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by Terry Heggy

December 14, 2017

‘Do or do not’ can be good advice, but don’t dismiss the value of ‘try’

You probably appreciate the wisdom of your elders, as well as your coach’s encouragement to visualize and accomplish desired results. But sometimes it’s fun to step off your planned path toward mastery and just try something different. Presenting your mind and body with new challenges has been shown to help prevent or delay dementia and makes you stronger (and more interesting).

As you try new things, you feel better about yourself, and you might discover new passions and joys through the process. Here are some suggestions for growing through activities outside your comfort zone.

Try New Intervals

Try swimming repeats on a shorter sendoff than you’re used to. You’ll likely find that you can hold a faster interval than you thought you could. It will be tough at first, but once you’ve made it through the set, you’ll know you can do it again. Suggestions for easing into the faster sendoff include:

  • Draft off someone else. (Be sure to ask permission and follow your team’s etiquette rules)
  • Wear paddles (or fins) for the last repeat of the set.
  • Do fewer repeats than you normally do until you’ve built up to the new speed.

Try New Technology

Try new tools, such as snorkels, ankle bands, prescription goggles, etc. Keep in mind that such tools exist to help you refine your technique and build strength. They are NOT merely crutches to provide temporary speed, so ask your coach to verify that you use them correctly.

Get professional video stroke analysis. Use online resources to stay current on stroke technique. Track your progress with a Fitness Log (FLOG). And if you haven’t yet mastered using a pace clock to track your intervals, devote some time and energy to that important skill.

Try New Relationships

Ask teammates to commit to showing up on a regular schedule for the benefit of friendly competition and mutual support. Share your goals with your coach and ask for feedback. Switch up your workout days, or the types of workouts you do. Meet new friends by swimming in meets. Get involved as an LMSC volunteer.

Try new things outside the pool, too. Take a yoga or plyometrics class. Start a walking club at your office, or organize fitness activities during work breaks.

Try New Events

Are you a distance swimmer? Then commit to swimming the Sprint Squad (each of the 50s and the 100 IM) at an upcoming meet. Swim all of the meet events by completing the Check-Off Challenge. Participate in USMS ePostal events and track your progress with Go The Distance.

Are you a sprinter? Then try entering a 1650, a long-distance open water swim, or even a triathlon. And as a great philosopher once said (a long time ago in a galaxy far away), “There is no greater way to develop strength of character than by swimming the 200 butterfly.” (Or maybe it was Shakespeare. Or my high school coach. I don’t remember exactly.)

Remember that to try something presents an opportunity to grow, but it does not incorporate a commitment to harm yourself. Don’t try anything that puts you or your teammates at risk. And if you discover in mid-attempt that a new challenge isn’t your cup of tea, you can always swap that idea for something that fits you better. Expand your capacities, and have fun you will.


  • Technique and Training


  • Mental Training
  • Racing
  • Training