Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Being pushed vs pushing yourself

Last night, I had my tri swim program. Now, in case I haven't already gushed about what this program has done for my swimming, let me just reiterate that it is amazing.

Yesterday, we had a warm up and then we started doing sprints. First of all, it was a set of 6, 25 metre sprints every 60 seconds. It takes me about 30 seconds to sprint 25 metres (I've gotten faster, but I'm still slow), so that means in the first set, I got 30 seconds to rest after each all out sprint.

After explaining how it works, Angie reminded some of us less experienced swimmers of something important: STROKE TRUMPS SPEED.

The first set was hard. I gave it all I had, but with the 30 seconds to recover, I caught my breath and felt ready to go for each new sprint. After we finished each set, we got to do 50 metres of super easy swimming.

The next set was on 50 seconds, so less time to recover. The first couple sprints, the shorter time didn't seem so difficult, but then I started feeling the difference. I no longer had all my breath back, but had to go anyways.

Every time we finished a set, I waited to see if Angie was going to have a different drill for us to do, but no. More sprints. It made me want to collapse and die.

On the fifth repetition of the fourth set, Angie told me that I was getting tired, shortening my stroke and losing my form. She reminded me: STROKE TRUMPS SPEED. For that final repetition, I focused on my form again while continuing to push myself. The result? It took less out of me and I was actually faster.

Angie had told us earlier that by the time we were done, we should feel like our arms were going to fall off. She didn't lie. If I was working out on my own, I'm sure I would have stopped after that set, if not sooner. I felt exhausted.

She told us to do another set.

I did it. I truly didn't know if I could actually get through it, but my speed only dropped a little bit. I think my theatre background helps me in situations like this. I used to hear what a director said and try it even if I didn't agree with it. Now, it's a coach that says to do it, and I swam, even when I wasn't convinced I had it in me.

But the thing is, I did have it in me.

I like to think I push myself hard. I've achieved tremendous things in the past year, and I've broken down a lot of barriers. Regardless, sometimes, it takes somebody on the outside to push you a little bit further.

I may know my body, but I'm a novice at my sport. Learning to trust an expert's judgement can be hard, but it makes a huge difference. Sometimes we think we are pushing our limits, but we are capable of pushing even further.

How do you push your limits?


  1. It's so important when you're swimming sprints that you keep your stroke strong and smooth, with your chest open and relaxed. If you don't think about it, your chest and arms will tighten up, which makes it even harder to breathe, and your efficiency drops, which makes the whole thing worse, and it drops off a cliff pretty quick. Sounds like you're doing great! Don't ever stress about being "slow". Work on your stroke, and build your cardio base, and the speed will take care of itself.

  2. Awesome job!!! I don't push myself much when swimming whhich is really why I need to take a swim classs! It totally helps to have an experienced tri coach which sounds like you do!

  3. I love it! How do you push your limits?? You're going to love a giveaway I'm doing next week!

    This year I've started pushing my limits at the track...and really surprised myself!