January 4, 2016
10 RESOLUTIONS FOR EVERY SWIMMER
BY MIKE GUSTAFSON//CORRESPONDENT
New Year’s: The time when every non-swimmer resolves to achieve those same 8-pack abs as a swimmer. When every coach resolves to enforce a jaw-shattering butterfly penalty for every swimmer who leaves the wall two seconds early. When every swim parent resolves not to fall asleep in front of other swim parents during those ten long and brutal heats of the 1650.
New Year’s is a time for resolutions. New Year’s is a time to identify bad habits, morph them into good habits for three or four painful weeks, then, slowly but surely, fall back into those same bad habit routines.
But not this year! No! Not gonna happen! This year will be the one year those New Year’s Resolutions actually stick, like that mysterious pool deck goo on your flip-flop. This year will be the year that resolutions become permanent, when you no longer binge-watch Netflix on your one day off and go outside and actually do something, when you arrive to practice five minutes early to meditate in a corner, when you stop comparing yourself to so-and-so who never trains as hard as you, when you resolve to out-eat any all-you-can-eat-buffet in town just to witness that buffet owner cringe.
Here are 10 Resolutions for Every Swimmer:
10. Prevent the “greenification” of chlorine hair.
Don’t be the guy who refuses to shampoo and proudly saunters around with dead, zombie-like green chlorine hair. Chemically-damaged hair means a chemically-damaged brain.
9. Smile before every swim meet.
In other words: Relax. Remember swimming is a sport, not a determination of your self-worth. Swim slow, you are not a bad person or a failed person or a person destined to doom and gloom the rest of your life. Swim fast, and you are not a person destined for glory the rest of your life. Smile before every meet and, if you can, before every race. It’s just a sport.
8. Stop comparisons to others.
There will always be someone faster than you. Even Michael Phelps’ records will be shattered one day. Stop fretting about the person next to you, the teammate ahead of you, or the rival across town. Worry about yourself. Be the best you can be, because it’s all you can be.
7. No more junk food.
Candy consumption for non-swimmers can be a pleasant, once-in-a-while reward after a day of nutritional sustenance. For swimmers, though, any food item becomes not just a reward, but an aggressive, determined devouring, like your stomach contains a massive black hole at its core and any and all edible items are vigorously inhaled. Resolve to stay away from candy, soda, or processed food binge eating. Your body will thank you.
6. Wash swim towels.
Around this time of year, if I hung up my swim towel, it maintained an oddly fixed position even after I removed it from the towel hook. It was filled with so much grime and chlorine and mysterious sediment that you had to bend it in order for it to resume its natural, cotton-based shape. Wash your swim towels. Your teammates will thank you.
5. Find five minutes of quiet reflection before each practice.
Before diving into the cold, dark doldrums of a morning practice, put yourself in a good mindset. Find a quiet spot on the pool deck before practice, and just breathe. Don’t be that swimmer who sprints onto the pool deck and leaps into the water seconds after warm-ups start, already late, already playing catch-up. Five minutes of quiet time can mean the difference between mentally preparing yourself to have a great practice, and resembling some parakeet frantically escaping a cat, thrashing around, head spinning, panicked and desperately flailing.
4. Focus on improving one little thing each practice.
You’re having a bad practice. Nothing is working. Your shoulders are broken, your legs have fallen off, and your mind is slowly writing this workout off as a “no good terrible swim practice.” Turn it around. Find one thing to improve, and get something out of a bad workout. Focus on improving one thing. Your backstroke breakout. Your breathing during butterfly. Finishing with your feet during your breaststroke kick. Focus on one thing, make it great, and you’ll have a great practice, even if it wasn’t.
3. Clean out unidentified swim bag objects. (USBOs.)
Every swimmer’s swim bag is an assortment of chaos and expired food from the 1990s. Clean it out, at least once a month. Those USBOs could gain sentience and take over your swim bag, your locker room, the pool, and eventually the world. Don’t let them.
2. Share your shampoo.
Especially with that guy with the green hair who always forgets his.
1. Enjoy the journey, not the destination.
We swimmers love to fixate on the destination: That far-away podium that holds our trophies, records, and gold medals. We dream about this magical place where all our hard work pays off, where all those five or ten fans in the natatorium audience scream and adore us, where all our competitors cower upon our very presence. And yet, when we worship this glorified vision of ourselves and our future successes, we distract ourselves of the everyday grit that we need right now: That great practice today, that enjoyment of the water today, that encouragement we could give to others today. Today is what matters. Today is all we have. The glorified podium filled with adoration and glee may never come; enjoy today, enjoy the sport of competitive swimming, enjoy pushing your body to its limits in a weightless, water-filled environment, and enjoy the fact that not everyone in this world gets to swim. It is a privilege, this thing we call swimming, and if you find a way to enjoy today — even if you really don’t — you will, over time, gain perspective, be happier with yourself and your everyday experience. And, eventually, with everyday grit, encouragement, and perspective, the journey will be something you will remember fondly, no matter where you end up.