The seemingly never ending quest for best times in competition provides a trap when a swimmer keeps comparing his/her current performance to an "all time best" swim time. It is a similar challenge faced say by a runner who is working to improve her 5K or 10K time.
So here we are in the middle of heavy winter training and occasionally we go to a meet (or enter a local 5K or 10K run) for fun and/or to check our fitness level and/or to get feedback on how we are progressing with a certain type of training. A for instance might be we have done a fair amount of aerobic fitness swimming and the meet can tell us how well this training is working by how fast we recover from a certain swim or series of swims.
But with many swimmers the comparisons continue. "I was off my best time in the 100 fly by 4 seconds. What is wrong?" This is often accompanied by the pained expression, the wrinkled brow, perhaps even a hint of a tear.
In our never ending quest to come up with ways to make early and mid season competition meaningful we like to ask our team to evaluate their swims by having them ask themselves if the race was "a best time effort" not merely how close or far it was from an actual best time.
One skill is invaluable: the skill of being able to "lay it out there" on a consistent basis. If when one does this, and then evaluates by asking if the effort was "best time worthy" and can say "yes" then we call it "mission accomplished".
We want to cultivate the atmosphere where taking risks and pushing one's limits is rewarded by the recognition - by self and team - of a swim or run or bike "well done" regardless of the absolute time achieved.
So, let go of the comparisons to best times for a while, especially in the early and mid season. Rather go with the idea that every single time you compete at a high level of effort expended you are practicing a very necessary skill - namely the ability to leverage your actions in a positive way regardless of the numerical value attached to your effort.
Make sense? We hope so. Let us know if you agree or disagree or have questions. We are here to help. Have a great week at the pool or on the road!