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The Fanatic

How many hours a day do you spend being unproductive as an athlete? You sit in school, you sit at work, you sit in the car on the way to practice, you sit while watching TV, you sit while playing video games, and then, oh yeah, you go to swim practice and feel like you�ve done enough.

swimmer breath I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Becoming an elite athlete doesn’t just happen, it takes planning and a LOT of work. To be the absolute best you can be, you may need access to the best coaching, the finest facilities, the most balanced diet, the best weight room, a tremendous physical therapist, essential stroke analysis, and unlimited water time. I’m sure everyone has all of those, so there is really no reason to continue writing…right?

All right, time for the reality check. Most of us don’t have all the things listed above, or even a fraction of them. The good news is that you’re not alone. Not many people have those things. The bad news is…SOME PEOPLE DO! What that means is that if you do not have daily access to everything listed above, someone, somewhere, is getting ahead of you. How can you compete? Become a fanatic.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE Of course, the word "fanatic" has bad connotations, but we’ll try to use it in a good way. By fanatic, I mean that you need to find time to do extra things that you wouldn’t normally do. Find the time that you’re being UNPRODUCTIVE, and make it SOMEWHAT PRODUCTIVE. Even a little productive is better than NO… uh… PRODUCTIVITYNESS. You know what I’m trying to say here. 🙂

We’ve all read stories about places (countries, high schools, colleges, etc.) that consistently turn out great athletes. Sometimes it’s a great coach or coaching staff that gets the credit. Sometimes we say it’s, well, the altitude…or lack of distractions…or the work ethic of the athletes…or hero worship…or a great facility…or lots of funding…or whatever. Of all the athletic dynasties, the one that has always impressed me the most is the Kenyan distance-running dynasty. Countless theories abound as to the continued success of this group, but no one can pinpoint the exact determining factor of their success. 

DESCRIBE THE IMAGE The point I’m trying to make to all aspiring athletes is that, in order to win at anything, you need to understand that someone, somewhere, is preparing MORE than you are. I’m not saying you’re not working hard enough. I’m just trying to make you aware that you must stay focused on EVERYTHING you do, and you MUST live your LIFE as an elite athlete, even before you become one.

Rather than just PREACH about doing things better, I’ll try to go down my little list, and give some ideas of ways you can improve when you’re usually being "unproductive" as an athlete.

How to be more productive while you SIT in school:
STUDY! PAY ATTENTION! Geez, like you didn’t know I was gonna say THAT. Don’t get distracted, or think about your swimming, or your girlfriend. If you focus on doing your job in the classroom, then you free yourself to focus on being an athlete when it’s time to go to practice.

How to be more productive while you sit in the car on your way to practice (NOT driving here):

Pull out the laminated card that came in one of your Go Swim DVDs, and pick a goal for your practice. Why do you think we take the time to put those card things in there? They are meant to help you decide and chose a goal for your training THAT day. Use it.

DESCRIBE THE IMAGEHow to be more productive while you’re watching TV:
Well, it would be easy for me to say you should be watching a GO SWIM DVD, but that would be too self-serving (but do it anyway!). Seriously, why not take that time to stretch, or to do sit-ups? If you choose to veg out, you’d better hope that your competition is doing the same thing. So use that time to get a bit ahead of the game.

How to be more productive while playing video games:
WIN! I know, sounds silly, but a sense of winning is good, and gets you USED to winning. Of course, in reality, this isn’t going to do much for your swimming, and while it’s good to shut down every once in a while, you should really limit the amount of time you play. We had a Galaga machine at the Cincinnati Marlins pool, and I was allowed ONE QUARTER a day to play (I enjoy video games, too), When you limit the amount of time you’re allowed to play, you focus and get better, almost like you’re in a panic to make it last.

Hey, that sounds familiar doesn’t it? If you REALLY care about reaching your potential, then you need to be in a bit of a panic about your quarter being used up. You never know what tomorrow will bring, so train today as if the Olympics or your championship meet is tomorrow, not a few years away. There’s NOTHING better than showing up at a meet OVER PREPARED!

If you do it right, being a fanatic isn’t such a bad thing. It’s looking for ways to be more productive when you’re usually not. It’s taking opportunities to improve where’s others don’t see those opportunities.

You’ll only find those opportunities if you look.