Role Reversal: From Swim Mom to Swimmer

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US Master Spring Nationals, 2017 at Riverside City College.

Is it easier to watch your kids compete? Or, swim yourself? I found out the answer at the US Masters Spring Nationals in Riverside, CA this past weekend.

It was the second time I’ve competed in a swim meet in my entire life. I was nervous, anxious and wondered repeatedly, why on Earth did I sign up for the meet? Who do I think I am that I can dive in with Ryan Lochte and Nathan Adrian?

The answer from one of my fellow masters swimmers was “You’re not racing either of them!” True. I’m not in their age group, nor do I share their gender. But, still. Who do I think I am to swim at a meet with 2,026 swimmers and some of them Olympic champions? I am in my 50s, new to swimming—and slow.

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Me and two of my masters swim buddies.

While riding in the back seat to the meet, with my husband and daughter up front, I looked back at car rides to meets with my kids with a smile. The mornings were filled with anticipation as I wondered what the day ahead would bring. I wasn’t nervous at all then. I hoped for a successful, fun day and a happy car ride home.

But, when they were behind the blocks for their first event, I’d get a tight feeling in the pit of my stomach. I’d wring my hands and hope for a good race. I was a nervous wreck until their first race was over. Then I sighed with relief that yes, they actually could swim and I relaxed for the rest of the day.

Then this past weekend at the pool, it was my turn to be the swimmer. I had a pit in my stomach. It was all up to me to get to the blocks in time for my race. I had my daughter at my side. She helped me with my cap, sprayed on sunscreen and held my towel. She said she’d been looking forward to this day. I wanted to make her proud.

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My daughter in the 8-and-unders, when she swam 25’s.

She walked me to the warm-up pool and I stood there. She told me to get in and warm up. Each lane had seven or eight swimmers—real swimmers—not wannabes like me. They wore fast suits, flipped fast and hard. How could I get in with those sharks?

“Mawm, get in!” she said.

“How? They’re so fast.”

“Get in there, then,” she said pointing to the lane marked 65 and over.

I do have some pride, so for the first three-hundred swim part of my warm up, I jumped into the mosh pit and repeatedly felt my foot pulled, got flipped turned on and stressed out on how I was going to make it through warm up. For my kick and drill sets, I did move over to the 65-and-over lane. After all, it was empty and I’m really, really slow when it comes to kicking and drills.

It dawned on me that the race would be okay. I would have my own lane. If I could survive warm up, I could make it through my races in one piece.

My daughter was at the end of my lane cheering for me along with my husband, coach and teammates. After my races, she told me how proud she was of me.

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Role reversal: my daughter sitting in the stands reading a good book.

Sometimes it’s a good to switch roles with our kids. My daughter said after Masters Nationals, that she never wants to be a swim parent. After all, it was a long hot day, with two swims, hours and hours apart. But, in spite of that, she was a darn good one. She was encouraging, positive and her presence made me feel calm. I knew I had her unconditional love, no matter how I swam. She acted like a perfect swim mom. I could learn a few things from her.

My 50-breast with husband and daughter cheering me on. 

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“Everything I’ve Gone Through Has Made Me Who I Am Today” —Michael Phelps

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I sat with my Piranha Swim Team fellow swim moms and Masters swimmers at a fundraiser where Michael Phelps was the keynote speaker.

He had some really good stuff to say and seems incredibly happy with his life. As he said about his comeback from retirement and Rio Olympics, “I got to show the world who I am.”

He said he wouldn’t trade anything in his life because even the struggles have made him who he is today. What an amazing person he is and has become. Not only was he speaking at the Barbara Sinatra Center for Abused Children, he spent time with our local Piranha swimmers and other high school swimmers before the event. How special will that memory be for those kids? It will definitely be a day they’ll remember forever.

 

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Alex Flanagan interviews Michael Phelps. Photo from Steven Erickson, Piranha Masters swimmer.

Sitting for an interview with NBC’s Alex Flanagan, Michael was relaxed and comfortable. Accompanying him were his wife and baby Boomer, who could be heard crying occasionally in the background.

Phelps said all his many accomplishments and discipline were “all in my heart.” He said, “I started with a goal and a dream. I wanted to do something. I wanted to become the first Michael Phelps, not the second Mark Spitz.”

