Article image

by Chris Campbell

September 7, 2015

Slow down, focus on technique, make changes to ensure that workouts aren't wasted

It’s something we all face: getting older. And for many of us, responsibilities—both personal and professional—don’t diminish, they only get bigger and more pervasive. We end up shorting ourselves on sleep and personal time that we used to have for recharging our energy levels. Workouts become fewer, shorter, and less productive. It can seem as though someone or something is always there, taking away more and more of our free time and we slowly lose our ability to resist.

Tendinitis and arthritis in both elbows, a cranky shoulder, a dodgy knee, and a stressful job sap my time and energy. My training volume and intensity have both suffered—I get to the pool less often and I can’t push as hard as I’d like to during practice. Little things, such as having to use the ladder to get out of the pool at the end of workout or water that’s too warm, just add more frustration.

What’s a lifelong competitive swimmer to do? With limited time and energy, how do I make sure what precious training time I can find isn’t wasted?

Adjust the Sails

As my brothers and I were growing up, swimming our way through high school with an eye toward collegiate swimming careers, our parents—Mom the Coach and Dad the Head Referee—provided constant guidance in dealing with and overcoming obstacles that would always be a part of life, in the pool and out. Our house was adorned with those glossy motivational posters and, although it seemed trite at the time, one has stayed with me all of these years: a great white sailboat gliding across a blue sea and the words: “We cannot change the wind. But we can always adjust our sails.”

As I remembered this and thought about my training time in the water, I realized some adaptations were in order.

  • I needed to slow down. Although I might not be able to swim as much or as hard as I’d like, I can always swim correctly. Tough times have given me the opportunity to slow things down a bit and think about what I’m doing. Every turn, every wall, every stroke.
  • I had to make changes. As a coach, I’ve always emphasized proper stroke technique. This was my chance to practice what I preach. I’ve been retooling my strokes, listening to other coaches, and watching videos. I’ve also added dryland exercises to increase my strength and flexibility.

It’s been helping. Despite the nagging injuries and the shortfalls in my training volume and intensity levels, I’ve had a couple of great meets, even throwing down some age group personal best times, one year shy of aging up.

Focus, attention to detail, and a different way of thinking has helped me make the best of a tough situation. Now I think about every single stroke I take and make it work for me. Even if they are too few or not very fast, I can always work on making them perfect. That way, no workout is wasted.


  • Technique and Training


  • Mental Training