Here’s to the aspiring Olympians that didn’t make it

This post goes out to all the athletes who fall under the same category as me – the ones who spent countless hours working their hearts out to qualify for the Olympic Games, but ended up missing the games.

You guys have also dedicated your lives for the sport, and did your very best to be an Olympian, so please do not see any less of yourselves. Keep your head up and DON’T GIVE UP!!! Because Tokyo 2020 is just around the corner. 🙂

Having made the B qualification mark for the Olympics, I ended up failing to qualify for the Olympic Games due to the 900 swimmer limit that the IOC has, and I’m sure that many of you swimmers faced the same issue as well.

I’m honestly pretty sad that I’ve failed to make it to the 2016 Olympics, but there is no excuse for not making the Olympics besides not being better than I wanted myself to be.

I actually contemplated on retirement a little – I missed the most prestigious competition that any swimmer can ever aim for, and in 4 years time, I may be too old for Tokyo.

However, I managed to shrug those negative thoughts away from me, which is why I want to share this post with you today. If you are having the same thoughts, please read on and don’t give up just yet.

Watching this years Olympics really reignited the burning fire I had inside of me, and I’m glad to say that right now I’m back up on my feet and training hard towards the next Olympic Games!

In particular, 2 swimmers have inspired me and kept this dream alive – Anthony Ervin and Michael Phelps.

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In the Men’s 50m Freestyle, the favorites going in were Florent Manaudou and Nathan Adrian. Ervin retired from the sport for about 8 years before his passion for the sport came back again, and had some pretty bad swims which lead to many doubters. I remember watching the race and my friend and I wanted Ervin to win, because we knew his story, and he’s been through a lot of tough times – from attempting suicide from overdosing tranquilizers to riding at dangerously high speeds on motorcycles when high on cocaine. Realizing he failed to kill himself, he felt like God had reborn-ed him, in a way. Age was also a factor when it came to this competition – Most swimmers in the finals were at their mid 20s while Ervin was 35, so he was definitely not the favorite coming into this race.

Ervin ended up winning the race with a 21.40 seconds, just 0.01s ahead of the favorite Florent Manadou. And you can roughly picture how much my friend and I were screaming with excitement seeing a “1” sign beside Anthony Ervin’s name.

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“It’s what you do in the dark that puts you in the light.”

I always thought that Phelps was living the life with 22 Olympic Medal tally (28 after this year’s Olympics). Many of us didn’t know that he almost ended his life! He had no self-esteem and self worth which almost made him end his life. But he bounced back to win another 5 Gold medals and 1 Silver medal in this Olympic Games. How awesome is that?

Honestly, who would have thought both of them would return to the sport at this age in their career? They both had something in common – the burning passion and drive for swimming, and the unfinished goals which they want to achieve in the sport. If either of them had retired earlier, we wouldn’t have experienced such an amazing feat at this Olympic Games.

For them to overcome such great obstacles just proves that nothing can stop you from achieving your goals – all you have to do is to believe in yourself. If they overcame the greatest obstacles in their lives, then we can too!

Overall, their experiences have made me believe that as long as we set our mind up towards our goal and chase them wholeheartedly, age is merely just a number. There’s really nothing that can stop us from achieving our goals, except the person in the mirror. So cut the negativity, and start believing!

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I’ve got my eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and I’ve already started training for it. There’s so much more motivation now as I know that deep down, my Olympic dream is still alive.

Think about it, 4 more years of hard training is merely 5% of my entire life time (that’s if I survive up to 80, of course), so it will definitely pay off when I look back at my swimming career, knowing that I’ve made it to the biggest milestone of swimming.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the constant support through my swimming journey. Those really encouraging messages you’ve sent, knowing that I’m upset that I failed to make the Olympics this time around; that really spurred me on to continue pursuing my dreams. I may not have the time to reply all each and everyone of you, but please know that I’ve seen all of them and I’m really grateful for all your unwavering support! I sincerely hope that you too will be able to achieve what you set yourself out for one day, and if you do, let me know as well. 🙂

In 4 years time, I will only be 28 years old, which is 3 years younger than Phelps’s current age and 7 years younger than Ervin’s current age, so there is really no excuse for me to retire just yet.