When he talked about his darker days and struggles with depression, Phelps explained that he “said affirmations every time he walked through a doorway.” He said, “If you keep track of how many times you walk through doors in a day, it’s a lot.”

He said it’s important to “not be afraid to ask for help and talk about things. You can’t do everything yourself.”

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A lot of his strength, he attributes to his mom Debbie Phelps, who he called “the most powerful mom. She single-handedly raised us. Growing up, I learned about hard work and dedication from her.”

Abut his coach Bob Bowman, “He has been there all the steps of the way. He taught me how to drive. The two of us get along so well. We’ve been together for 20 years.”

On his return to swimming for Olympic Trials and Rio, Phelps recalled that he called Bowman to tell him he wanted to come back. Bowman was skeptical and said it wasn’t going to happen. Phelps waited and called him back the next day, and Bowman agreed so long as he bought into his program and did it completely his way. It worked out well.

With his parents separating when he was young, Phelps found the pool to be an escape. His coach told him to “leave everything at the door and focus on swimming for the time he was there,” whether it was one and half hours or two. “That stuck with me. If you look at anyone great, they find the time to do their best under any circumstance.”

Phelps is enjoying his time as a husband and father and looks forward to a growing family. He’s focused on his brand MP and his foundation that is saving children’s lives through water safety.

Although Phelps Olympic career is over, as the most decorated Olympian in history with 28 medals and 39 world records, he said “The pool is very relaxing for me. It’s very Zen.”

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Our local USA Swimming and high school swimmers meeting Michel Phelps.                      photo from Piranha Swim Team 

 

 

How Does Belief Translate Into Results?

 

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Palm Springs Aquatic Center, home of the Piranha Swim Team.

A friend of mine talked about a desire to get faster in swimming. I want to improve, too, although we’re at different levels. We’ve been friends since our college-aged daughters were in kindergarten together. We’ve been through all phases of parenting together—from academic, swim parenting through volunteering with our daughters in NCL. Now we’re sharing the experience of Masters swimming with the Piranha Swim Team.

Honestly, I’m one of the slowest swimmers in our Masters group. My friend, Linda, is much stronger and faster. Her goal is a “national time.” She knows what time she needs, how much time she has to drop—and she’s talked to our coach Jeff Conwell about what she needs to do.

We both swim three times per week. She was told by our coach that she needs to swim five days a week to make her goal. My goal is skill specific. I want to be able to flip turn rather than stop at each wall and take a big breath. I realized I needed to do this after my last meet and I tried “flip-turning” two days before the meet. That was a big mistake. If I plan to swim in a meet, I cannot hit my head on the bottom of the pool during a race, nor should I get water up my nose. Without practicing flip turns consistently, those two scenarios are more than likely!

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At my first meet with my good friend, Linda.

I was talking to a former coach of my kids, Tim Hill from the Sharks Swim Team in TX, and he sent me several links to an incredible website that’s useful for parents and kids about sports training and life in general called Train Ugly.

This link from that website really struck a chord with Linda and me and our goal setting.

It comes down to this. We need to start with the belief that we can improve and reach our goals. That will come down to action, such as Linda going to more practices weekly, and me adding flip turns in my workouts, plus working with the coach to improve my turns. The action will eventually turn into results.

That sounds simple, correct? It looks like a foolproof plan for success.

BELIEF — ACTION — RESULTS

The catch is in our beliefs. We’ve talked about the little voice in our heads that in her case says, “That’s way too much time to drop. I can’t do it.” My voice says, “Why do I even care? What difference does it make if I swim open turns or flip turns?” We both have self-defeating words bouncing through our brains.

Linda said, “We get comfortable with where we’re at. We get to a certain number of yards and if we don’t push to improve we really stop growing.”

That’s one reason why I want to improve. I look back at when I started Masters a year and a half ago and I have improved a lot! Yes, I’m proud of that but it would be easy to stay stagnant where I am now. After the swim meet and struggling with flip turns, I thought, “Whew! I’m done with those. I don’t need to bother anymore with being uncomfortable and getting water up my nose.” But, then I went to practice and thought, why would I give up on a skill I’m learning?

According to the Train Ugly website, it’s a difference in our mindsets. Do we have a fixed mindset or an open mindset?

