The past six-to-nine months, from the end of 2016 into 2017, have definitely involved quite a bit of growth for me. After my successes in swimming at the 2016 International Gay and Lesbian Aquatics Championships (IGLA) in Edmonton, Alberta and the United States Master’s Swimming Summer Nationals in Oregon, it was time to decide where to focus my training. What would be my next events?
To be perfectly honest, the World Outgames wasn’t on my radar at that time. I had heard about people’s experiences at previous OutGames and, coupled with my own experiences at the 2015 EuroGames, the cancellation of the 2016 North American OutGames and the lack of any real early information about the upcoming 2017 World OutGames in Miami, I wasn’t entirely confident that the event would be worth my time and training.
While I accomplished a lot at the 2016 IGLA Championships and the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship, I knew I could do better; not just physically but mentally as well. I realized I didn’t have a “Champion’s Mindset” at the time. My poor attitude had carried over through both those events and into the fall before I consciously recognized the problem and decided to change it.
I have several books on sports psychology that I started reading and found myself reflecting on my mindset during my most successful competitions and during my least successful ones. I was lucky to do so well at IGLA and Summer Nationals with even a poor attitude but I wasn’t going to let that carry me into 2017. I decided I could do better.
While attending the 2017 Sin City Shootout Sports Festival I had met with several representatives of the organizing committee for the 2017 World OutGames and after returning home, I decided to reach out to them for more information about the upcoming event. I also talked to members of the IGLA board since the 2017 IGLA Championships will also be hosted as a part of the OutGames. I asked many questions regarding the facility, fees, emphasis on the sports portion, timing, logistics and overall quality of the organization of the event itself. Feeling more optimistic after my talks with the various people involved, I decided to add the 2017 World OutGames to my race schedule.
For my training season this year I am taking a different approach. I am starting to focus more on my weaknesses in stroke and body position in the water. And since I am also taking the time to study kinesiology for an upcoming certification, I am applying new training principles and techniques to better develop my kick, specifically underwater dolphin kicks and flutter kicks. I am incorporating speed and agility training into my dryland program, the idea behind it is to better develop the anaerobic metabolic systems in my legs to become more efficient at energy recovery and increase my lactate threshold.
By incorporating agility training to develop the mobility and stability within my ankles, I am working to develop more power in the legs and coupling this with kicking drills in the water designed to elevate my hips and lower body to keep me horizontal on the water surface. In addition to training with good old fashioned fast and hard kicking sets, I have started to see significant progress with my kicking; it has gotten faster and smoother. To me, it feels more efficient.
My goal is to continue to train with my best effort. And to always have a “Champion’s Mentality” approach toward everything I do I am practicing mindfulness. This helps me to reduce training and race anxiety so I can focus on what skills and techniques I need to develop.
By training my best with what I have available, I can focus on becoming a stronger swimmer and a better athlete, elevating my standard at each event in which I compete. And by showing others that I always put in my best effort, hopefully I can encourage others to adopt the same kind of positive outlook. Change your mind and you change your life, or in this case, your race results.
By David Smith
Photos by Robert Rice