Sunday, July 27. 2008
Sunday July 27th, 2008
Flight from San Francisco to Tokyo was fairly non-descript other than my encounter with a guy that was going to Asia to close one sweatshop that paid employees very little so that his company could open up a new sweatshop in a different country that could pay the workers even less. I’m not going to elaborate. Flight from Tokyo to Singapore was longer than expected and by the time that I finally arrived in my hotel room I had been traveling for 25 hours - without sleep.
On the trip to Singapore I did a bit of reading. I’m currently reading two books (there’s a point to why I’m sharing this information with everyone). The first is “Disciplines of a Godly Man” by R. Kent Hughes. As one could imagine, the concept of the book is to use biblical teaching for modern application, and even if you’re not a Christian, it’s a good read. (I’m not preaching – there’s a reason I’m reading the book). The second book is “The CEO of the Sofa” by P.J. O’Rourke. The author pontificates on pop culture and politics from the comfort of his living room couch all while sipping a martini. The perspectives are essentially polar opposites.
I bring up my reading list because I just arrived in Singapore and my first inclination is to do the opposite of what I am here to do. I am a mere 2 weeks away from the start of the Olympics and less than a month away from my 10K race and I am faced with a self-discipline problem. The hotel, the pool we swim at, the meals (thus far only breakfast), the weather, and the general Singapore atmosphere all make me feel like reclining in a lounge chair and enjoying a drink under a palm tree.
Let me set the stage. Surprisingly, I couldn’t sleep very well last night so I woke up early this morning and went down to an early breakfast at the hotel. The most sufficient description of the breakfast is to use the phrase “the best breakfast I’ve ever had.” Really, the best ever, and I’ve had quite a few good breakfasts. This wasn’t one of those places that have a waffle bar that everyone goes nuts over. This was a place with a 20 person staff cooking fresh, flavorful, diverse foods at the whim of the hotel guest. My breakfast was broken in to about 9 courses consisting of: fresh Indian naan and a plate of breakfast curry, French Toast, poached eggs, an omelet, a fruit platter, smoked salmon with cream cheese, some sort of breakfast pudding, a few rolls and some delicious coffee. I avoided the pastries and about 5 other stations featuring breakfast items from all sorts of cultures. For the breakfast enthusiast this was essentially Willie Wonka’s Breakfast Factory.
After breakfast we had the option of going to the pool to swim. Since we arrived so late last night we were not required to get in the water, but I felt that it was a good idea to swim considering I had just consumed the equivalent of three meals in 45 minutes. The pool is at a country club that rivals anything in your neighborhood and the pool looks out over a tremendous golf course. The pool itself is one of those state of the art aquatics facilities catering to members that exercise leisurely.
Now, to the point. We all have a bit of a discipline problem in our lives in one area or another. Reading Hughes book reminded me of many areas of my life that I lack discipline, but I’ll keep this post in relation to swimming. The circumstances of our current “training camp” are primed for someone to loose their self-control. For most of the swimmers on the team, this time in Singapore is primarily about adjusting to the time difference and to begin to taper. (For those who don’t understand “taper” here’s a quick synopsis: Taper is about getting your body and mind extra rest so that it is prepared for peak performance. This means less swimming and very little hard training.)
The problem is that we all live a fairly disciplined life at home, in fact our discipline at home is one of the main reasons we made it to the Olympics in the first place. Those that can avoid the beer and the pastries typically find more success than those that cannot. Swimming is about discipline and routines and patterns, and we’ve just put a bunch of athletes in a beautiful tropical location where our discipline is going to be tested. (There’s a “no alcohol” protocol, but there isn’t a “no 10 pastries” protocol.)
I became self-aware of the situation while I nearly sank to the bottom of the pool this morning. I have to discipline myself in two ways. First, I need to keep the diet under control. Some people think that swimmers can eat whatever we want in any quantity, but the reality is that we have all become very efficient at swimming and an 8,000 meter workout doesn’t burn as many calories as you might think. Second, because I swim the 10K at the end of the Olympics, I have to train hard for the entire time here in Singapore. While the other swimmers do 3,000 meter warm-up practices and 15 meter sprints for main sets, I have to continue 8,000 to 9,000 meter workouts with a pretty high intensity. I’m going to be doing a lot of swimming on my own while the other swimmers arrive after me and leave before me.
The discipline required to fulfill both of these objectives is not unattainable, but often times we set out to discipline ourselves under the assumption that something is easy and quickly find out that it’s more than we bargained for. I’ve been pretty disciplined in my life and I’m self-aware enough to recognize when I’m being tempted, so it’s a winnable contest, but that’s not to say I can snap my fingers and have complete self-control. The pastries look good, and doing 8x800 on 9 minutes is not really all that enjoyable.
Anyway, being disciplined is on my mind and I thought I’d share it with you.
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