“People with a growth mindset believe that they are in control of their abilities, that they can learn, grow, and improve their skills. With this belief, they’re more likely to put in the action (working hard, taking feedback, overcoming challenges – all the stuff that helps them get good at things). Action leads to results and the results confirm the belief – the cycle continues upward. This is WHY people with a growth mindset learn, grow, and achieve more over time.

People with a fixed mindset believe that their abilities, intelligence, skills are set. This makes them less likely to put in the action (do any of the work that actually helps them improve). When they don’t put in the work, they don’t get the results. This confirms their beliefs and the cycle spirals downward.”–TrainUgly.com

You can replace our swimming experience with any aspect of your life, from parenting, relationships to any activity such as swimming. Ask yourself, is the little voice in your head helping you improve? Or, has it already decided you don’t need to try, or you’re not worthy?

I’m going for getting out of my box and continuing to grow. I have goals in many areas of my life and I’m going for it. How about you?

 

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That’s me going off the blocks…

 

Round Two: Why Parents Need to Compete, Too

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Our beautiful Palm Springs pool.

This past weekend, I was at my second swim meet where I was the swimmer. I made the plunge once before—a year ago at the Palm Springs Piranhas hosted meet. I worried all week as the date of the meet approached. What had I done to myself? Why did I sign up for the meet?

Here is a partial list of things I worried and stressed about:

ONE

Standing on the blocks. It’s scary up there.

TWO

Diving off the blocks. I was afraid my goggles would fall off and I’d lose my contacts.

THREE

Doing a flip turn. In practice, I stick with slow open turns. While practicing flip turns the day before the meet, I got water up my nose and hit my head on the bottom of the pool.

FOUR

Breathing. I worried that halfway through my 50 free I’d start to panic and revert to breath-holding.16387450_10155016389794612_6785187209915237532_n

Then, I realized that last year I couldn’t get out of the pool and I had to swim to the ladder. This year, I didn’t have to worry about that. I can now get out of the deep end. That thought made me realize all the things that I had done to prepare for the meet and what was under my control:

ONE

I had gone to practice consistently for an entire year.

TWO

I had improved my diet to make sure I was properly fueled.

THREE

I stayed hydrated.

FOUR

I worked on dives and flip turns with Coach Jeff and felt more confident.

FIVE

I started a stretching regime that included warming up my shoulders.

SIX

I was one year stronger and better at swimming than at my first meet.

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Here I am with a few of my Piranha Masters friends.

 

I was mentally prepared. I was physically ready. I know I’ve made huge progress. Maybe at the next meet, I won’t get so worked up.

My only regret is that I didn’t start swimming when my kids were young. I’ve learned so much from swimming masters about how hard they work, how great their technique is and how hard it is to swim fast. I took it all for granted. I would have had a different perspective on swim meets and practice if only I had begun swimming years ago. I would have shared this bit of wisdom my favorite ref, Paul, told me at the meet, “Relax and have fun. It’s only a swim meet!”

Why do you think swim parents should compete? What makes you nervous before swim meets?

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Me and Linda. Two swim moms and swimmers.

P.S. One of my most favorite things this weekend was to see and talk with three “kids” who swam with my children on Piranhas at my Masters meet. They are all grown-up and continuing with the sport they love.

Photos courtesy of Piranha Swim Team.

 

Is October too late to start your New Year’s Resolutions?

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When I arrived on deck for my first am practice. This is the “before” pic.

One of  my New Year’s resolutions was to try morning swim practices instead of my usual noon masters. The past couple years, I haven’t had to get out of bed before dawn to get my kids to the pool. When they got their driver’s licenses, they sure didn’t want or need me to go with them–and who am I to argue about leaving the house at 4:50 a.m.? Next, came college and no driving to practice for me! I don’t sleep in past 6 or 7 am, but I have to say it’s really comfortable in my cozy bed.

Why did I want to give up a few extra hours of sleep? That’s been my struggle all these months since New Year’s. Sleep has won out to swimming for exactly nine months. But, I know deep in my heart that we need to be continually trying new things, pushing ourselves, and trying to be better, otherwise we’ll get bored and stagnant. Morning practice, I thought, would shake things up and get me out of my comfort zone some more and change the structure of my days.

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The sky changes during practice.

