This week’s training tip is from Erica Rose, USA Swimming’s Female Open Water Swimmer of the Year for 2006. Erica grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, just down the road from where I grew up, so I know what her club program and coaches were like Lake Erie Silver Dolphins, Coach Jerry Holtry), and I know how hard she had to work growing up. Her words prove that her success was NOT due to luck, but rather to extremely hard work, and tremendous dedication.
I grew up training five mornings per week, five afternoons per week, and one long session on Saturday mornings. I had a stroke technique lesson each Sunday morning. There were no days off. There were no sessions off — I was expected to work the rest of my life around my training schedule and I did so. When I was at my peak in pool swimming in my mid teens, I wasn’t having a very good workout if I wasn’t holding times that were under the senior national time standards. In fact, some of my lifetime best times were achieved during practice!
It didn’t matter if I was tired or not feeling good or worn out from school. When I showed up at the pool, I was expected to give every ounce of energy I had in order to perform at an extremely high level day in and day out. I was also expected to do the little things correctly — to streamline off of every wall, to never breathe into a turn, to touch with two hands on butterfly and breaststroke, to dolphin kick underwater off of my turns in backstroke — there was no time to create bad habits!
I remember being frustrated at times, watching friends from school stay out late at night or go on weekend trips and being unable to join them because of my commitment to my training schedule. My coach always told us that if we wanted to be great, we were going to have to make some sacrifices and really dedicate ourselves to our sport. Looking back, there is nothing in the world I would trade for the experiences swimming has given me. I would miss all of the social events and suffer through all of the painful workouts and early mornings again without a question if I knew how much it would pay off later. There will be time later on to catch up with the social scene — there are always more parties, there are always more road trips, and there are always more weekends to hang out with friends. If you want to be truly great in the sport of swimming, you need to put in time and effort and you need to be dedicated and committed to your training.
I think it is also important for young swimmers to realize how special their friends on the swim team can be. In the long run, I think most of us find that those are relationships that last forever — people you shared really tough workouts with day in and day out and who have been there with you, struggling to overcome fatigue and get through the most brutal of sets are people who understand what it means to want to be a champion.