There is a young man on the team I coach who has had an extremely successful swimming career to this point. He has competed at the National level and done well in his High School swimming. Next year he will be swimming at the college he has chosen, and they are quite happy to have him on the team.
With all that he has going for him in the world of swimming, he has gone through more than one wave of questioning why he even doing the sport in the first place. He stresses over the fact that there is pressure when he competes and that the training can be no fun. When I reminded him of all he has accomplished over the past year he acknowledges that it was all a blast and he wouldn’t trade it for anything, but he still has that feeling of stress and lack of fun. His continuing swimming was in doubt...he felt burnt out.
This begs the question of why you are doing this sport in the first place (or any sport for that matter). Something about it must make you want to keep doing it or most likely you would have given it up fairly quickly. For most competitors it is the thrill of the race. Most swimmers can vividly remember their first race and the feelings they got from it. Back when you started (especially if you started out very young), what time you did for the race was most likely not important…trying to win or perhaps finishing were much more important elements.
As you move on and swim for a long time, these basic elements sometimes disappear as we chase the all important time standard or something similar, but I think remembering the basic joy you get out of being a competitive swimmer is something that you should connect with every now and then. When you look at Masters swimming, for most swimmers your times will get slower as you get older. You will most likely post times that are not as fast as your younger years, but the joy of competing can be just as rewarding. Times were not real important when you started and I can make a case that they should not be important after a long time at doing the sport as well. I really believe this type of mind set actually helps you do better as you are swimming with less performance pressures.
I am happy to report that after some soul searching my young friend has started training again with a renewed vigor. There is no guarantee that it will continue, but I think his ability to reconnect with his love for the sport has him coming back for more.
Remember why you are doing this!!