For as long as I can remember, swimming has been my number one sidekick in life. I know I can always rely on it. It complements the highs in life, and it allows me to escape from the lows. I am forever grateful for the clear headspace provided from swimming countless laps in the pool.
But this summer has been different from any other. Limited time and space in the water has challenged me like never before. The process of learning to live without swimming is an ongoing adjustment for myself, and presumably many more swimmers around the world. At this point, we were supposed to be finishing summer championship season while cheering on the sport’s best in Tokyo. Yet a worldwide pandemic has not only upended the routine of swimming, but the routine of life in general.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed by uncertainty regarding a worldwide pandemic. It is a peculiar feeling, lacking control over any situation—especially a situation we have never faced before. Now more than ever, we must stay grounded, relying on the things that make us who we are. Even though time spent in the pool is limited, the lessons that our sport has ingrained in us transfer directly to coping with life’s tough moments, including a worldwide pandemic.
Swimmers know how to persevere.
We have all been there—you are halfway through a long, grueling set, and the negative thoughts start to creep into your mind. ‘I can’t do this,’ you say to yourself. The good news? We almost always find a way to make it through the set. Perseverance comes as second nature to swimmers. Whether nursing a shoulder injury or simply pushing through Christmas break training, swimmers are taught to persevere no matter the level of difficulty. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Swimmers are as tough as they come.
A swimmer’s understanding of perseverance applies to coping with the pandemic. While some days are easier than others, both in swimming and surviving the pandemic, swimmers are equipped with an arsenal of experiences where perseverance has led to a greater success. Even though the pandemic has a tight grip on the world, swimmers know that we will ultimately persevere to greater heights through this challenge.
Swimmers have faced uncertainty before.
Every year, the constant uphill climb toward championship season seems to take ages. When taper finally comes around, it is such a relief. As the days count down, however, doubt inevitably creeps into your mind. ‘Am I going to perform? Is all my hard work going to pay off?’ you ask yourself. These moments of uncertainty can make or break a championship meet. You can either go inside yourself and submit to the fear of uncertainty, or you can exude confidence in the months of hard training that led you to this point.
The effects of this worldwide pandemic are yet to be discovered. When the future is uncertain, it is easy to feel afraid. It is easy to say, ‘we are doomed.’ Luckily, swimmers know that positive thoughts are significantly more productive than negative self-talk. Swimmers understand that confidence is a necessary tool to battle uncertainty, just like in the moments before a huge taper meet. While the foreseeable future of the pandemic is unknown, swimmers understand the importance of positivity in light of uncertainty.
Swimmers know how to trust the process.
As cliché as it sounds, swimmers are experts at trusting the process. Because there are few sports where athletes perform at their best only once or twice a year, trusting the process is vital to success for swimmers. Swimmers must trust the processes of training, learning new technique, overcoming failure, and ultimately performing. Included in that process is trusting our coaches. Without their advice and expertise, there would hardly be a process to trust. If you can trust the process in a cold pool at five o’clock in the morning, several days a week, you can get through anything in my book.
In terms of the pandemic, the process could be a long, bumpy road ahead. Fortunately, swimmers can apply their knowledge of the process to get through the ups and downs of dealing with the pandemic. Because swimmers know how to trust their coaches throughout the process, we are comfortable changing our habits in order to get faster in the pool. Similarly, public health experts have expertise on preventing spread of disease. Therefore, swimmers can respect the importance of masks and social distancing, in the interest of eradicating disease. No matter the circumstance, swimmers understand the importance of trusting the process.
Although the future is uncertain, swimmers are well-equipped to face the pandemic. Despite fewer opportunities to be in the water this summer, lessons learned through swimming continue to prepare us for any challenge ahead.
All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.