Sidestepping That Fear Of Failure

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We often use the example of squad swimmer Megan Surrette to demonstrate what is possible in terms of improvement. Megan's threshold speed has dropped from 2:12/100m down to 1:32/100m! :

Following that post, for every email we received that said Wow, that's fantastic - good on her and good on you for helping her achieve that! we received 3 or 4 others that had the air of frustration Why not me? Why can't I improve like that? In fact such was the response that we followed up with this post...

...specifically making this salient point:
A key part of achieving that consistency is your swimming demeanour. Megan puts it this way:

"I do know that I felt a big difference when I started swimming Wednesday mornings. I am not sure whether Wednesday improved my CSS or not but it definitely increased my confidence – 1 km TT? *shoulder shrug* … sure, whatever :-)"

Megan's not saying that out of bravado, that really is how she thinks. When was the last time you really shrugged at a swimming time-trial? The key to improving is not to over-analyse or procrastinate but, like Megan, come to terms with the work you need to consistently do, switch off the brain and get on with it.

If you can face your training with an inner smile rather than an inner grimace you've got everything you need to be the next Megan. Don't fear the hard work but actively embrace it - that is the attitude of a true champion.

Nick gives Rob a hearty high-five for leading a solid 400m interval!
In the Perth squads in Perth, when we're passing out the beepers (Tempo Trainer Pros) to swimmers to lead the lane during a hard set, we receive far more looks that say "No, not me - anyone but me!" than "Yes, what the hell, I'll give it a go!"... And this is Australia, famous for the digger spirit and can-do attitude!

The reality is that "just giving it a go" is what it's all about. As we say in Western Australia "We're not racing for sheep stations" - a solid workout that gets the heart pumping, blows the cobwebs out and has you thinking about how best to maintain your technique is what you are after. Being fit and active is way better than being unfit and thinking of where you once were! Yesterday is gone, only what you do right now is important, so give it a go!

Mike's quite happy to be following…for now -
but when he gets back on front, watch out!
Training within a squad is a wonderfully motivating environment, challenging you to always be a better version of yourself. It doesn't matter about anyone else in your lane and yet at the same time it totally does!

A sense of camaraderie and team spirit can lift you on the flattest of days but if you are unwilling to take the beeper and share leading the lane, then you can't get upset, grumpy and see the "red mist" if the person leading doesn't hold exactly the pace that is set for the lane - that's rule 1 of swim squad! They're giving it their best shot and this is all anyone can ask on any given day. You should take that beeper knowing this is all anyone expects - whatever happens you're not letting anyone else down because you took the onus. If you "fail" so what? Does it really matter? No. Learn from it and pass the beeper on! It's fun, or should be!


Chris Froome has just won his third Tour de France title against some pretty challenging odds. Nairo Quintana was his supposed rival, and yet he was never in the picture. Why? Because he was playing a game of defence, a game of safety, never willing to take the risk of an attack, always hoping Froome would eventually crack.

He didn't. Quintana lost. Convincingly.
Are you playing a game of defence with your swimming? Never willing to stretch yourself for fear of failure?

Leading the lane using a beeper is one obvious example of this but whether you're training with a beeper or not, whether you're in a squad or training solo, you need to get comfortable with the idea of going for something without holding back, without a safety net in place. You might make the set or the turnaround times, or you might not. You might set a massive PB or crash and burn. Win, lose or draw, the last thing you should do is fear the challenge.

It's amazing what you can achieve if you can get out of the way and just let yourself!

Swim Smooth!


Bob Wojcik said...

You hit the nail on the head with this post. Spot on.

Fieldwalker said...

couple of things:

1. I feel like the Swim Smooth success stories always involve people going from 2:xx/100m swimmers to 1:3x/100m swimmers.

This is great... but generates no passion or interest for people who are perpetual 1:3x swimmers and desire to be a 1:20 or 1:15 swimmer! Tell me more, much more, about those you've helped make this sort of jump!

2. tempo trainers feature prominently in many posts. Often along with the hint of using the device to angle toward higher stroke rates.

I've got the issue of the slower my stroke goes, the faster I go. 58st/min is 1:30pace, while 61st/min is 1:34. Open water or pool (can't speak to serious waves however) this has held true. Yes, I've got long arms relative to height. Accordingly, my need for a tempo trainer doesn't seem high. Keep rate feeling slow, I'll go fast.

Thanks for any insights, always read your posts.

skillfulllapin said...

Very insipiring, thanks

Paul said...

Hi Matt

You may find this article very useful then 62-49 mins for Ironman swim for one of my athletes Kate Bevilaqua:

If you're slower rating faster, then as someone with longer arms, that is exactly what you should do*

*just make sure that's a sustainable pace you're talking about there and not a one off 100 though!

Fieldwalker said...

Thanks for responding Paul!
I've got a +7 ape index and at 146lbs and 6 ft. I'm not floaty like Kate. Too high up feet not an issue for me. I get max sustainable speed at about 62 SPM (~1:30), going faster SPM currently slows me (1:33+).

Will try experimenting with straight arms. I'd love the 'swim with Perth squad' solution that worked for Kate, but that is not a commute that is doable for me. If/when you've got a Vancouver BC squad I'll be there!

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