...because you thought Sweden was Switzerland!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Be your own motivational coach – but don't expect to get paid

You know how sports brands slogans rely on self-pep and positive thinking to induce motivation? Examples: “Impossible is nothing” (Adidas). “Sound mind, sound body” / “I am made of all the days you can't see, not just the one you do” (Asics), “Be your own champion” (Champion, what else?), “Just do it” (Nike). Everybody says that there's a lot of psychology in sports. And as Murakami says about running, “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.

However, I begin to wonder if all this is really applicable when it comes to me and swimming. When I sit there waiting for crawl class to begin, watching a bunch of pre-teens swim like seals in the water and observing my pepped-up classmates waiting to have their turn, the slogan that comes to mind is rather,

“What the heck do you think you're doing here, Joy?”

It's not so much fear of water now. Instead I find that I feel rather intimidated – by water, by swimming, and my own incapacity. And I realize that the last time I felt this intimidated was in second year high school when I started in Debate, feeling small and out of place next to the big girls and the big guys in those big schools. It didn't help to look down at my own clothes because I felt I had the wrong clothes (this is why uniform is so great in comparison). And when I, finally one day, and probably mostly by chance, took a “Second Best Speaker Award”, my brother had to remind me that “second best is the first loser”. Our coordinator also got sick that week so I never got any credit at the flag ceremony as all other “winners” do. Yes. You hear my insecurities about Debate.

And now, there's trying to learn crawl, and half of me just wants to ... I dunno, apologize to the group that I signed up at all? Most of them have learned how to swim most of their lives; I haven't. Most have experimented with crawl; I haven't. Before signing up for this course, I could only swim “old ladies’ breaststroke” (with your head always up the water), and last week when we swam laps I was at least one pool length behind the others and I caused a traffic jam behind me. This week was better than the last – we were split into groups, and newbies stayed in the shallow pool but it still got me thinking about why I spent so much money to feel so incompetent.

Self-pep works with spinning – mental images of the Alps are not impossible when you're in a dark room. It works with running – if you don't stop, your legs at least go in front of the other so you'll reach your goal eventually even if people overtake you. But swimming – that's a whole different ball game. 


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