We went racing last weekend and observed all manner of swimming related information. We find the meets most stimulating as they are a reliable reflection of progress being made, new skills being incorporated and attitudes being reaffirmed.
Upon reflection it occurred to us that two main components of progress are consistency and the power of incremental improvement. The consistency issue is pretty obvious and while the usefulness of small increments may not be so easily visible they are none the less just as powerful.
The best part of each of these is the athlete has total control of their effectiveness.
Consistency is a hallmark characteristic of high level performers in any walk of life. Swimmers need to come to training sessions and meets regularly. Training sessions missed and meets not attended can never be recovered. When you make those two parts of your career a priority, your progress is virtually insured.
Small incremental improvement is often unobservable in the traditional sense. It is just as remarkable for its impact is never in doubt so long as you are willing to invest regularly over time…like the wise old adage about saving a fixed percentage of your income – all the time.
Let’s say you wanted to drop 4.5 seconds in a 100 yard event over 3 seasons. It looks like this mathematically: you have about 2.5 years, or 912 days to drop the time; 4.5 divided by 912 = .00493. Basically you need to improve .005th of a second each and every day and the time drop will be yours. Now that you have a specific goal for each day you then decide what .005th of a second you are going to capture and how you will do that. The list for that improvement is endless just as it is for the improvement in any area. Not any one thing will give you that time drop; many areas can and need to be addressed – stroke technique, kicking, strength and flexibility, aerobic and anaerobic capacity, sleep, nutrition, mental attitude – the list is practically endless. As Steve Bultman from Texas A&M says, “If you do the work you will improve, the only question is when.”
Both consistency and incremental improvements are completely in your hands. One of the very best qualities about our sport is that you don’t need someone to throw you the ball to score. Does it help to have a knowledgeable coach, supportive parents and encouraging teammates? You bet it does. But you know what? There are thousands of swimmers with all three of those who have no plan. And what we have to say about that isn’t new, but it is still true: failure to plan is planning to fail.
This is actually on you. So take it to heart and do it. You will stand so tall and so proud!