For those who are aspiring athletes who didn’t make it to Rio this time around, do continue your quest for the Olympic dream and don’t give up! The dream is never over unless we stop trying.

And if you ever think of giving up, just remember why you started your sporting career in the first place.

All in all, I hope this post inspires the aspiring Olympians to not give up and continue chasing that Olympic dream with me. We’re in this together, so onward Tokyo 2020!

Hopefully when I look back at this post at year 2020, I can gladly say that I’ve made it. 🙂

 

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This is how news should be reported

I got inspired to write this post today when my mum came across an Instagram post, which I believe was from a Hong Kong reporter, who’s currently also writing about the Rio Olympic Games on his Instagram page. Without further ado, this is his post:

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I believe that many of you are like me, and you’re not sure what he’s saying. My mum translated the article for me and I strongly feel that this is an article we all can learn from, so here’s the translation: 

(Inspired by Ye Shi Wen to write this)

There are many respectable heroes in the battle field, especially when races are running and medals are continuously won. but do you know that there is a lot to learn besides winning and losing?

For these past few days, I’ve been following the performances of the Hong Kong team, China team, and even some of the world’s greatest swimmers. However, nothing beats the experience I had just awhile ago.  

4 years ago, Ye shi wen was a double Olympic champion in the 2012 London Olympic Games with the World Record in the 400m Individual Medley and Olympic Record in the 200m Individual Medley. But as we all know, good things don’t last. There were some complications with her which lead to a decline in her times. The former champion experienced a plateau in her performance while she saw everyone overtaking her. If you’re a swimmer yourself, I’m sure that you’ll be able to feel the pain that she’s feeling. I’m not 100% certain about this, but I’m sure that many of you would have given up if you were facing the same problem as her. But she fought on, and earn her spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. 

Sadly, things didn’t go her way in the 2016 Rio Olympics, she tried her best, only to finish 17 seconds off her personal best time, which placed her 27th in her 400m Individual Medley. 

Next up was her 200m Individual Medley. I was lucky to be able to grab her for an interview after her 200m Individual Medley race yesterday after she placed 4th overall after her semi final swim, and she was really friendly when I interviewed her. She said that she physically and mentally did the best preparation she could, and placing 4th going into the final really boosted her overall morale after her upset in the 400m Individual Medley swim. She mentioned that there were many strong competitors in the field. Everyone is hungry for a medal, which makes it a really competitive field, so she will just do her best. I wished her luck and we concluded the interview. 

I watched her race from the mixed zone the following day, rooting for her to win a medal. However, she had a really slow start in the Butterfly, and at that point in time, I knew the race was over. I saw the scoreboard and her time was 4 seconds slower than her semi final time, and I was pretty shocked. 

I waited for her at the media zone, hoping that she will accept another interview with me. I wasn’t very hopeful as I’ve observed Ning Zetao and Sun Yang ignoring an interview with the media after their bad races. But to my surprise, she walked up to me with calmness and composure. She told me that her goggles filled up with water when she dived into race. At that point in time I wanted to scream my lungs out as I was really sad for her. But Ye Shi Wen said that it’s her fault, and she bears full responsibility for it and completed the race anyway. 

Swimming is such a brutal sport – The many hours spent training your heart out, overcoming various obstacles just for that very moment, to only end up with a bad race. That has really left me speechless. 

It’s always nice to celebrate when you win, but can you accept failure when you lose? She was really gracious with her defeat, and I have my utmost respect for her.

Even though you are no longer the world champion, but in my heart, you are already a champion.

Forgive me for my bad writing, even though you may not understand this, but I do, and I hope you do too.

Kudos to you Dickson Yu, your article has indeed inspired me as well. I think we can all learn from Dickson’s character, and the way he writes. He must have probably huddled with all other reporters in hope to churn out a good report as well; and he certainly did. He was able to turn a negative experience into a positive article, and that to me is what differentiates a successful reporter from a mediocre one. 

Incredible. 

