Staying in Your Own Lane
Racing others is fun and can be helpful, but don’t let it consume your own goals
Chances are, you have a goal that you’re striving for as you swim up and down the pool at practice. It may be a relatively small goal, or it may be so big you haven’t told anyone about it yet because you’re afraid of what people might think. No matter where you are on the goal-setting spectrum, it’s important to remember that you need to keep the focus on your goals and your improvement as you progress.
It’s motivating to chase the swimmers in the surrounding lanes during a set—just don't beat yourself up when you don’t win every time. In the pool, as in life, you can’t always compare your performance to others. You may not know what type of training the other person has done to get to that point. You don’t know how long other swimmers have been practicing or training. In a split second, you can easily deflate your drive to achieve your goals because another swimmer surges by you in a set. Beating yourself up because you feel it shouldn’t happen doesn’t help you reach your own goal.
It’s times like these when you need to “stay in your own lane.” Don’t get in the habit of comparing yourself and your performance to others as the only evaluation of your progress. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t race others, especially when you know it will push you to another level. But you don’t want to get caught up in a situation where success is defined by your beating a single person. Even the greatest Olympians in our sport don’t think that way, so there’s no reason for you to get in the habit, either.
Go ahead, chase your competition. But ultimately, it's not so much about beating others, but bettering yourself. Use what others are doing as motivation, but leave your performance as the measuring stick. That's why swimming is so great: You can always compare to what you did before and evaluate yourself fairly on your personal merits alone.