Meet My Inner Athlete
I’ve been in sports my whole life. My parents put me in soccer, softball, lacrosse, swim lessons, basketball, you name it so that I could learn what being on a team meant. I think they may have also needed some way for me to let out my excess energy, but can you blame them!?
One thing was always certain with me and sports, I would give 150%, leaving everything out there no matter what. I have never been one to sit back and watch. In elementary school I asked my softball coach if I could be a designated runner so I could be moving and not waiting in line to hit. That was the day my parents decided lacrosse might be more my speed.
Having this mentality of giving it my all is rewarding but also exhausting. I’m incapable of not giving my all, especially in a team setting. That’s why it’s taken me nearly 8 years to even consider competing again. Yes, 8 years ago I hung up my swim towel, goggles, and suit and said I’d figure out what I would do next, soon.
Swim, Swam, Swum
I became a competitive swimmer in High School. Some say I was a late bloomer in the sport as I had spent most of my time focused on lacrosse. I loved lacrosse, the only problem was that it was a very political and a subjective sport. After a grueling week of tryouts (that were right after swim practice daily), I was overlooked for the JV & Varsity team because I was a nobody. Now, mind you, they had us run time trials and I came in 3rd overall (no cross country background) and they promised they were looking for fast runners. Apparently, they were not.
I made Freshman squad that year and decided it might be worth my while to put more energy into swimming since nobody could argue if you touched the wall first. Not to mention, my swim coach asked if I was okay being mediocre at two sports or if I wanted to be great at one. That was hard to argue with. So that’s when swimming became my sport.
I spent all High School and College swimming. I spent hours in the pool and then eating and then sleeping all on repeat, that was my life. It is a very repetitive and frustrating sport. You are happy with a .01 second PR even after a year of training. I loved every second. High school can be an awkward time and for me, swimming was my outlet and the place I truly felt myself. However, it wasn’t always easy.
Mental Toughness and Negativity
I am not known for my smiles mid-workout. I’ve been told many a time that I’m too hard on myself. Been called out for being negative too many times to count. However, one thing I have been known for is my mental toughness (alongside that wicked negativity). It’s been a struggle for me for a while to maintain the mental toughness and fight off the negative voice inside my head saying “you aren’t good enough.” I’d imagine many athletes feel this way.
After years of waiting for my last swimming championship, I thought I had prepared myself mentally, physically and emotionally for the last swim. I was wrong. It was my last 200 butterfly, my favorite and best event. I had my whole team behind me (I was the co-captain) and I felt like it was my time to shine. I was, once again, wrong.
I had one of the worst swims of my career. I let the nerves and the mental game get the best of me. I turned at the last wall and almost couldn’t finish the lap, my arms had seized and the lactic acid had won. If you know me, the lactic acid is almost always non-existent. I cried through the last lap of my swimming career. I had let negativity win, and mental toughness lose.
Leading by Example, Not Place
I basically had to be pulled out of the pool by my teammates and once out, cried in a corner. I had never felt more defeated in my life. I took one look at my coach, once I had pulled myself off the pool deck and he told me “get yourself together, your team needs you right now.” It was the hardest thing I had ever heard. He wasn’t saying it because he was heartless (he has one of the biggest hearts I know), he was saying it because he knew I could handle it.
I learned that day that I wasn’t put on that team to be the MVP, I was put on that team to lead, to encourage, to motivate and to inspire in ways that had nothing to do with my times in the pool. So, I went to the bathroom, let the tears rip in a stall by myself (low point) and then splashed my face with water, stepped back out on the pool deck and rallied my team to fight for the meet of our lives.
It was the best we’d ever placed in the championship and I mean the best our team ever could have done (no thanks to my efforts in the pool). I even was taken off the last relay (that I had been on all year) due to my lack of performance in the pool. I had to rally the team to cheer on our final 4×100 yd freestyle relay. I had to forget for 4 minutes that I was supposed to be on that squad and instead get my team behind that relay. I fought back tears and hatred for myself.
Looking back, I’m sure only my mom noticed the sadness and hatred for myself back on that pool deck. I’m pretty sure I put on a good poker face and let my team think I was okay. Even writing this now, it’s hard to relive. I let myself believe I wasn’t good enough and it played out as such. I have had to live with that ever since. I didn’t have the closure in my sport that most think. I have regrets.
Why do I tell you all that? I promised back in the beginning of the year I’d be more open and let you in. I’m not good at that. I also wanted to let you know why I haven’t been able to compete for so long. People ask me all the time why I don’t compete. I usually say “I’m not interested” but I’m just lying to myself, I just haven’t been ready.
It’s not that I’m scared of losing. Instead, it’s that I’m scared of letting myself and others down. I’m scared that I will be back on that pool deck, disappointed and heartbroken. I’m scared to dust off the cobwebs and “get back out there”. I haven’t’ been ready to face that moment for 8 years.
It is much easier telling myself that CrossFit is just for fitness. While, it has mostly been just that for the past 5+ years, it may be time to explore it a little harder. While I’m not going to the Games, let alone Regionals, there is no reason I can’t compete for fun. After all, my Inner Athlete has been hibernating for the past 8 years. This past weekend, I competed on a team from my gym, CrossFit Aevitas. The competition was called “No Weak Links” and as you can imagine, I had flashbacks of my weak link performance at my last swim meet.
We actually made it to the finals this past weekend! I tried my best to let any negative thought just leave my mind. Afterall, what’s the point? I think we did an amazing job as a team and ended up taking 5th overall. That’s not bad for my first competition in 8 years so I’ll take it! I’m a work in progress, just like anyone else. If you see me looking angry or intense before/during a workout, know that I’m also fighting off my own negative self-talk. I’m not immune.
So, don’t be too quick to call it a comeback. Maybe, just maybe you’ll see a little more out of me in the next few months….maybe.