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I think we should all be focusing on the positives – Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen just made SINGAPORE HISTORY by making Semi Finals at the Olympic Games, and this is already huge progress for Singapore Swimming. No male swimmer has ever made it to the Semi Finals at the Olympic Games, and now we have TWO swimmers who achieved that feat, so there is already a lot to celebrate!!!

Congratulations guys! Thanks for flying our flag high at the international stage, we are all already proud of you both. 

Another point I would like to address – Athletes who are visibly upset may find it hard to consolidate their thoughts for an interview, which is why they prefer not to be interviewed immediately after an upsetting race, as they need some time to cool down before being in the right shape of mind again.

Imagine training countless hours just for that race, only to know that you’ve messed it up the most important race of your life by just a bit, and if you didn’t mess up, you would have qualified for the finals. How awful is that feeling?

Dickson also mentioned that successful swimmers like Ning Zetao and Sun Yang also rejected their interview request after their bad races, so I guess even the most successful swimmers find it hard to handle a bad race as well.

Come on, we’re all human after all, and we have emotions as well. 

It’s really commendable that Dickson understands how an athlete feels after a bad race, which is why he didn’t expect Ye Shi Wen to be so calm and composed after her race, because he was expecting her to reject his interview too. 

His focus was not to blame Ye Shi Wen if she didn’t want an interview with him after her 200m Individual Medley race, and he just wanted the best for her.

He must have followed athletes for a very long time to understand the pain and sadness an athlete may potentially feel after a bad race, which is why he was even surprised that Ye Shi Wen accepted the interview graciously. 

Gosh, mad props to you Dickson. 

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As the Olympics are not over, I’m sure that we can learn from Dickson’s positive attitude together and unite as one Team Singapore and maintain our positive spirit for the remaining days of the Olympic Games. Come on guys, it happens once every 4 years, so there’s no time to be negative about it. 

At times like these, these athletes need our support the most, so the last thing we need now is negative publicity for them.

Lets all unite as ONE TEAM SINGAPORE, and cheer on the remaining swimming race that Singapore has, which is the 100m Butterfly for Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen today at 1:16am. 

GOOD LUCK JOSEPH AND ZHENG WEN! WE ARE ALL BEHIND YOU 🙂

 

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Why having live telecast of the Olympics matter to us

 

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Photo Credit: Peter Soon

August 8, 2015 – Joseph Schooling just made history by winning Singapore’s first ever podium finish at the World Swimming Championships.

I clearly remembered how happy everyone was when we saw his name appearing on the scoreboard, and to top it off, it happened a day before SG50. Each and every Singaporean felt a sense of national pride as they experienced history together as Joseph was collecting his World Championships medal, and it was definitely a heart-warming moment for all of us.

I recalled the amount of anxiety we all had before Joseph’s race. As none of us qualified for the finals, Joseph was our only hope to fly our flag high during the World Championships. When the commentator called his name, we all screamed our lungs out as though we were the ones who were swimming the race, and you could see Joseph turning over to acknowledge our cheering efforts. Trust me, we were all pretty damn nervous for him as the level of competition in the World Championships are equivalent to the Olympics, and many of the big guns were in the same 100m Butterfly race.

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The race started and Joseph headed into the first 50m with a leading time of 23.53 seconds. At this point in time, there was even more adrenaline pumping through our veins as we knew that history was about to be made, all he needed to do was to just hang on for another 50m, and that would give him a Gold medal. Our cheers started getting louder as the race progressed as we really wanted him to hang on. The feeling was just surreal, seeing Singapore in the lead for the first time at a world stage.

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At the last 25m of the race, Chad Le Clos (South Africa) and Laslo Cseh (Hungary) started inching up on him, and at that point in time, the whole stadium became so loud due to the excitement, and you couldn’t even hear yourself when you were screaming. We couldn’t even tell who was leading at the last 10m of the race as everyone was just so bunched up together at the final moments of the race. I remember just screaming and shouting my heart out to support Joseph and hope that he brings home a medal for us.

