It’s the practice of doing something regularly to develop a habit.
I am consistently inconsistent with my swimming. It’s because swimming isn’t easy. I also don’t like getting my hair wet.
Seriously, I have a lot of hair and it’s a pain to wash, comb and dry. I’d like to wash my hair only a few times a week — but when you’re swimming in chlorine you have to wash your hair after every swim.
I’ve been swimming off and on for seven years. I had some good excuses why I skipped swimming. A torn ACL, knee and cataract surgery and then COVID shutdowns. All together, that took me out of the pool for a few years.
This time back in the pool, I’ve decided the secret is consistency. I’m starting slowly, two days a week, swimming 1,000 yards — which was my warm-up in Masters. I began with kicking five days a week in my backyard pool to get the hang of getting back in the water.
Then I headed to the YMCA to lap swim. I could push myself and do more yards or more days, but I’m gradually going to build. I went from walking each day to adding swimming and barre classes and ended up with a pulled muscle. At my age, I’ve learned my lesson.
Start off easy, develop a habit and build. Be consistent.
I wrote about consistency and parenting that was published on SwimSwam. You can read it HERE.
I wrote about my first day of swimming US Masters HERE.
What are your secrets to developing good habits whether it’s working out or other aspects of your life?
I’ve been horrible about swimming. The last time I swam was March 3. One reason was we had guests. Another was the temperature got cold for a week. Then I got my hair done — and that means no swimming for a few days — otherwise I’d ruin my “do.”
When we lived in Palm Springs, I was one mile from the pool and I would start and stop — but I was more consistent than I am now. I swam with our Piranha Masters and I had two friends who would text me before practice to make sure I was going. It’s good to have workout partners for motivation.
Our new home is 20 miles from the nearest Scottsdale pool and it takes me 40 minutes with traffic to get there.
It’s easy to NOT go. Especially with gas prices so high. Also, the tiniest bit of wind or cold weather keeps me away.
I feel so much better when I swim. I sleep better, too.
A neighbor suggested I try out the YMCA in Cave Creek. I went last week to check it out and it’s not the greatest pool — it only has three lanes for lap swimming — but it’s only 6 miles from our house. I have a free one-week trial and I reserved a lane Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday went swimmingly. I had a lane to myself and the staff and swimmers were friendly and welcoming. Because it’s a beach entry pool and has so few lanes for lap swimming, you have to make an appointment for a lane. Perhaps that will get me to the pool with a set time reserved.
The YMCA has a huge gym with excellent equipment and a ton of classes including yoga, zumba and barre. Who knows, I may expand my workout world and try a few classes, too.
How do you stay motivated to work out? Are you consistent or do you start and stop and begin again?
Three years ago in April, I signed up for US Masters Nationals — for myself to swim. It was very courageous of me because I’m not a very good swimmer. I went way outside of my comfort zone — which I’m definitely not doing now. I miss the pool with my friends during day 41 of the Coronavirus Shut Down. I decided to take a look at my one big swim moment. I was scared to death and I don’t know if I’d do this again, but I lived to talk about it! I also got to share the experience with my best swim friends, coach and family.
US Masters Meet in January at our Palm Springs pool.
In a little less than two weeks, I’ll be swimming in another meet. This one will be my second meet in my two-year swim career. I attended a meet a few months ago, but right before it was my turn on the blocks, the pool was closed. The transformer was hit during an accident and the power to the pool went out. I haven’t decided whether that was a good thing or not that I didn’t have to dive off the blocks and swim.
This time is a little more frightening because of the name of the meet: US Masters Nationals. Yes, I said NATIONALS! Six swimmers from our Piranha Masters have signed up and I get nervous when I think about it. There are more than 2,000 attending.
My coach says not to think about it, but just show up and swim.
My daughter at a swim meet with her best friend and coach.
I made the mistake of looking at the psych sheets and names like RYAN LOCHTE and NATHAN ADRIAN popped out at me! Who do I think I am to be signed up for this meet? I’m seeded dead last in my events by a lot—in my age group. However, there are swimmers ages 18 to 95, so maybe I should focus on picking off the swimmers 90 and above.
Swimming at this meet does make me more than anxious, so I have to remember what I would tell my kids and other swim parents:
Don’t worry about other people’s times. That’s right. I cannot control the fact that my friend Bonnie is 20 seconds faster than me in the 50 free. Yes, 20 SECONDS!
