BJ's Corner - Having Fun in Swimming
When I'm on a plane, and I sit next to someone, it never fails that they ask what I do for a living. The usual barrage of questions follow, "oh, you're a professional athlete, what sport do you do? You want to go to the Olympics, don't you have to be an amateur?" Then I always seem to get, "aren't you a little old for that?" Well, at 27, I'm certainly no spring chicken as the saying goes. So why have I stayed in it so long, and what has actually given me the drive to continue after all these years when so many of my peers have dropped off the swimming map? I just keep on having fun.
When I was growing up, I didn't swim to be the best in the world, I never dreamed that it would amount to that. I swam because all of my best friends were there in the pool with me every day that I went to practice. I won't lie, sometimes I hid in the locker room with my friends and waited until practice was over, took a shower in my suit and went outside to wait for my mom so it looked like I had trained. But that was pretty boring, and I think I only did it a few times. Every Friday, we had relays, and I never missed those days. The key for me was having fun. It was those seconds on the wall in the middle of the set when we could giggle about all the things that we had done that day, or what boy was the cutest, or who had laughed so hard that their yogurt came out of their nose at lunch. (Jocelyn Maynard, if you're out there, and you ever read this, you KNOW I'm talking about you!!!)
There is a social aspect to swimming that I have always loved. To this day, I look forward to meets not because I think I am going to win, but because it is the only time that I get to see friends who don't live near me. That is one huge aspect of why I still swim.
I count myself lucky in a lot of ways. I have a pretty vivid imagination, and, let’s face it, sometimes your face is in the water for a long time with no one to talk to but yourself. I think just about every swimmer I know has had a song caught in their heads at one time or another during practice. But there are other more productive ways of entertaining yourself through workout. When I first moved to the Resident Team in Colorado Springs, Jonty Skinner, my coach told me that the most important thing for me to concentrate on while I was on his team was my stroke count. So I counted my strokes, and I think I took somewhere around 40 freestyle strokes per lap when I got here, but I started counting. And counting and counting. I kind of got fascinated by it, by trying to see how low I could get my stroke count and still make the interval. I learned where I had to be at the 25 meter buoy, the 15, the flags, you name it, I know how many strokes it typically took me to get there. I now take 28 strokes a lap, every lap. I know it sounds weird, but if you set these little goals for yourself every practice, to find out how many strokes it takes you every day, and to keep it the same, and lower it, it increases your efficiency. I saw results in my freestyle immediately. I dropped my best time by 2 seconds in the 100 free! That type of stuff keeps me excited, keeps me happy and enjoying the sport, not to mention that doing best times is the most fun reason for me to keep going.
To sum it all up, I have fun swimming. When practices are hard, I try to think about the little things like my stroke count, and then I have little victories in every practice when I take the right number of strokes. It keeps me happy. One day while I was training with Ashley Moser who is also on the Resident Team out here in the Springs, we were having a really tough time. We were both being really negative, and I looked at her and said, "let's think of something good to say about swimming." She looked at me blankly at first, and it took us a couple of 50's, but we started coming up with some things. "We could be doing at 10,000," I said. "We could be working in an office with a real job," she told me. What a realization. I have the best job in the world. I get to take naps, I have to eat a lot, I am always clean, and I have the best friends in the world. So when it gets you down, think of the little things that can make you happy, even if it takes a while, it can cheer you up when the going gets rough!
Till next time, hope my comments help you. Bye!