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The race was over, and when we looked up, we saw a Singapore flag lighting up on Lane 1 on the live television screen. The feeling of excitement was so indescribable, knowing that we were able to experience history live as Joseph brought back home a medal for Singapore on a world stage. There was a surge of excitement, happiness, and relief at the same time, knowing that Singapore history was made, and we were all able to experience it together. It was such a memorable moment for each and every one of us and I’m sure that people at home felt the same feeling when they managed to catch Joseph’s race live on television.

Failing to qualify for the Olympics this year, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to watch Joseph swim live at the Rio Olympic pool. However, I would love to see history being made again when I watch him swim from home. It’s different when you’re watching repeated telecast, because you already know that the outcome is going to be. I don’t want to know the results beforehand before being able to watch him swim. Because that takes away the excitement factor in sport, the feeling of uncertainty during his race, whether he’ll be able to hold on and bring home the gold medal.

I like to live in the moment, and feel the huge surge of adrenaline rush again when I watch him race his 100m Butterfly, and celebrate together with him when history is made again. I’m pretty sure that everyone feels the same way as well.

Broadcasting the Olympic Games will definitely unite all Singaporeans together through sport and promote an active lifestyle in Singapore in the long run, as people are going to remember the great moments from the Olympic Games, reminisce, and talk about it in the many years to come.

Having repeated telecast is like someone spoiling a good movie for you by telling you how the movie is going to end, and it is definitely not a pleasant feeling as your whole movie experience will be spoilt, knowing how the movie will pan out.

However, I’m sure that with the advancement of technology, there will potentially be different online streams that broadcasts the Rio Olympics live. So if we really want to, we should still be able to watch the Olympics live. If there’s a will, there will be a way. 🙂

Coming from a swimmer’s perspective, it definitely feels better racing knowing that you have your country behind you all the way during your race. Because besides achieving your own goals, you’ll be doing it for the country as well.

So let’s all unite, and get behind our athletes as they do their best in the Olympics! I’m sure that it will spur them on to greater performances.

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“This is my home, where I grew up and where everything started. My friends and family are going to be there and I’m really excited to be racing in a home atmosphere for once.” An excerpt from Joseph Schoolings interview during the 2015 SEA Games.

All the best to you in your quest for the Olympics Joseph! The country is behind you, do us proud!

And to all the other athletes competing in Olympics, we’re all behind you! 

 

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Sorry mum and dad, I didn’t make it to the Olympics

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… Aaaaaaaaand it’s official, I have failed to make it to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I can honestly say that I am indeed disappointed having failed to qualify for the most prestigious event of swimming, but hey, the worst has already happen, so everything will just get better from here!

Swimming’s a pretty brutal sport – even if you’ve hit the qualifying time for the Rio Olympics, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get to go to the Olympics. For those that are unsure, let me explain it to you.

So according to FINA rules, they have set a maximum limit of swimmers at 900, meaning that once the 900 swimmer quota is met, the rest of the swimmers will not stand a chance to swim in the Rio Olympics. On paper, 900 swimmers may seem like a lot, but in reality, it is actually really really little, and I’ll break it down for you.

There are a total of 4 different pathways to qualify for the Olympics, prioritized in this order:

  1. Athletes who have made the A Qualification time for the Olympics and also the Top 2 in their respective countries
  2. Athletes who have qualified in the Top 16 places in relays
  3. To promote universality, countries without any qualified athletes may enter a maximum of 2 athletes – 1 male 1 female, also known as wild cards
  4. Athletes who have made the B Qualification time for the Olympics

As you can see, most of us swimmers fall into the 4. category, whereby we made the B qualification times for the Olympics. Back in 2008 they didn’t have a max limit of 900 swimmers, which means any athlete which hits the B qualification time would be part of the Olympics. But my guess is that due to swimming’s competitive nature, many swimmers in the world made the B qualification time, which is why they limit the swimmers to 900 swimmers only, which also means that qualifying for the Olympics just became waaaaaaaaaay harder.

Excuse my math, but if I were to calculate it really vaguely, power houses like USA, Japan, Australia, France, etc would have about 26 male and female athletes who have met the A qualifying times for the Olympics, so that’s about a 4-500 spots gone. Relays would add up to roughly another 50-100 spots. For universality/wild cards spots, there are 196 countries in the world, so if you were to take out the powerhouses, there would be about 150 countries left who will be aiming for universality/wild card spots, which takes up to another 300 spots with 1 male and 1 female taking each spot. After deducting swimmers who have met one of the first 3 pathways to the Olympics, swimmers who made the B qualification marks will be left with about… 50 spots.