TWO Relax and have fun. Yes, I’ll have so much fun with all my friends and watch great swimmers. I don’t want to freeze or panic in the middle of my 50 free and have to be dragged out of the pool. That would not be fun.
THREE Try your best. I’ve put in the hard work. I’ve made it to practice for more than a year since my first meet. I can flip turn and dive off the blocks without hitting the bottom of the pool. I can do this.
My son (front) with swim buddies at a meet having fun.
P.S. My daughter, who’s a swimmer in college, will be home that weekend. She told me she plans on driving me to the meet, will stand at the blocks holding my towel, and will make sure I talk to our head coach Jeff Conwell before and after each event! Somehow, I think she’s looking forward to this more than I am!
What have you done that was outside your comfort zone? Would you do it again?
Last January, I made my way back into the pool, after my epic failure at skiing. Today, I went to Masters and it was fun to compare where I was a year ago. Unfortunately, my attendance has been hit and miss lately due to travel, guests–and I’m a wimp when it comes to cold weather! And we’ve had a cold and wet winter! This morning it was 39 degrees on my morning walk–and in the 50s at noon Masters, with the pool a cool 78 degrees. This may sound like whining to my friends stuck in 15 inches of snow back home in Washington–but hey, this is Palm Springs! It’s supposed to be warm, even hot by now.
So, today I was able to swim the 1,000-yard warm-up and a mini set that Coach Jeff gave me. (It’s nice to have personalized workouts tailored for my post-surgery self.) I wrote the following story at the end of January last year. I have come a long way in a year–it’s not that bad! Hopefully, I’ll make more progress as the months go by.
The view from my walk today–in the pool.
Yesterday, I walked on the pool deck at the Palm Springs Swim Center to figure out how I could manage to get some exercise walking. Since my recent ACL injury from acting like a young hotshot skier in Utah, I’ve been missing my morning walks and my Masters’ group swims. I was told that I can’t swim right now, but I could walk. So following the advice of my amazing physical therapist, I decided that I should try walking in the pool.
I have been worried about walking up and down the normal swimming ladder, found on both sides of the pool. So yesterday, I went to investigate and found two options:
These lifts are required at every public pool in California.
This is the option I used.
The steps were easy, the handrails are put exactly in the right spot. I had no problem getting in and out on my own—without asking one of my lifeguard friends to operate the seated lift. They told me they would. But, I was glad to not need their assistance.
Next, I walked a full 30 minutes following the “heel first, weight-bearing flat foot, push off toes repeat method” that my PT has had me practice. She was right, the pool feels so good. The lack of gravity makes me feel like I can walk and walk.
The views were incredible. My knee was moving and the only trouble I had was watching other lap swimmers. I was ready to plunge in head first and take off in a nice easy freestyle. But for right now, I’ll enjoy the ability to walk without pain, the gorgeous pool views and lifeguard friends. It was spectacular today and I’m so blessed. Hey, it’s January and it’s not that bad!
These are the stairs I was nervous about.
What are you thankful for today? I’m kind of liking the smell of chlorine on my skin.
The swimmers gather with their groups. Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.
I feel like I am standing still in cement while I watch my swimming friends fly off without me. I barely make it to the pool more than twice a week lately–and I’ve had to start completely over this year due to knee surgery.
Meanwhile, my Piranha Swim Team Masters’ friends are getting faster, stronger and swimming longer workouts. Not only that, they are taking on challenging open water swims like the Tiki Swim in Oceanside and the Scilly Swim Challenge in the United Kingdom, 35 miles off the coast of Cornwall.
My friends Linda and Karl, who were former Piranha and St. Theresa parents with me, swam the Scilly Swim Challenge for their second straight year. This swim challenge is a 15k swim combined with a 10k walk.
Event organizer Dewi Winkle said, “We are on year five now and 10th Challenge just completed. Nick Lishman and I came up with the idea in 2013 and we thought the islands are so beautiful and the attraction of swimming between them would be well received. We started in 2014 and have now built to three events a year with up to 150 people per event.”
Dewi said their plans include a race around St Mary’s as a relay event and a test event in Croatia in October. Currently, they have a two-day and one-day swim in September and a Spring Swim in May.
A map of the Isles of Scilly and route courtesy of the Scilly Swim Challenge.
6 swims averaging 2.5 km (total 15km) and 6 walks averaging 1.7 km (total 10km) completed as a group with full safety and logistical support.
