In the summer, the USC pools are a nice place to swim—especially at 7am. There are always plenty of open lanes and you rarely have to share one with someone. Once the academic semesters begin, the pool begins to fill up, but never too bad. That was not the case today.
Even at 7am all the lanes were full. I was fortunate that someone left just as I arrived, but I was still sharing a lane. As the morning progressed, more and more people showed up to the pool. And all I could think was “Everybody wants to be Michael Phelps.” After his inspiring performance at the Olympics, everyone wants to be a swim star. They all have high hopes and have rushed to the pool. Sadly, the pool will be back to normal in a few weeks as all the hopefuls realize that it takes a lot more effort than they expected.
Michael makes it look easy, but it’s not. Even with his physiological advantages, he still has to get up every morning and swim for hours. Then he takes a break. Then he swims more hours. In the course of a day, he probably swims more miles than most of us walk. He’s worked hard and sacrificed a lot for his 8 gold medals.
Unless you’re out there every day, you’ll never really understand. You can work out for 30 minutes 3 times a week, but it’s not the same. You’re not training. When you start putting long miles on your body day after day you begin to experience something beyond tired. It’s a dull pain all over your body that only seems to go away when you sleep. You discover that 7 hours of sleep a night is about 3 hours too short. You find yourself waking up in the morning so tired that sitting up makes you dizzy. The first 15 minutes of your day are slower than usual because you have to convince your body that moving is a good thing, no matter how stiff and sore you are.
From the outside, it looks easy. And no matter how much I train, I know that I don’t even come close to Michael’s day. But I’d like to think that I have some understanding.
As for all the hopefuls in the water today, don’t give up so easily. As much as I can’t wait for most of you to give up after a couple of weeks so that I can have my lane back, it is far better for you in the long run if you don’t quit.
Because once you stop moving, getting started is even harder than it was the day before.
That’s why I still got up today and jumped in the water in spite of the fact that getting out of bed made me dizzy.
Like Michael, I just want to get across the finish line.
He just happened to get there before everyone else did.