Since there are 26 events in both male and female events, only the top B qualifier would qualify for the Olympics, which makes it really really tough. So unfortunately, all of us were not the top B qualifier based on rankings of B qualifiers.

Pretty brutal, ain’t it?

All the years of training you put into qualifying for the Olympics all seem like a waste, and all you can do is to go back to training another 4 years and hopefully being able to qualify for the next Olympics with the A Qualifying time.

Thoughts of unfairness have crossed my mind quite a bit. Like why do they have the stupid 900 limit rule? Why wasn’t I born earlier so that I would have made the 2008 Olympics?

But you know what, I came to realize that thoughts like these are irrelevant. Honestly, what’s the point of brooding over something that I can’t change the outcome on? I should just move on, and learn to control what I can control in life, which is to train harder to make the A qualifying time in the next Olympics, and that is exactly what I’m doing right now.

You know, I think the biggest relief I had was that before I left for Florida for my training camp, I had a heart to heart talk with my parents, and they said that they were already really proud of what I achieved in my swimming career, regardless of whether I make it to the Olympics or not, and that just gave me a sense of inner peace deep down in my heart.

I’ve always wanted to do my parents proud, and one of my dream was to be able to stand on the podium in a major competition and see the smile on my parent’s faces in the spectator stands when I collect my medal. I was able to do it during SEA Games last year, and best part was that it was done in home soil, which made everything even sweeter.

So for them to assure me with that, really make me change my whole perception of swimming, and that shifted my focus onto swimming because I love swimming, without having the emotional stress which I constantly placed on myself in the past.

Thanks for still believing in me though I’ve failed to make the Olympics this time around, Mum and Dad. But there’s always the next one 🙂

P.S. So for parents, know that we swimmers are really stressful even when we don’t show it, so a simple gesture of letting your kids know that you’re proud of them can go a long way 😉

My swimming career has never been a smooth sail as well, but I’m thankful because failing to qualify for the Rio Olympics is merely just a minor setback for me. It doesn’t take much to move on and keep my mind focused on the next upcoming competition. Besides, I enjoy the adrenaline rush of every competition; nothing beats the chills you get when you get a huge surge of adrenaline rush before every race. And constantly beating my personal best times just further proves that my hard work has paid off.

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So with that said, what’s next for me? Well, in all honestly, my passion for swimming has grown a lot stronger through the years, and if you’ve read my article on TODAY just last week, I ain’t going anywhere away from the pool just yet! I’m in the best shape of my life and I’ve swam personal best times untapered, so things will only get better from here.

For now, I’m just going to enjoy swimming because I’m in love with this sport, and I’m sure that things will play out well naturally.

I have great mentors, coaches and teammates who are supporting me all the way so I’m really excited towards my next phase of training, a minor setback won’t stop me from working hard. To those who still have strong faith in me after this setback, here’s a BIG THANK YOU to you. You know who you are, and I am eternally grateful. 🙂

Overall, I feel that the biggest takeaway I get from swimming is not so much about the medals that I’ve won, or the achievements that I’ve had. What’s most important is about the relationships that I’ve made and the people that I’ve inspired over the years of my swimming career by overcoming my setbacks.

Swimming has strengthen my mental state as an individual through the constant setbacks being thrown at me and how I managed to overcome each and everyone of them, and that is something you can’t learn in school.

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Medals will rust, but relationships forged in the swimming scene will last a lifetime. Also, seeing how much I’ve inspired people to pursue what they’re passionate in after reading about my swimming career experiences also made me realize that winning isn’t always everything, there are many other reasons to be happy when you’re doing what you love.

Yes, swimming is brutal indeed, a mistake you make in your race would mean costing you that qualification mark or the medal you desire. But ultimately, if you focus on the journey and love the sport as a whole, you’ll have an unforgettable journey filled with wonderful memories to be remembered after you retire.