My adventure with swimming (not my kids swimming, but me swimming) began two years ago, when my New Year’s Resolution was to get out of my comfort zone and swim masters with my kids’ club team. It took me until April 2015, that I finally jumped in and swam a few days a week at noon. I was a weak swimmer, not having mastered the art of breathing during freestyle. I soon discovered there’s only so far you can swim with breath holding. But, throughout the months I’ve gotten better. My yardage has increased from 500 to 2,500 per practice and I swam in my first meet.

Finally, three weeks ago–a few months later than the New Year I admit–I showed up to morning practice. Who knew it would be a good feeling to get up in the dark and drive to the pool again. It’s strangely nostalgic, but instead of taking a trip to Starbucks and reading news on my phone, like when I used to take my kids, I’m diving in. There’s a sense of righteousness and virtue in getting your workout done by 7 a.m. It’s amazing to start practice in the pitch dark and slowly watch the sky glow and the sun rise.

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Good morning, my workout is done and it feels good!

 

Now, I’m struggling with how to stay awake after practice. I think I may have it licked with a trip to Starbucks—after practice! I think my body will get used to it, and I won’t be so tired. But, as one of my fellow swim parents/swimmers said, “Not going to happen. Coach will add yards and shorten intervals. You’ll always be tired!”

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This photo is taken from the same spot as the first pic. This is the “after” photo.

 

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back or Swimming Teaches Life Lessons

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This morning after the lanes were changed from LC to SC.

I realized something this morning during my Masters workout. I really, really like long course.

The irony is it’s the final week of long course training. I swam my first LC practice of the year Wednesday! I wish I would have begun months ago. Since there’s plenty of time to think and reflect with my face in the water, I realized it was fear that kept me from going to LC practice earlier this year.

What else is fear holding me back from doing?

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Masters practice 100 x 1oo’s on New Year’s Eve.

It’s almost humorous because I write about life lessons my kids have gained from years of swimming—and here at my age I’m learning life lessons, too. I began swimming US Masters a year ago, April. I was terrified and wrote about my first day here. Swimming was my New Year’s Resolution, yet it took me four months to get started.

This past year, I swam in my first meet, learned to flip turn and dive off the blocks. Swimming has taught me to try new things, and don’t wait—or the opportunity will be gone. How to apply these lessons in the rest of my life is key.

Another life lesson is to be consistent. It’s very hard and counter productive to start and stop, start and stop. It’s truly the “Tortoise and the Hair” approach that works in all we do. Slow and steady is much better than a sprinter who quits halfway through this race called life.

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At my first meet with my good friend, Linda.

Whatever you want to do, whatever your dream may be—is there something holding you back? Is it fear? If so, what are you afraid of? My fear of LC was that I wouldn’t make it to the other end of the pool, or I’d have to quit before the workout was done.

It turned out that LC is easier for me, I get a nice rhythm going, I’m more relaxed and confident swimming LC than short course. Who knew?

Have you overcome fears in your life? What were they and what did you do?

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5 Tips to Beat the Summer Heat in Palm Springs

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A view from my morning walk.

It’s been a hot week and the “but it’s a dry heat” comment doesn’t cut it when the thermometer hits 122 degrees. I’m tired of breathing hot air and it’s been less than one week of extreme heat. I miss the days of hanging out at the beach with the kids. Those were the days!

Exercise is important. You have to get moving every day or you’ll go nuts. I think it must be similar to living in a wintry, snowy place during winter and experiencing cabin fever.

Here are my tips for keeping cool:

Get up early.
I moved my morning walk up by an hour and a half. It’s still hot, but bearable.

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Palm Springs pool.

Swim.
The Palm Springs pool is a cool place to be. Masters with Piranha Swim Team ensures that I get my workout in and I feel great afterwards! There’re workouts offered six days a week at a couple different times, so no excuses!

Tram Pass.
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway offers a summer pass for only $75 May through Labor Day. We go several times a week to enjoy a fresh, cool breeze. On Sunday morning at 8 a.m. it was 68 degrees, while it was 100 at home. Elevation 8,500 plus with more than 50 miles of trails. 

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PS Tramway — 50 miles of hiking in cool weather.

Movies.
There’s nothing better than sitting in a dark, air-conditioned theater in the afternoon to beat the summer heat. We’re fortunate to have the Regal Palm Springs Stadium for the first-run films and the Camelot Theatres for indie movies.

Backyard Pool.
We float and kick in the pool every evening until we’re water-logged. IMG_2176 (1)

How do you stay cool during the summer heat?