When I was 6 years old, I started swimming for the team at my local neighborhood pool. I got to learn something new, play in the water, and hang out with my friends. Sometimes the coaches even brought us candy. What more could a kid want?
After a few years I joined a club team and starting swimming year round. I continued be in love with the sport for years. Despite having to wake up at o’dark thirty before going to school, swimming was the best part of my life for many, many years.
It helped me develop relationships, taught me discipline, and helped me grow into the person I am today.
I can’t explain in words how much swimming has given me and taught me, but what I wanted to share today was just how much fun I always had doing it. Even on the days where I didn’t want to wake up early, didn’t want to jump in the freezing cold water, didn’t want to swim 400 IM sprints on repeat (did that way too many times to count), I always had fun.
Until I didn’t.
I was a junior in high school, had just come home from Junior Nationals, had reached my goal time in my best event, and was taking a week off from practice. Monday rolled around, my alarm went off, and I didn’t get up. I didn’t go to practice. Just a few more days, I thought to myself.
But it wasn’t just a few more days.
After a few weeks my parents were tired of paying for something that I wasn’t using, so I was told “it was time to go back” in the serious tone my father loves to use to get his point across.
Fine, I said.
That next Monday my alarm went off, I got up, drove to the pool, and sat in my car. I didn’t get out.
Ten minutes before practice let out I drove to school and continued on with my day. I kept up this routine for the next three weeks. I could keep telling this story (parents find out, grounding, loss of cell phone privileges, more lies from my end – it’s pretty juicy) but that’s not my point.
My point is that at somewhere along the line I stopped having fun, and I didn’t want to swim anymore. I didn’t want to get up, I didn’t want to go to practice, I didn’t want to try.
I wish I knew why exactly that had happened, but I don’t. It’s that simple. Sometimes we change without even realizing it, and when this happened to me I didn’t know what to do.
I went on to swim in college, but without caring. I joined our swim team because it was all I knew. To be honest I didn’t know how to make friends without it. I loved the friends I made, I still do, but I didn’t love swimming at that point.
I didn’t want to go to practice. I didn’t want to compete during meets. I just didn’t care anymore.
Two years after I graduated, I decided to go back to swimming, for the simple reason that I wanted to. I missed it. So I joined a local masters team, started practicing, going to meets and competing, and I ended up going a lifetime best in 100 M fly. It was an amazing experience.
And it was fun again.
At some point the thing I loved the most in the world had stopped being fun and became a chore. I should have paid more attention when this happened, but I was a kid and didn’t know any better.
What I’m trying to say is to pay attention to how you feel when you go to practice, or when you hop on your bike, or head out for a run. If you ever start to dislike what you’re doing, take a break.
Don’t force it.
When you do what I did and grit your teeth and bear it, this wonderful thing loses its magic. And if you’re not careful, if you keep pushing, it might lose it forever.
So take stock, be present, and don’t let your sport lose its fun. If you feel it start to? Take a step back, remove yourself for a bit. When you decide to come back the fun will still be there, and it’ll most likely be stronger than ever.
Lissa Henderson, Tri Swim Coach