 

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Why studies can wait but sports can’t

I got inspired to write this post today because I’m really really sad that a few of my close friends (who are really talented swimmers) are planning to stop swimming because of school commitments. I do agree that school can get really stressful at times, but there’s always a way to manage school and swimming at the same time.

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I’ve had the same experience back the days when I was still in the Singapore Sports School. We could either choose to do the diploma course which was offered in school and continue swimming, or take the O level route, quit the sport, and move on to Junior College. I chose the diploma route (which only 20% of the students chose), and continued swimming. So you can imagine how sad I was when 80% of my closest batch mates left the school and moved on with their lives in JC while I was still stuck in school.

At that point in time I deeply regretted my decision to stay on and continue swimming, because it felt like everyone was already moving on to a new phase in their lives, while I was still stuck in square one. I initially wanted to quit swimming and join my friends in JC, but I couldn’t do much because I didn’t have an O level certificate, so even if I wanted to, I just couldn’t.

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Knowing that I didn’t have a choice, I continued swimming and I gotta be honest, the first few months were really hard. It kinda just felt empty and it wasn’t really a pleasant feeling when you see your friends posting about how excited they are about starting a new life in Junior College while you are still stuck in the same school. I stayed in boarding school so all that were left were empty dorm spaces which used to be my batch mates’ rooms.

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However, in life, I believe that everything is about adaptation. I soon started to make new friends in school, and life got a lot better afterwards. I found a new clique of friends which shared the same goal as me. They were all driven by passion in their various sports, and we all had the same goal of excelling in sport.

So with these bunch of equally motivated friends, I found my passion to swim again, and the thought of my old friends leaving didn’t bother as much as it did before.

I continued this mindset even up to this date, even when I’m in University. I’m currently taking 5 years to complete a 4 year course, due to under-loading modules so that I can manage both swimming and studies at the same time. I’ll definitely be sad when I see my friends throwing their graduation hats when I still have one more year left in school. However, when I grow old and look back at my life, I will be happy that I’ve achieved the different milestones in my swimming career which I have set myself out to achieve.

The reason why I’m sharing my story today is because I want to let you know that if you love sports as much as I do, and you have some goals which you want to achieve in this sport, DON’T EVER, EVER GIVE UP ON THEM UNTIL YOU ACHIEVE THEM. Don’t be afraid that your friends may graduate earlier than you, or that you’ll be missing out on the fun memories that your batch mates create while you were busy training hard for an important competition. Because you have to understand that as a sportsman, these are sacrifices which you have to make in order to reach your goals. Just know that when you stand up on the podium with the gold medal around your neck, you’ll know that all that sacrifice was well worth it.

At the end of the day, just remember that no matter what happens, studies can wait, but sports can’t. You can still study when you’re 30, but you have already passed your peak age of sporting performance when you choose to do sports after you’re done studying. At that point in time, it will be too late to turn back to sport, and you’ll live life with “I could have achieved this in my sport, but I didn’t because I chose to study.” That amount of regret is just not worth it.

So which feels better? “I could have…” or “I finally did it!” The answers pretty obvious.

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Looking back at my life now, the memories that I’ve created and the goals which I wanted to achieve in this sport are more or less achieved, so I’m glad that I chose to keep the faith and continue training hard. When I grow older and look back at my life, I can proudly say I did it!

Even though I’m graduating a year later than my batch mates, but come on, I’m going to be living for 70+ 80 years in my life, 1 year is merely 1%+ of my life span, that, I can afford to sacrifice. 🙂

I sincerely hope this blog post can inspire you to continue your path in sport, because once you made the decision to leave the sport, there will be no turning back from there.

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P.S. To those who are thinking of retirement, every time the word ‘retirement’ comes across your mind, remember the amount of years you invested for the sport, and how hard it took you to get to where you are today. Don’t give up just yet, you’re almost there 😉

 

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How to get over a bad race

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There’s always countless amounts of doubts going through every swimmer’s head after a bad race:

“Is this the end of my career?” 

“Should I quit now?” 

“I’ve worked so hard but the results didn’t seem to tally, so why should I even work hard in the first place?” 

 

So the question is, do you quit? 

