Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Coping with Setback

Training hard and improving well, training can almost seem like a privilege. To have the chance to get up, face down the demons that keep me in bed or on the couch and jump in to the pool for a hard session is easy when I have my mind on the goal and am inspired to push through the tiredness, fatigue and ache of a full training timetable. One would think that, as long as I can keep up the discipline - and discipline is the one thing I have going for me - then I could achieve my swimming goals.

But I need more than discipline to train. I need a working body, and I do not have one of those at the moment. An injury affecting my knee and the stiches binding up the wounds mean I cannot jump in the pool for training even if it were my last dying wish. With the Australian University Games looming in a matter of months, this week at least of no training - that's at minimum a dozen hours in the pool plus a few more dry land - constitutes a very real road block. The fact is, despite wanting to get my 100m breaststroke down by two seconds these four weeks of winter holidays, I will have to be content with the second that I managed to reduce it by last weekend, a second I may even lose by the time the pressures of university studies kick in marking my holiday's end. So I failed. I can honestly say that there was nothing I can do about it except sit around with an aching leg that sears every time I make a move, and yet, I failed.

There was never any chance that training for swimming was going to be rainbows and sunshine until I hung up my competition goggles for the last time. It was inevitable, almost, that something along the line that I could not control would cause me to fail, because some failures are beyond my control. Injuries, accidents, overwhelming personal circumstances - any number of hardships could fly into the most perfectly planned path and jeopardise the success of the most determined swimmer. It does not matter how resilient someone is, some things are outside of their control.

I had high goals, goals in fact so high that even I have to laugh a little at the mere thought of achieving them. University Games this year, Queensland State Championships within the next two years, I had goals that were almost certainly beyond my capacity to achieve though ones which I was willing to give my all to reach. I was willing to be in bed by nine o'clock at night, to most likely drift away from most of my friends just from the incompatible timetables, to sacrifice any pleasure to go after what I wanted to manage. But I cannot bend my knee without crying out and whimpering for a minute afterwards, and in doing so damage myself further - so I cannot train. It would be easier to give up and say that, for as long as I actually could, I did go through any and every chlorinated torture, but I can go no further. There would be no shame. I did not fail through my own fault, it was happenstance.

I cannot control many things that happen to me. But I can control what I do with what life throws my way. Because the fact of the matter is that nobody could expect me to have three years worth of cruising in the pool, knocking down personal bests until I got to the minute on the 100m breaststroke which I need. The world is not a sunny summer's day and I already knew that. Success does not only involve running forward, in fact, more often than not it will involve picking oneself off the ground, stiching up the wounds, and after recovering, getting back to the race. This may be the first time I have had to break my resolve because I simply cannot train, what counts now is making sure it is not the last.

Picking oneself up, moving forward. I could blame anyone or anything for failing, and frankly, I could get away with it, because no, it is not fair that I am stuck on this chair. It is not fair that I cannot train, that I have been robbed of these hours of perfecting myself. It rains on the just and the unjust. I could lament this travesty of injustice and quit.

Or I could duck under this wave of misfortune and hold my breath for it to pass. I knew something would happen, now it has. I knew I would fail, now I have. How I deal with this failure determines whether I one day reach success and I know what I have to do to get there. I have to be willing to take these waves and not slink away like a coward, ever eager to find an excuse to quit in triumph.

Ultimately, what will distinguish whether I succeed or fail is not this week without training, rather what I do about it. I intend to succeed.

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