This week was a really, reallyyyy intense training week for swim. Everyday we had to swim all-out racing sets, which sap the body of all its energy and tire out the muscles to the point where it’s difficult to move. Not to mention, Tuesday morning at dryland we were doing hops up the bleachers (imagine bleachers of a stadium, and doing two-foot jumps up about 20 bleachers in a row) and I fell…hard. This is a pretty dangerous activity, but I’m one of the best on the team at doing this…I usually try to get some momentum going by swinging my arms, and I can make it pretty fast to the top. Tuesday, however, our coach told us to “sprint” the jumps up the stairs, and that sort of got something competitive going in me. Long story short, I tried to pull my legs up too fast and missed the next bleacher. Normally when people fall on these, they catch themselves with their hands. Unfortunately, I fell so hard I didn’t catch myself.
I broke the fall with the side of my neck.
It was ugly to say the least. My neck hit the bleacher…luckily on the muscle portion, just to the right of my windpipe. My shoulder crashed into the bottom of the bleacher, leaving an ugly purple-green bruise. My knee-bone cracked into the concrete below the bleacher.
‘Twas not fun. My coach asked if I was hurt, but aside from all the bruises I was actually okay. He was worried about a concussion, but I was lucky not to hit my head (though landing on your neck is not something I would recommend). He really thought there was a potential for a season-ending injury.
And yet, we’re still going to do jumps up the bleachers. Even though almost everyone on the team has fallen during these to some degree. It seems like my coach won’t give up on these until someone actually ends up in the hospital…which almost happened Tuesday morning.
So – it was eventful. And I’m the proud owner of three intense bruises that make me look like I got mugged.
That’s not really what I wanted to post about, but it makes for a good story 😉 it’s kind of a joke now for me and my coaches, but could have been something really serious. I got really lucky.
I surprised myself with something this week. Normally, I think very obsessively…about everything. Shocking, I know. But this week something was..different. I’m pretty sure it was actually normal for the first time in years. I’ve been obsessively thinking for so long that I don’t know what normal is, but I’m pretty sure this was normal. I had some ups, I had some downs. Some things didn’t go my way. But I didn’t harp on these things because I wasn’t holding myself to this impossible standard of perfection. A couple of times I caught myself thinking something negative about my body or my grades or swimming, but I caught it and just let the thought go. And – most importantly – I refused to beat myself up for having these thoughts.
Because the truth is – everyone has moments, probably on a daily basis, that they feel inadequate in some way. No one can say that literally every single thing in their life goes the way they want it to. No one that is human can say that they are free from disappointment all the time.
I dealt with set-backs in a healthy way, I didn’t compare myself, and I didn’t beat myself up. That is, until last night.
Last night we had the first portion of our intrasquad meet. I went in nervous. My body responds to hard training in one way (and has for my entire 15 year swim career) – by being unable to generate any speed whatsoever. This is a problem for swimmers in general, but is especially a problem when you are a sprinter and really all you need is speed. Hard training gets me in really great shape, but my times actually get slower the more in shape I get. It’s an interesting conundrum, but I was come through when taper time comes around.
Needless to say, last night was rough. Even rougher than last year at this time. Immediately after my first event, my ED broke through. I had the “you went so slow because you’ve gained weight since last year – it doesn’t matter that it’s muscle” and the “you’ll never do anything for the team this year” and, finally, the “look at yourself in the mirror – you’re so much bigger now.”
It’s really amazing how I can connect the dots between a disappointment and the triggering of negative thoughts about my body and myself. It’s actually shocking to me that my ED got so loud so fast last night. Throughout the rest of the meet, I couldn’t let that one swim go. I couldn’t enjoy myself. Swimming lost it’s fun, and I was reminded of last year all too much. Afterwards, I could feel that I was physically hungry but I didn’t want to eat anything – all I wanted to do was go home and lie on my couch and forget about eating for the night. I remember feeling scared to go home because I knew how badly I was going to beat myself up. And then I remember thinking – wow, this really is like being afraid to go home because of an abusive husband/father/boyfriend/whatever.
What’s really scary is that I was afraid to go home and be alone with myself, with my thoughts.
When I got home, I did eat. And I did beat myself up. But I also reached out. I texted my dad, because I knew he would be able to remind me of the factual reasons why I’m not swimming fast right now rather than the “you’re fat so you swam slow” logic of my ED.
The fact of the matter is – I’m not fat. I swim countless hours everyday. I have a very high percentage of muscle. I’m in very good shape. I can run miles, I can run stadiums, I can swim upwards of seven miles a day. On Tuesday during our lift I bench-pressed 65 pounds 61 times. I can do so many things with my body that someone who is not in good shape would not be able to do. My body is very capable, and very responsive.
My dad supported me and I let the rational thoughts filter back in, while most of the ED was pushed out. I say most because I am still flirting with the perfectionist in me – it’s hard for me to let it go. I was disappointed, and still am. But I also know my history, and I know that all the hard work I’m doing now will pay off later on in the season as long as I continue to have faith in my training and let go of the ED’d thoughts and perfectionism.
I know for a fact that having an eating disorder, and participating in those behaviors, does not result in a faster season. I know that, because I’ve been there. And I’ve learned from my mistakes. Now I need to prevent perfectionism from letting those thoughts back in, because living with those thoughts is a miserable existence.
What I’m planning on doing at today’s session is having fun. The times I swim are the times I swim. I can only do my best, and try to improve from yesterday. One thing I can control is my emotional response and the way I am acting at the meet. Instead of being upset or angry, I’m going to swim my events and let them go. I’m going to cheer and be a supportive teammate.
I realized that the most important things I have to offer to my team are not my times. The most important things I have to offer are my leadership, my effort, my support, and my attitude. I love to swim and I need my actions to reflect that. Afterall, we all made it this far because on some level or another we fell in love with swimming. Did I fall in love with it because I was good at it? Partially. But there are other things I love more. And I want to be able to experience all of this season fully, before my swimming career is over.
That is my one brave step today.