The holiday season is here, my friends!
The Schuylkill’s already seen its first snowfall and the New Year is almost upon us.
2017: Thank You
2017, in sum, was nothing less than transformative.
I challenged myself to raise my game in the boat and believe I accomplished just that.
I heightened my focus in training and tapped into a new sense of purpose. I’m increasingly learning how to race. I further defined what I value in rowing, and what I hope to give and gain from this sport.
I found in Penn AC a place where I feel accepted, valued and able to grow; where I’ve been inspired by teammates, and coached and mentored by one of the best.
I raced with blades painted red, white and blue, and got my first taste of what it’s like at the top.
I saw friends and peers on the podium, and genuinely admired their work.
I felt all the highs and the lows, and gained a better understanding of my “why.”
I started to let myself dive back in with my heart. It’s a dangerous path but I’m convinced that the alternative is worse.
Last month, I sat down for an interview and, after earnestly describing the physical pain and challenge he felt while running his first marathon, the filmmaker asked where I find joy in rowing. “Joy” is a powerful word. It made the question feel way more poignant than the standard, “What do you love about rowing?” And, frankly, it forced me to think.
I can’t guarantee exactly what I said in the moment but I’ll say this in response right now:
I find joy in pushing to what feels like physical exhaustion. I find joy in the mental challenge, which, for me, is the biggest challenge of all. I find joy in the constant striving to make the boat feel fast and light. I’m amazed and excited by the fact that there will always be something new and nuanced to learn.
Taking the Pressure Off
Dr. Greene and I recently talked about how student-athletes today are experiencing insanely high levels of anxiety because of the pressure they feel to perform. Every erg piece must be better than the last; anything less than “perfect” is reason for mental implosion. I know this pressure, though time and struggle have taught me that mistakes, “failure,” and “less than perfect” are just another part of the game.
At the elite level, this means:
1) Maintaining resolve and composure when things don’t go according to plan; and
2) Maintaining a high level of output – in a sense, being able to perform on demand – regardless of the nature of the circumstances.
I’m working on both skills right now, and can tell you that the filmmaker’s question about joy has remained in the forefront of my mind. Why? Because it reminds me that there’s no joy in the “perfect;” that it’s found in the focused effort and in conquering the challenge at hand.
Try approaching practice with these thoughts in mind and see if it relieves some of the internal tension or pressure. Channel curiosity and gratitude, and think about where you find your joy. What can you give to your next erg test or workout? What can you give to your teammates, your boat, your boathouse and team? It’s the season of giving and so there’s no better time to try! 😉
Love and peace this Christmas! Enjoy the holidays and keep training hard!