Whether you choose to complete in one or two days you will experiencethe amazing swimming and beautiful scenery Scilly has to offer.
The event will start and finish on St. Mary’s, the main island, visiting St. Martins, Tresco, Bryher, Samson and St. Agnes.
It’s not a race and the emphasis is on everyone getting round safely.
While you’re swimming we will transport a bag for you which will be available at the next island. You will then carry it to the start of the next swim.
Full safety support is included.
There are food stops at the end of each swim.
The Kestrel, Linda and Karl’s ride for two days, at Hugh Town. Photo courtesy of Karl Siffleet.
According to Linda, her second year was easier than the first. “Coming out early to get used to the water was helpful,” she said. The water temperature was 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit). In contrast, we swim in a pool with a temperature of around 80 degrees! Yes, she wore a wetsuit the entire time.
Linda and Karl signed up for the one-day swim but arrived several days early and volunteered to help out or “crew” for the two-day swim. The two-day swim allows a more leisurely pace than the one-day challenge. Linda and Karl checked swimmers in and out of the water and helped with the baggage boat. Linda said the support staff is incredible and includes “30 kayakers—they were awesome! Five safety boats (power cats) and a baggage boat.”
Swimmers can swim as much or little as they want. If they need a break they can hang onto a kayak or climb aboard a boat and go to the next island. In between, they are fed snacks and drinks.
Photo courtesy of Linda Burns.
“There was tea, coffee, other hot drinks. Cakes, soup, salads, rolls, candy bars. Diet Coke, homemade pastry and Cornish pasty,” she said.
Hot tea after a cold swim! Photo from Linda Burns.
The swimmers pick which one of three groups they want to swim with according to their speed. “We swam in different groups and nobody keeps time. You can swim as much or as little as you want.”She said the groups are “Red, amber, green. Swimmers self-select which pod to swim with. Red is fastest. Karl swam amber and I swam green. I was much happier swimming in the front of the green than the middle of the amber.”
I’m sure a lot of the appeal on taking on a challenge like this is the camaraderie. The swimmers must feel so much accomplishment and bond together after their swims. I know it motivates Linda and Karl to keep swimming year round and a goal to work towards in their practices.
Like I said, my friends have been getting stronger and faster. Linda said she felt great swimming. “I felt good. I got into a good rhythm for sighting and really enjoyed it—except the several times a wave broke over me as I inhaled and I thought I was going to cough up my lungs.”
Photo from Linda Burns.
Someday, I’d like to take this challenge, too. I don’t think I’ll be strong enough yet in May, but perhaps in a year or two. In the very least I’d like to travel to the Isles of Scilly and see this quaint, quiet and beautiful area for myself.
What motivates you to get out of your comfort zone and try something incredibly challenging?
I was questioning whether swimmers with good work ethics and some talent can ever be as great as swimmers with extraordinary talent. I “Googled” hard work vs. talent and I discovered “Hard Work Beats Talent (but Only If Talent Doesn’t Work Hard)”–by Piers Steel Ph.D. –The Procrastination Equation on Psychology Today from Oct. 8, 2011.
Complete with a chart the author discusses intelligence, rather than physical talent, but they are both inherited traits, so I believe they’re interchangeable. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
Hard work vs Talent: Who Wins? In a world where we are ridiculously overcommitted to making sure everyone is equal in every way, a new study just published in Psychological Science contains some sobering news you might not like. In their paper “Limits on the Predictive Power of Domain-Specific Experience and Knowledge in Skilled Performance,” David Hambrick and Elizabeth Meinz kill the myth that talent doesn’t matter. We would love to believe, of course, that all we need to do to be the best is to try hard enough. You can be anything you want as long as you really want it: rocket scientist, pop icon, sport hero. There is no shortage of popular pundits promoting this myth. As Hambrick and Meinz point out:
Malcolm Gladwell (2008) commented that “The relationship between success and IQ works only up to a point. Once someone has reached an IQ of somewhere around 120, having additional IQ points doesn’t seem to translate into any measurable real world advantage” (pp. 78-79). In his own bestselling book, The Social Animal, David Brooks (2011) expressed the same idea: “A person with a 150 IQ is in theory much smarter than a person with a 120 1Q, but those additional 30 points produce little measurable benefit when it comes to lifetime success” (p. 165). Malcolm Gladwell and David Brooks are simply wrong. At least in science, a high level of intellectual ability puts a person at a measurable advantage-and the higher the better.
