I'm Not Improving, Part 1

This is so frustrating. 

I'm putting all of this work in with no return. 

Is this worth it. 

Maybe endurance sports aren't for me. 

I could be doing more with my time. 

I'm so slow.

Everyone is faster than me. 



These are the words I hear too often as a coach. I see them typed on social media, I listen to them whispered to friends, and I see it in athletes' eyes and body language. As someone who spends their day investing in others, listening to other people's stories, it is hard to witness such discouragement. Endurance sports can be enjoyable with the right mindset. Endurance events are an accumulation activity and what you put in, you will get a return. However, you need to be in the right mindset to reap these rewards. 

I was coaching an open water swim class this morning and this topic came to mind. The three main reasons people don't improve boil down to 1) Measuring 2) Effort 3) Expectation; and today I will focus on the foundation point, measuring your fitness.

  1. Measuring

In my experience the people who are discouraged continuously don't measure their training, so they have no clue how fast or slow they are going. They measure their effort off of other people which undoubtedly leads to dissatisfaction. Hot tip, there will always be someone faster than you, so this isn't a consistent measuring point. Using others as motivation is also a short term fix. You are ultimately out there for yourself. 

We coach six swim sessions a week that have ranging abilities. I was working with an athlete who stopped mid-workout to express dissatisfaction in how little they felt were improving. My heart sank as this is a horrible feeling as a coach. I asked, "how fast was your last 100 repeat?" The athlete responded, "I don't know." I took a moment and replied, "How do you know you are not improving if you don't know your speeds?" and the athlete responded, "Well, this person has been swimming faster than me."

Here lies the problem with group training, its a constant measure of your rank, which feels like a measurement of your worth even though it’s not. I am swimming the slowest which doesn't feel good, which must mean I'm not improving. A reoccurring observation is that athletes know their running pace but don't know their swimming pace. This is a reason people don't like swimming.

As a coach I know my athlete's swim paces. I time intervals of each athlete throughout practice and thankfully I happened to time this person's last interval. I reminded the athlete that when they first started, they were swimming at 2:00 pace for 100 repeats and this previous 100 was a 1:50. There was a moment of silence as this information was sinking in. The athlete was improving all along but never realized it. I stood next to this athlete the rest of the practice providing splits for the main set. The motivation for the remainder of the swim was something we never saw before; the athlete only got faster the rest of the class! The only difference was being more engaged in the process of swimming. 

This concept is not rocket science, but you need to know your ability. You are waking up every day to better yourself, and the only way to receive productive feedback is by measuring yourself. If you are an athlete, you should be doing tests in the swim, bike, and run throughout the year. It is imperative for long term success. 

Coach Steve

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