Entry Rituals

Jun 1, 2007
Entry Rituals

It's early in the morning, the sun has barely edged away the night, and your alarm clock is chirping relentlessly, insistently. You can't believe it's all happened so quickly. You feel as though you BLINKED rather than slept for the past 6 or 8 hours. All you really want to do is turn off the clock, and go back to sleep.


You lie there, scrolling through your mental Rolodex of excuses, but nothing sounds acceptable. You drag yourself out of bed, brush your teeth, throw on anything lying around, grab your swim bag, and head to the car.

While driving to the pool, you begin to mourn the sleep you could be having, and begin to worry about WHAT you're going to be asked to do in the water. Will it be hard? Will it be boring? Will YOU be asked to really perform today? You begin to pray for a few things... relays, or car problems for your coach. If you swim outdoors, you scan the sky. Thunder and lightning are what you're hoping for, but all you see are clouds. You'd like to give the IMPRESSION of wanting to train, when you really don't.

Finally, you find yourself in your suit, standing on the deck, and watching the people around you. You try to find ANYTHING to talk about, yet you don't want to talk, it's still too early for chit chat. All you can really think about is the shock that's coming as your entire body hits the water. When people around you jump in, you COWER and jump back, fearing that a drop or two might reach your dry, warm body.


At last, the moment has come. It's your turn. It's time for you to jump in. You know that no matter how many years you do this, it NEVER gets easier. Nearly every swimmer develops an entry ritual. Some people dip their toes in the water to test the temperature. Others don't want to know the temperature and do a standing broad jump off the edge, then plant their feet on the bottom and jump up and down quickly. Others jump and scream, as if they were performing a black-belt karate strike. Some even dive in and sprint the first length, knowing that by the time they reach the other end, it'll all be over... or just beginning.

From the time the alarm goes off, until the moment your body acclimates to the temperature of the water, there is a sense of gloom, and even depression, about what lies ahead. If we could just get past that SHOCK effect of getting in to a cold pool early in the morning, swimming would be SUCH an easier sport. It seems to me that it's not the training that people fear the most. It's the 30 to 45 minutes between wake-up time to entry. Once that shock wears off, swimming, and even swim training, is fun and, as you know, rewarding.


There are certain things you simply HAVE to do if you want to be involved in the sport of swimming. Jumping into a cold pool early in the morning is one of them. Getting wet also has some related issues:

1.  Punctuality. Any delay you introduce into the morning routine will add stress to both you and the coach when the time finally comes to get in the water.

2.  Understanding. You have to understand that there is NO WAY you can do anything in this sport... unless you're IN the water. Unfortunately, there is no other way.

3.  Guts. If you can stand up to cold water, it's a whole lot easier to stand on the blocks of your championship meet and know that you're as tough as you need to be. As the famous Nike slogan says... "Just Do It."

4.  Habits. Once you've developed your ritual, or system, for getting in, STICK TO IT. Once your routine is a habit, you don't have to worry about the process. You just do it and get through it and the result is that you end up in the water, ready to swim.


5.  Competitiveness. First is first, in everything. Even if you're not the best swimmer on the team, you always have a shot of winning the "get in" race. While this seems like a small thing, watch how your coach reacts, and eventually holds you out as an example of someone with the right attitude toward training. Start each practice trying to win, and you'll do a better job through the entire practice.

Getting IN the water is the one thing swimmers at EVERY level have to do, and we all deal with it in our own way. At this point in my swimming career, I'm probably more famous at the pool for standing and talking to my friends, all of us in suits, avoiding that moment of entry. I can put it off for 30 minutes or more if it's a good conversation. When it's time, I perform my ritual. I stand touching the wall, about 10 feet away from the pool. I run and dive in (it's the deep end), and I go to the bottom and swim the first length under water. That's it. By the time I come up, all is good, and I can start swimming. I know someone's going to give me a hard time for missing so much swimming time, standing and talking... but hey... I've done my time competitively, and I've got no unfinished business, and nothing to prove as a swimmer. If you haven't completed what you want to do in the sport, GET IN!

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