When Valentine’s Day rolls around, I get pretty excited about those Dove Dark Chocolates with the little messages inside. They say things like, “You’re awesome!” and “You’re so awesome you don’t need to date!” and “Do something nice for yourself.” I read them, and I always feel like, “Well, I’m going to take my awesome self and go swimming now!”
Sometimes, when I’m really working on my swim stroke, I feel that most of my instructions come floating through my mind in the voices of many different coaches and in much the same packaging as those little foil wrappers with the notes inside (except I never get any chocolate).
“Keep your head down!”
“I said keep your head down!”
“Arms on tracks; don’t criss-cross over your head!”
“Nice Early Vertical Forearm!”
…But nobody sells swim advice candy hearts. It doesn’t matter if they did, because – as I’ve said previously – nothing you could ever buy can make you a better, more efficient swimmer; you have to do that.
You know, it’s kind of funny, but the way that you do that… the way you get to be a better, more efficient swimmer, is by learning the one thing no coach can teach you:
To Love it.
You can love exercise and triathlons and competitions. You can love yourself enough to want to be in better shape. You can love the water. You can love the sport.
I just love swimming. I love pool swimming and open water swimming and adventure swimming and ice water swimming and marathon swimming, and… I just love swimming. I love the water. I feel like we are in constant conversation when I swim, the water and I. We have a friendship, a deep kinship, a comfortable similarity in my spirit. There are times when we just fight like drama queens, but that’s because there is room for learning and growing and being and becoming.
It’s not something anybody can teach you, loving a sport. It comes from inside of you. Nobody can make you listen to them or take their instruction to heart and work hard when they’re not around. The right coaches – the best coaches – will encourage you with their own love and passion. Those are the ones that somehow have the capacity to surprise you with your own capabilities and they create and build teams that both support and push each other.
But when you get right down to it, love is what gets you up at 3, 4 or 5 am. It’s what pushes you to swim the next 200 faster than the last. It’s what made you spend all those hours drilling and trying and working. It’s what makes you crosstrain. It’s why I want to swim an ice mile. It’s why I want to swim across the English Channel! It’s why I do it.
I love swimming. I especially love marathon swimming. And I love it so much… that I want to stop. I want to stop so that I can build a pool where others can learn to swim. And maybe those who didn’t know they loved swimming – and maybe even especially marathon swimming – will find that they do. Now… wouldn’t that be a great love story?
Love just makes you do the craziest things…