Monday, December 15, 2014

Throw Your Brain in the Trashcan: A Personal Experience Guide for Sprinters

This post is based off a situation that occurred just this passed Wednesday at swim practice. Just three days after a big meet, my coach had his swimmers racing hundreds off the blocks. The first hundred yards, we did freestyle. I dove in, did a nice strong hundred, and came out at a 1:21. My personal record was 1:20.05.

“You know, George,” I said, “I just have not swum my hundred at my highest potential. I mean, I know I can do much better than that with where I am at in my training right now.”

Looking at me over his glasses, he said, “You know what your problem is?”

“I don’t kick?”

“Well, yes, that, but it’s your brain. You keep thinking about what you’re doing.”

“Oh man,” I said, “I was that way when I took private lessons before I joined swim team. I was that way when I joined. Now I see I am still that way.”

“I know,” George said, “Get in that pool, swim your hundred as hard as you can, and don’t think about anything.”

“Ok,” I said. I nodded my head. I knew what George meant. See, when I first joined swim team, my muscles didn’t have the strokes memorized, and I mean down to the finest detail. They still don’t have everything memorized down to the finest details, but I came to the conclusion that my muscles were now good enough to swim a hundred yards nice and hard without thinking about what I was doing.

That evening, I learned an entire new mindset. I put on my goggles and closed my eyes. There was no nervousness or doubt present in my mind or body. I’m not sure if I even knew how to swim freestyle as I mounted the blocks. My thoughts were numbed. All knew was that I was in a pool of water. I put my mind in the moment.

I hit the water with a nice smooth dive. I hardly even remember what exactly happened in my race, but I do remember that nowhere in my stroke did I falter. Faltering usually happened when I let my mind wake up. Then a flood of thoughts, memories, and doubts began flooding my brain. Then they entered my bloodstream and pulsed through every vein in my body.

But none of that happened. I’m pretty sure I could have been hospitalized for how little brain activity was happening inside my head. I do remember one slight moment when my mind realized I had only on lap left. I quickly shut it out, and let my body dance to the fast beat I had created, adding even more fuel as I made my way to the wall.

I hit the wall and looked up at my coach. I know when I’ve done something remarkable with my swimming, because my coach turns red and gets this look on his face like he is the proudest person, and I am the best swimmer in the world.

He waited for the other swimmers to come in, told them their times, and then came over to my lane. He showed me my time on his stopwatch: 1.16.73. It was my first time breaking 1:20 in my hundred yard freestyle. That was a tremendous improvement in my one year and two months of swim team: a 28 second drop.

To all the sprint swimmers, before you head over to the blocks before your race, make sure to stop by the trashcan and drop your brain in much like Squidward in the picture below.

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