So listen, I know you work hard every day, but I have to ask, is all that hard work you are doing, actually working?
For example, do you consider the training you do "practice" with the goal of improving your skills, or do you simply want to get in a "workout"?
Do you consistently and objectively assess your individual skill level in the training and racing you do, and consider how those skills or lack thereof, might be helping or hindering your ability to reach your ultimate potential?
Have you ever considered the idea that your skill-set might be one reason why you're frequently injured, or simply NOT improving as you had hoped?
The fact is, if you're just hammering away every day seeking to improve your "fitness" with only a superficial regard for skills, the only thing you'll improve is your ability to struggle.
One of my early mentors in swimming was Haydn Wooley from Future Dreams Swimming. Haydn once said something to me that so resonated with me, I made it a central theme in all I do as a coach and athlete: "skill sets the upper limit for how far your fitness will take you."
Looking back on my years working in a gait analysis lab and studying human movement, I feel confident going even further than Haydn did, and will say that poor skills not only limit fitness growth potential, poor skills also wear out joints, cause compensation and imbalance which inevitably leads to injury, and even sucks some of the joy out of training.
Think about it folks: Virtually every single thing you do as an athlete, physical and mental, is a skill. Every. Single. Thing.
Most of the athletes who read this are way too impatient to take the time, use the brain power, or get the objective feedback that's needed to truly and consistently improve their skill set. Anxious to "get a workout in," they groove bad habits and reinforce less-efficient neural engrams with poor practice. In the process, they teach their body and mind how to struggle a little better, and sadly, limit their ultimate potential for growth.
Now you may say, "I'm not really that good anyway - I am not as talented as those at the front of the race."
To me, that is the worst kind of thinking.
The truth of the matter is, none of us really knows just how good we can become.
Sure, it is safer to tell yourself you "can't be that good," and settle into that more comfortable mediocrity.
For me and for the athletes I work with, I'd much rather choose the path where there are no limits to my potential.
I encourage you to do the same!
ps: in future posts, I'll have more specific tips on improving skills, especially in areas that you never thought were skills! Stay tuned.
pss: Yes, in case you were wondering, Haydn is a GREAT coach. Among the very best in the biz - highly recommended!