Mike's Mailbag: Moving on Up

Mike's Mailbag: Moving on Up

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, April 3, 2017

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com or ask me on Twitter @MicGustafson.

Howdy Mike!

I'm a 16 yr. old sophomore, new to swimming. Unlike many kids who started club swimming at 6, I joined a novice swim team when I was 11. I didn't join club until 2015. I've worked hard, listened to my awesome coaches, and fallen in love with this weird sport. I have gotten a lot faster, especially this last season.

Now, I am moving to the gold group, our fastest group, where most kids my age swim. Although I want to make the move, I am nervous. It's gonna be super hard. You know it’s gonna be hard when my coach says, "I feel good about moving you up (compared to others) because you have a good spirit and the work won't break you." Oh goody. Although I feel ready for the IM sets, I don't feel ready for the aerobic free sets. (My coaches are concerned in the same area). Free sets are hard. There's so much freestyle (it's weird). Those sets were hard for me in the silver group, and gold group does them more often and faster. Besides the sets being harder, practice will be a half hour longer and it won't be long until I'm doing doubles. I trust my coaches. They have a good understanding where I'm at, and they won't give me more than I can take. But still, it’s gonna be hard. I'm willing to work hard. But still. I wasn't just floating while in the silver group. I was working hard, and getting tired and worn down by the end of the week. On top of all this, I'll be coming off a two week break, longer than most gold groupers

Do you have tips on handling the upped workload? Tips on surviving? And any other tips that someone becoming a swimmer could use? (Other than asking the coach if I can swim the free sets breaststroke. They usually say no).


Preparing for Worst


Hey Preparing for Worst,

Signing up, you knew that competitive swimming would be hard. Now, you can see it: You can see elite swimmers’ hard work. You can see the tough, long, winding journey you must swim to reach those elite levels. Looking ahead, you know it’s going to be tough — like you said.

Embrace it. Don’t swim away from it. You know that phrase, “lean in”? How someone should “lean in” to a difficult challenge or conversation, rather than leaning away from it?

Swim into this challenge. Dive in, and swim.

Here’s my tip: Don’t set outrageous expectations. Understand, right now, you’ll be among the last in those faster lanes. During those freestyle sets, you’ll be lapped. Again and again. You’ll feel tired, exhausted, mentally fatigued. Know this right now. Don’t expect to be leading the lane in one week. Acclimating takes time.

The good news? You will get used to the harder training. You’ll get better. Your body, over months and a few seasons, will adjust to the new training. Not only will your body get used to the new, additional workload, but you’ll excel. You’ll get faster. And soon, you’ll be that older, faster swimmer that other younger swimmers look up to.

Don’t worry that you started late. What matters is now, and the lane in front of you. Embrace that you have an opportunity to set new expectations. Really, hard training is all mental. It’s about having that right perspective — that this is a good thing, rather than a bad thing. That hard training is good, not bad.

Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen? Take care of your shoulders, stretch after practice, don’t get injured, and embrace the hard work. Swimming is such a short blip on life’s radar — a small chapter in a long life — there’s no room to sit on the sidelines. Jump in, be part of the team, and challenge yourself. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Who wants everything easy? Easy is boring.

When you look back at your career, you will remember the races, the relays, the roar of the crowd (hopefully, at least one meet you will race at will have a crowd). But more than that, you’ll remember this moment:

When you embraced moving to the fast group, and, despite the challenge, despite the hardship, despite the long sets, the never-ending freestyle, getting lapped every other practice, finally, that moment when you acclimated to the hard workload, and overcame your fears, overcame your obstacles, overcame those hard practices.

I hope this helps.



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