By Mike Gustafson//Contributor | Monday, June 12, 2017
Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I turned 13 in October, so this is my first long-course season in the 13-14 age group. I began swimming the 100m fly, 50m free and the 200m free, and I am starting to feel discouraged. The times look so hard, and I don't know if it's because I'm slow or if it's because of the age group.
Hey Aging Up,
The transition to the 13-14 age group is the hardest, in my opinion, because so many swimmers are at vastly different points in their swim career. Some swimmers are very physically mature, while others have yet to hit their growth spurts. Some swimmers have been swimming since they were toddlers, yet others just got into the sport.
I'm not sure what times (time standards? competitors?) you're referring to, and in many ways, to me, it doesn't matter. Time standards in particular are really just "goal suggestions" -- if they are too fast, choose a different goal.
Goals are tricky things. Too fast, and they will seem unattainable. Too slow, and they won't properly challenge and motivate.
But while those goals, times, or time standards have changed with a new age group, you're still the same person you were at age 12. Sure, there's a leap in times, but that doesn't mean you should lose sleep about it. Rather, you should keep doing what you've always done: Pick a challenging but reasonable goal time, and try to achieve it.
I remember when I became a Big Ten swimmer. Man. Those times seemed impossible. To score points seemed like just this impossibility, something I'd never be able to accomplish. Rather than get bent out of shape about how fast those times were, instead, I focused on myself, my own times, and my own time goals.
Swimming's beauty comes from its simplicity. In swimming, you race the clock. You race yourself.
So, focus on yourself. Focus on your own time goals. Pick a few personal bests, and try to break them. And when you achieve one goal, write a new one.
It's easy to worry about the expectations of someone else, or another age group, or another heat of competitors. But when you get worried and scared, remember that you are only racing the clock. Just because you moved into a new age group doesn't mean you're suddenly a slow swimmer. You're the same swimmer and person you were when you were 12.
It takes time, no pun intended. But if you focus on your own goals and times rather than your competitors, you'll stay more motivated and worry less.
I hope this helps.