Even though today went great, there is a real possibility that tomorrow’s workout could always end being a big, stinky old “F” or “Incomplete”.
Just like I know occasionally I’m gonna have the random A+ where I nearly beat a personal best time in practice. But those are the outliers.
Instead, figure out your average (8/10 seems to be mine over the past couple weeks), and focus on finishing each workout so that you can dry off your hands and jot down an 8 or better.
Focusing on your average keeps your highs from launching you into space while keeping the lows from crushing your confidence.
Gives you something doable to achieve each day in practice.
When we hold up the A+ practice as the expectation we are setting ourselves up to fail. It’s notthat it’s not a great goal—big expectations are important.
But realistically, we both know that those epic workouts aren’t going to happen every day.
Those sky-high expectations are only as productive as the motivation they provide.
If your expectation is having an A+ workout every day, and then you consistently don’t meet that standard, it won’t be long before you’re left feeling discouraged and demoralized. This is one of those moments you need to be honest with yourself about expectations doing more harm than good.
But hitting your average best in practice?
That is something you can do (almost) every day.
Gives you a barometer for course change.
If you are consistently falling below your average, something’s up.
Maybe you are too stressed and not taking the time to de-stress between school and swimming.
Perhaps your sleeping habits have fallen by the wayside because of new social activities.
Or you are simply treating your mouth-hole like a dumpster instead of the high-performance Ferrari intake valve that it is.
Streaks of below average workouts is a sign something is up and is a red flag that you need to reassess how you are treating your body and mind.
Keeps you focused on today.
I’ve experienced this personally and with other swimmers so many times it makes my face hurt:
One bad workout = My season is screwed, I am never going to achieve my goals, my competition is going to trounce me, and therefore I should storm off and allow another couple days of training go to waste.
Really bad workouts make us feel like the result (the big meet, the championship swim, the record, qualifying for a team, etc) is in jeopardy, possibly lost.
This result-focused, uh, focus, knocks us off course, and keeps us from getting dialed in on what we need to do today to be excellent today.
Locking in on making the most of today’s practice so that you can score yourself a better-than-average mark becomes the priority and center of focus, not the meet that is months away.
Less stress, less anxiety, and more of a focus on the process.
What’s the next step?
Grab a piece of paper, open up a new text file on your phone, start a new calendar, open your log book…
And grade your workout today.
The day after that.
Not only will you start having better practices immediately (wanting the reward of getting to write out a better score will give you a boost and keep you honest in practice), but you will quickly see where your average rests.
We all judge our swimming differently, so give it a week or two and see where you land.
Using that score, move forward with your training, striving to exceed it as often as possible.
Give it a try and let me know how it goes.
See you in the water,
P.S. Being consistent in the pool is one of the hardest things to master.