The people peddling this notion that talent is irrelevant often cite a 1993 paper by Ericsson, Krampe, and Tech-Romer regarding deliberate practice in which the researchers argue that success is usually built upon purposeful, thoughtful and intense efforts to improve performance over about 10,000 hours. This is true; hard work does pay off. The Beatles got to be so good because they had to perform their music four hours a day (eight days a week) during their two year stint in Hamburg. Bobby Fischer became a grandmaster at chess after years of honing his skills at the Brooklyn Chess Club.But that wasn’t the question. What we want to know is whether hard work makes talent irrelevant. Will every group that jams together for 10,000 hours become the Fab Four and every chess obsessed child become a world champion?
Hambrick and Meinz showed the basic relationship between hard work and talent in this chart. The vertical axis measures your level of performance. Higher up means spectacular. The horizontal axis charts your innate talent, in this case cognitive ability, what the rest of the world refers to as “intelligence.” Further to the right means super smart. The two lines refer to different levels of deliberate practice. The red line refers to those who have put in the hours while the blue refers to those who haven’t made the effort.
There are two things to take away from this. The first is that being smart is a useful thing to inherit, right up there with a large trust fund. The more smarts you have, the higher your performance. And despite what Gladwell and Brooks say, intelligence’s benefits don’t disappear; the more innate talent of any sort you have, the better off you are going be.
If you take a careful look, however, you will notice that those of us with more modest abilities do have a chance. Even if you weren’t born with genius in your genes, you can outperform the smartest of individuals as long as you work hard and the latter doesn’t. Also, the differences between the smart and the not-so-smart shrink quite a bit if they both work hard. That means that talent still counts, but hard work puts you right up there.
So, to answer my question about whether hard-working swimmers will ever match super talented swimmers–it all depends. Being a swim mom in the LSC Southern California Swimming means we were surrounded with talent. Every team has standouts and at meets, my kids had to compete with drop-dead amazing Olympic swimmers like Vlad Morozov, Abbey Weitzeil and NCAA champ and American Record Holder Ella Eastin. Those three swimmers I mentioned were blessed with talent–plus they work hard, too. That’s not a common combination.
I observed that many of the most talented kids didn’t learn to work hard. It was easy for them to compete and win. So growing up, they didn’t experience failure and how to turn that into motivation. In the end, I saw many of these talented kids quit swimming when they either had to work hard to improve or were no longer the fastest on their team or at meets. I believe a missing key ingredient that determines success in any field is passion. Passion is what drives a person to keep trying, working hard and enjoying the process and small improvements along the way.
I have to say that in my Masters’ group I notice that hard work pays off, too. I’ve been out for more than five months with an injury. Now that I’m back, I’m surprised at how much my friends have improved in my absence. They are the ones who are showing up every day and putting in hard work. They are swimming faster, are stronger and swimming more. It’s motivating to me to keep going and gain back some of what I’ve lost.
An age group meet at our Palm Springs pool.
What are your thoughts about talent versus hard work?
I returned to swimming Masters and although I’m amazingly weak and slow, I’m thrilled to be back. I like the summer schedule and the fact that it’s Long Course. For non-swimmers that means the pool lanes run the length of the 50-meter pool, as opposed to across the pool, which is 25 yards for Short Course. I remember a few years ago when I began swimming Masters, I’d never go on Saturdays because it’s Long Course. Now there’s Long Course throughout the week–and I’m there.
I actually prefer it. Even though I’m recovering from knee surgery and I can barely swim 30 minutes without getting exhausted, there’s something about how good it feels. I find a nice rhythm and my mind has more time to think and wander before I hit the wall. I feel like I’m swimming more as opposed to pushing and bouncing off the walls back and forth like a ping-pong ball.
Last week was my first day back to the US Masters Swimming program with Piranha Swim Team since December. Of course, that’s because of the great ski vacation I had early January that ended with a toboggan ride escorted by the Ski Patrol at Alta, Utah. Anyway, last week I could only swim 500 meters without feeling winded, exhausted and my knee hurt. Today is Monday of week two, and I felt stronger and made it 900 meters.
It’s great to be back, and our coach was right. Returning to Masters and being with my swim buddies is motivating and will help me recover faster, as opposed to going on my own. I strongly recommend joining a Masters team to anyone, regardless of their swimming ability.