I’m a coach that never had a coach until I started in my first sport, triathlon at the age of 42. So, I didn’t have a lot of past coaches to look back on and pull from. Neither did I have a lot of athletic training or competitive experiences to pull from either. But somehow, I started coaching with a point of view.
One of the things I’ve said from day one and still say today is: Start where you are. You won’t stay there.
I’m sure that my reasoning for making that the first thing I list on my training philosophy is that I had to do that with the sport of swimming. As most people know, swimming didn’t come easy or fast for me. It took time, many yards and many really stressful race experiences to get to a point where I could count on my swim on race day. It included quitting one race because of some unfortunate entanglements with a rope and a lack of preparedness for the distance and the water conditions.
Many adults starting in triathlon, no matter their athletic background or lack there of, get impatient with their development in the sport. If you think about it, as adults, many of us get impatient with our development, progress or results in many areas of our life. We put a little effort in, a little time and we expect that we’ll get big results. Why? I think in part because we’ve become great or at least competent at many things by the time we get to adulthood. So, when we start something new, whether we realize it or not, we have expectations for ourselves. Then, if we don’t develop in this new area within the time frame we’ve consciously or subconsciously set for ourselves we respond in several really not very pretty ways.
1. We quit.
2. We start looking for a short cut.
3. We work harder, not smarter.
Let me elaborate.
1. We quit. Why? A deadly duo o flLack of patience and abundance of pride. Oh, we tell ourselves things like, “I don’t really want to do this.” “I no longer have the time.” We tell ourselves the things that allow us to not do the work required to develop and achieve. Quitting is sometimes necessary and appropriate. But often, it’s just quitting. What if your child said to you after falling oh say, 1,000,000 times as they tried to learn to walk,” You know what, I don’t have time for this. I don’t really want to do this. I’ll just crawl the rest of my life.”?
2. We start looking for short cuts. One way we do this is to throw money at it. We try to buy development! Another way we do this is by agreeing to ridiculous sacrifices and absurd compromises. In the long run, some progress may be made, but not over the long haul.
3. We work harder but not necessarily smarter. This is truly the American way. If I work hard, if I suffer much…I’ll develop and achieve. Yes, perhaps but at what cost? As an athlete, the cost is usually injury. In your career, it’s probably your family that will suffer. In your weight loss attempts it may be your body that suffers. Generally speaking, working harder is only a part of the solution.
Start where you are. You won’t stay there.
What does it take to do this successfully?
Well, I won’t tell you “enjoy the journey”! We never appreciate the journey until the journey is over. We might enjoy phases of it or parts of it for small periods of time. A couple of weeks ago, many of my friends competed in a 1/2 ironman distance triathlon. I was on the sidelines cheering and witnessed a level of suffering that was significantly above normal for this distance. They were not enjoying the journey. But, now, afterwards, they can look back and enjoy the fact that they did their very best, they stuck it out.
Here’s what I’ve learned myself as I developed as a swimmer and what I’ve learned watching my smartest and wisest athletes develop.
1. Be patient with yourself. Remind yourself of other things you undertook that took time.
2. Find someone to teach or coach you. Find others to learn alongside. Don’t quit looking or trying until you do. And if you can’t find the right group to join, create one yourself. It took me several swim coaches to find the right one.
3. Always look back. Remember where you started. Never forget! Sometimes I get tired of telling a new group of athletes the challenges I experienced learning to swim. But, I want to encourage them and I want to continue to appreciate and enjoy what all the yards and time and effort produced.
4. Always look forward, but not too far. Look just one notch forward. A friend told me of a friend that had lost 200 pounds. When asked how he did it, he said that he only tried to lose 5 pounds at a time. He never look at all 200 pounds, only the next 5 pounds.
5. See yourself clearly. Don’t let where you started define your future. Know where you are at in your development today, know where you’ve been and don’t set limits on where you can go.
6. Keep perspective. Depending on what it is you are developing it may be very important, such as huge weight loss for health reasons. Or it may, in the whole scheme of life, not be that important. For instance, with my athletes, I tell them to fit triathlon into their life. It’s a sport, it’s good for them, it’s fun..but it is just that, a sport.
As I learned to swim it took time, patience, determination. But learn I did.
I started where I was . I didn’t stay there.
I am a swimmer.
You can’t take that away from me!
So, start where you are. You won’t stay there.
And you’ll achieve your goal and no one can take that away from you!