Perspective

It’s really all about perspective. I concentrated on focusing past the rain droplets that beaded off the now fogging up visor of my helmet, well aware that the narrow smooth cobblestone streets under me were slippery. 

It occurred to me yesterday in the rain, while on a motorbike in the medieval city of Toledo, that perhaps my recent concerns about contracting Ebola while travelling had been a bit overblown. 

There were more immediate dangers at hand that could, and had to be managed. I laughed at my hypocrisy.

When I left Washington, DC, it was suffering from an epidemic of fear; the media had created a pervasive sense of public alarm that could be felt in the airport. 

Looking around on my flight out, it seemed that almost everyone was pocketing hand sanitiser and secretly hoping they would not be seated next to a person who had recently been to affected West African countries. 

I will admit that I was relieved to learn that my neighbour from the flight was from the Congo and not Liberia.

Now it seems the epidemic has followed me to Spain, where I have been training this week with pound-for-pound, probably the fast swimmer ever and my good friend, Spanish champion Javier Noriega, who has returned to the sport. 

It has become evident that he has returned for all the right reasons after a break that allowed for a journey of self-discovery. 

This has also been a very convenient opportunity between flights to sharpen up before heading to Cyprus next week for a warm-up competition, on the way to compete in Beijing, Tokyo and Singapore for the Asian legs of the Fina World Cup. 

There are few things more invigorating than a fresh perspective on things. 

The insight and deep understanding based upon actual experience that are gained from visiting and training with another experienced professional is priceless. 

Don’t ever let yourself be fooled, there really are so many right ways to do things that it can be confusing. All too often, perhaps through confirmation bias we get bogged down and locked into operating within the confines of our own prejudices and opinions.

I was again reminded of this recently and withheld quick judgment of my friend’s vegan diet, despite the heavy demands placed on it by his intense training. 

It seems to be obviously working for him.

They say coaching is as much of an art as it is a science, but few great artists share the same style.

It would seem that true intelligent coaching is the holistic combination of the left-brained intellectual method of scientific formulas with the innovative right-brained creative and intuitive approach. I believe that this holistic approach should be applied to measures of intelligence as well. 

In this camp, we both take ownership of our swimming and essentially coach ourselves while providing intuitive feedback. First-hand experience of what does and doesn’t work forms the foundation of this week-long programme. 

For very experienced athletes in their 30s, who else can better understand the unique subjective needs better than the athlete themselves? 

Our training has focused on speed and explosiveness, hypoxic training, and aerobic fitness, with constant attention paid to the technical aspects of swimming. With two sessions per day, one in the gym and another at the pool, the time has flown by. Despite the intense workload, my intention was to make some strength and mobility gains that would carry over into increased explosiveness and power as I begin to transition into the constant racing phase that will take me to the end of the season, six competitions later at the beginning of December at the World Championships in Qatar. 

Just as the season is beginning to change in these northern latitudes and all of nature adapts in order to survive, I too must adapt if I am to thrive. The challenge will be to embrace this holistic approach in racing, as I have learnt to in training; building upon the tried-and-true “if this, then that” approach to innovate and experiment under pressure with what feels intuitively feels faster, pushing the limits of the sport in the process.