Swimming coach Cassie Patten has advice for those who are returning to training after a break or are feeling too overwhelmed by an upcoming event to train.
“I have entered a couple of significant open water events later this summer – a 13km marathon swim and a Windermere one way. Earlier this year I had a slight shoulder injury, which resulted in me being told to rest. The injury has now completely gone, however due to the time out of the water I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed and will make any excuse possible to not train. By not swimming I feel even more underprepared and it’s really getting to me, to the point that I cry in my goggles. Can you help?”
Coach Cassie Patten answers
Thank you so much for your question. Let’s go back to the beginning and unpack this a little bit. First of all, being injured sucks! Not only is it physically painful, but it can really mess with your mind and your consistency in training.
The fact that you were told to take some time out of the water was probably the starting point of these feelings. You cannot, and should not, try and chase the time you missed in training. Instead, look at it as a positive: your body has rested and therefore recovered so you are now able to swim. I know this can be quite difficult to do in reality, as the feelings of missing sessions can make you feel guilty.
What you can do is look to the future and tell yourself you can only do your best. That means that this year, try and have the mind-set that you are going to do the events and just see how you do. The ‘worst’ that can happen is you do not finish. Although disappointing, it is not the end of the world. By accepting this, it helps to take some of the pressure off.
I believe the feeling of not wanting to train stems from feeling overwhelmed by the events coming up. When I was training for the Olympics, I would have recurring nightmares that I was going to fall backwards off the starting pontoon. This has never happened to me, or any other swimmer that I know of, but it was my subconscious telling me that I was apprehensive of the event to come. I told my dad about this, and his advice to me was just go out there and do your best. When I accepted that was all I could do, the nightmares went away and the rest, as they say, is history.
Another piece of advice I tell my swimmers is to go training with no set plan or distance in mind. Just get to the water and tell yourself just do one minute and see how you feel, if you feel like you want to get out then you can. But nine times out of ten you’ll feel better for the fact that you’ve got in. In most cases you’ll probably complete a full session and forget the fact you didn’t want to swim in the first place. I call this Dr Feelgood. You take all the pressure off and you swim until you feel good.
My final piece of advice is just to remember why you signed up for the events in the first place. It may be for the challenge, it may be to raise money or maybe because you just love swimming. Whatever it is try and remind yourself of why you entered, and be kind to yourself.