Mike's Mailbag: Being Okay with Being Uncomfortable

Mike's Mailbag: Being Okay with Being Uncomfortable

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, June 5, 2017

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

Dear Mike,

Recently I just moved up in age groups from 10 and under to 10 and under advanced. My coach always puts me with the super-fast kids. On main sets I don't usually make the intervals and have trouble keeping up

"Not fast enough"


Hey Not Fast Enough,

Moving up to any new group can be daunting. New teammates, new intervals, new expectations. I know how you feel. The first time I was moved up with “the super-fast kids,” I had a major bout of anxiety. In my head, I thought, “What if I’m not fast enough? What if I can’t keep up?”

At first, moving up was hard. I couldn’t keep up. I was pushed every single set. Sometimes, I was lapped. Sometimes, other swimmers went right past me. I felt slow, and I wished I had never moved up. I regretted it. I wanted to go back to my old training group, where I didn’t feel so uncomfortable.

Then, after a few months, something odd began happening during practices: I began to keep up. Then I began to beat people in practice. Suddenly, before the end of the season, I was part of the same group that once scared me. What once seemed so impossible, after a multitude of tiny improvements throughout the swim season — baby steps — became possible.

Your coach is like a fortune teller, Not Fast Enough. Your coach can predict the future, and right now, your coach believes you should be swimming with the fast kids. Let that give you some confidence. Trust your swim coach. He or she wouldn’t be a swim coach without moving up a whole lot of other swimmers before you; trust in the process.

Your coach also knows that the adjustment will be hard. No coach moves a swimmer up without realizing there will be some growing pains. Your coach realizes that you might have some practices where you just can’t keep up. But your coach also knows that you have the potential, and that you are ready for the move.

And you are ready, despite thinking you’re not fast enough. Just view this as the next challenge. Challenges are good. Challenges make us faster. Challenges make us better swimmers.

Throughout your swim career, you will be challenged. You will be uncomfortable. You will be moved up to new groups. You will probably join new teams. You will have new teammates, be on new relays, compete in new, faster, bigger championship meets. All of this can feel scary. All of this can make you feel uncomfortable.

Try this trick: Try thinking, “I am okay with being uncomfortable.” Because that’s really all this is — a new training group just makes you feel uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable with the new speed of your teammates. But really, nothing with you has changed. You are still the same swimmer you were a short while ago, when you switched groups.

Be okay with being uncomfortable. Think, “I am okay with this new challenge. This new challenge will be uncomfortable, and that’s okay. That’s why it’s a challenge.” Whenever I get into a new situation, I always try to repeat that phrase, “I am okay with being uncomfortable.” And suddenly, oddly, that makes me feel more comfortable.

Keep going. One day at a time, take on this challenge with enthusiasm. Be okay with being uncomfortable. And trust your coach.

I hope this helps.

Follow Mike on Twitter @MicGustafson. 



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