To be the best you can be, you need to compare you with you

2 10 2015

It’s quite natural to be competitive. You’re kind of brought up by the media to compare yourself to others around you. At school you vie for the chance to be house captain, head girl or boy, picked first for the netball, rugby or soccer teams.

But we’re not all created equal. And we’d be fools to think that we can be good at everything. Yet still we crave that status.

I’ll openly admit that I’m competitive. And that can be an advantage. But at other times it can be counterproductive.

Take me and my swimming. I know I’m bad. No, I’m terrible at swimming. In the UK, you’re not brought up like a fish. Swimming isn’t (or wasn’t at my school) a major part of the curriculum. They did enough to make sure you wouldn’t drown and then you were left to your own devices. And my parents never pushed me either (bizarrely, seeing as my dad was in the Navy).

Freestyle technique to me has always simply been one arm after the other, with no focus on timing, body position, where your arms are in the water, or how you propel yourself. I’d never heard the word “catch” in the context of swimming before.

That was something you did with a ball.

And let’s face it, for the type and amount of swimming I’ve done throughout most of my adult life, it’s been enough. I’ve had no need to work on it. OK so I may not have looked so pretty thrashing through the water, but I usually wasn’t there to look good.

But now I’ve got into triathlon. In themselves, those are words I never thought I’d hear myself speak. I don’t even know why I’ve suddenly, at 40, decided to get into this sport. Or three sports together.

So now I need to swim “properly”.

I need to be efficient in the water so I can get through that first discipline relatively unscathed and with some energy left in the tank to complete the bike and the run.

I thought I was doing all the right things. Taking lessons with the council. Joining a swimming squad. Getting in the pool to swim the distance I need to for the half ironman. Albeit slowly. But I was still doing it, and within the cut off time.

But the crunch came when I was on my half ironman training squad camp with “the boss”. For me the bike and running elements were great the whole weekend. I went away with lots of confidence and that buoyed me for the training that’s about to come.

I was also delighted that my body still felt like it belonged to me at the end of the weekend. I’d envisaged a cripple staggering into work, barely able to put one foot in front of the other.

But the swimming aspect. Well. That’s another matter.

On day one we did pretty much back-to-back cycle, run and swim. I was just getting over a back injury that was getting aggravated while running. And then we went swimming. All this after spending five hours sat in a car to get to Taupo.

So my back was hurting even before we got in the pool.

I then saw how much slower I was than everybody else. Everybody else had fins (flippers) for certain drills. I didn’t. Which made automatically made me slower, but also made the drills that much harder.

Then I got to borrow some fins. And immediately got cramp. I was not in a good place.

Seeing how much fitter and faster everyone else was around me made me start to question whether I was even capable. I was trying to do what I was being told to do. I looked at what everyone else was doing and thought I was doing the same as them. But obviously I wasn’t. And there were a few tears.

At that point I could have walked away because everyone was so much better than me. I was almost too embarrassed to get back in the pool after comparing myself to them.

It’s dangerous to compare too much though. As one of the girls on camp said when she was trying to boost my confidence, they all had so much more experience and training behind them than I had. And they weren’t injured (but that’s making excuses).

And that’s why it’s not a good idea to compare. It isn’t a level playing field. You aren’t like everyone else. Everyone else isn’t like you. So the key thing is to focus on being the best you can be.

I could have walked away from the training camp full of woe and feeling like there’s no way I can get good enough in time for Taupo 70.3.

But I didn’t. I came away more determined to improve. So I’ve had a private swimming lesson. I found that incredibly helpful to actually see (I was videoed) what I was doing wrong. And “the boss” has agreed the swimming element of my training plan needs to change to allow me to embed the stroke enhancements. Which is better in the long run.

And I need to reflect on how far I’ve come. A year ago I could barely swim two lengths without feeling like I was dying.

I need to be comparing me with me.

swim vid

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18 09 2016
What a difference a year makes | A little old blog, by little old me

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