Frank Sole is a Scottsdale-Ariz.-based swim and triathlon coach in the business of coaching athletes of all ages to better sport performance. His columns provide a no-nonsense glimpse into the world of athletic coaching.
As I stood on deck watching my athletes performing their drill set, I noticed one athlete after completing the three-touch drill (which by design is a purposefully slow and deliberate drill) taking a moment to hit their Garmin watch.
I suggested the athlete slow down the training process, take off the watch and feel the drill versus simply going through the motions to satisfy the need to complete worthless meters of swimming. You see, in order to go fast you must first slow down.
In this incident, the athlete was so focused on the outcome that they missed the opportunity for growth. While two lanes over, after each 50 meters, another athlete stood with their eyes closed, back against the wall, slowly and deliberately mimicking the motion of the drill and mindfully working to burn it into their neuromuscular memory.
Embrace Change and Growth
I am sorry to say that most of us, in what we consider practice, are in actuality just playing around. We are so imbedded with bad habits and stuck in our comfort zones, when instead our training focus should be on the process of change and growth
Yes, there will be setbacks, discomfort, challenges, pain, failure and frustration. Those are very real reasons many of us will not focus on the process. What’s interesting, however, is that for those who do show up and accept the inevitable challenges, they often fail to see significant improvement. I believe this is because the mind is not fully bought into what the body has set out to do. There’s still that tinge of fear holding us back.
When the Training Focus is on Working Hard
Let me clarify the distinction of ‘working hard’ as an athlete. It is showing up, completing practice and feeling really satisfied. You’re walking away tired, sore and confident because you completed the distance. The disconnect comes when we have no real awareness of the purpose of the session and the physiological changes we are striving to achieve.
On the other hand, showing up to your training session and completely surrendering mind and body to the process of working hard takes the experience to a new level. It gives mindful and deliberate meaning to the workout.
If you have never put all your emotional and physical energy into an endeavor for the fear of failure, you have no idea how rewarding it can be. There is so much to be learned from the experience.
Change Your State
Create a mental state by focusing on the present moment. Slow the movements down and allow the body and mind to feel the process through kinesthetic awareness. Kinesthetic awareness is a sensory skill your body uses to know where it is in space.
When fully embracing the process, be aware you are stepping into the realm of hard work. Many times, this can be tedious, boring, mundane and monotonous. The irony is this is where the magic happens.
Embrace and cherish the undertaking and take pride in being an outlier. The process is waiting for you.