The Power of Choice

“I choose to be here. I choose to do this.” Most people who have trained with me have heard this phrase at least once and I think it is important to restate now, as I am just finishing my second week of channel training. While the big milestones that come with getting stronger and training hard are exciting and often remind me why I love this crazy sport, the daily work of arriving at the pool before the sun is up can often be draining. It helps me refocus to remind myself before I jump in the pool or walk into the ocean that no one is making me train and that I am choosing to work toward my goal. In this type of training, there is no coach watching to make sure I swim and my friends and I motivate ourselves to work hard together. I am not sure if reminding myself that I am choosing to be there actually helps me perform better, but this act certainly helps me enjoy the grueling training more. As a marathon swimmer, I experience the unique training mentality necessary to reach my goals.

Just as with any athletic event that involves advance training and planning, my goal to swim the English Channel sometimes overwhelms me because it seems so immense and yet so far away. As such, there are times where it is necessary to focus on the big picture of my swim, just as there are times when I must think only about the daily act of training so as not to be distracted by the hard work I have ahead of me. Somedays I need to think about how I will feel looking across the channel before my swim, while on others I need to ignore the pressure of the swim and focus on doing my best in an individual workout or set.

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The Smith College distance crew.

At the same time, it is also important to have fun even while training hard and my friends help me look forward to each workout. My friends also remind me about the importance of choice when they join me for my workouts, even though they are not training for a marathon swim. I am so grateful that my teammates Desi and Haley choose to do my workouts and keep me company.

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Me as a younger swimmer.

Choice is something that has been present in my swimming from an early age. During my first year of competitive swimming, I often complained about going to practice and my parents told me that I could quit the sport or I could commit to my training; it was my choice. My parents’ inclination to have me be in charge of my athletics served both to allow me to grow invested in my swimming and also to save me from feeling pushed into the sport as many of my friends were. I believe this approach has contributed to my lifelong love for the sport and I am grateful. I will continue to make the choice to show up at the pool and train everyday and when I stand on a Dover beach looking across the Channel at France, I will know that all my choices have prepared me for the challenge ahead.

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