The simple answer is NO. First, you must understand that it’s normal to have these negative thoughts running through your head after a bad race, but I want you to forget about those negative thoughts and keep believing that the great race will come one day.

If you haven’t achieved what you set yourself out to achieve in your career, then it’s not time to quit. 

The life span of sport is brutal, it does not wait for you to be ready, and once you past your prime age, it’s over for you even if you want to make a come back. Seize the opportunity when you can, because it’s a privilege for you to be given the opportunity to try.

My dad always reminds me to appreciate the opportunity that I’m given to swim. He told me that when he was my age, he wasn’t even given an opportunity to take on the sporting career.

In the past, sport wasn’t that well promoted as compared to now. It was a luxury to even engage in sporting activities on a daily basis. And comparing to my dad really made me appreciate the opportunity that I am given now.

The point that I’m trying to bring across here is that you should NEVER EVER waste a great opportunity given to you. Instead, appreciate that you’re given the opportunity to race and make full use of it.

Before thinking about giving up, think about how lucky you are to be given this opportunity to race.

 

But what if I try, but the “great race” never comes? 

There are 2 ways you can look back at your career:

“I have gave everything I had in the pool, and I got no regrets.”

“If only I continued swimming, I would have known my full potential.”

So which one will you choose? The answer’s pretty obvious.

I’m not saying that everyone will find their “great race” in their career, but isn’t that the beauty of sport? The nerves and adrenaline rush you get from each race, not knowing what to expect. The pain from the rush of lactate you have to endure after every race. All these are great experiences you will encounter, even without a good race.

Always remember, you’d rather live your life knowing that you tried your best and failed, than to look back at your life in regret knowing that you once had the opportunity to try, but you chose to give up. Because that, my friend, is going to haunt you for life.

Even if that great race never comes, you’ll be equipped with great life lessons which will get you ready for the work life next time.

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Swimming will teach you that in life, even though things will not always go the way you want to, you just have press on and believe in the process. Because sport does not last a lifetime, but the character traits that you’ll learn from it, will last you a lifetime.

Ultimately, if you can learn from every bad experience and take it positively, you are already a winner. 🙂

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Essential Supplements that Every Athlete Needs

I’ve received many questions from people about the best supplements that athletes should take to help train harder and recovery faster. The perfect answer would be to have whole foods as they come from natural sources instead of from a powdered bottle. However, due to how fast paced Singapore is, there’s no doubt that we have to take some supplements to help us get to our goals as it is just impossible to prepare healthy meals every single day of the week.

I would like to say that I’ve taken many many many supplements in my whole entire swimming career, and after changing brands after brands and spending loads of money, these are the supplements which I feel has made a difference in my training progress. So if you are thinking on taking supplements, these are a few that I’d strongly recommend.

Just to give you an idea, I am an endurance athlete (200m and above), my training regime is mostly based on cardio. My goals are to stay as lean as possible, and to not have any bulk which may potentially weigh me down in the water, so don’t expect to see “Creatine” in my list of recommended supplements.

Supplements are really expensive, so I hope that this blog post will give you a clearer idea the essential supplements to take and also potentially save cost on expensive supplements which are unnecessary.

 

1) Probiotics

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First off, consistency is key when it comes to training so I feel that targeting the fundamental aspect of your body is key. And to have consistency, preventing yourself from falling sick is the most important thing when it comes to training.

You can have the best supplement stack, but if you can’t stay healthy, any supplement stack would be deemed useless.

We are constantly exposed to bacteria everyday, which increases the risk of us falling sick. So if we include Probiotics in our diet, we can balance out the good and bad bacteria in our body which can potentially prevent us from falling sick.

I drink one Yakult everyday as it is a great source of Probiotics, plus the taste is awesome as well. However, if you’re always on the go, I would recommend you investing in Probiotics pills, which you can bring it along with you.

So remember, prevention is key, so time to start on Probiotics!

 

2) Vitamin C

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Vitamin C is also another good supplement which you can take to prevent yourself from falling sick. As you can tell by now, I have a sweet tooth, so I prefer my supplements to be sweet as well.

I usually take my vitamin C at night, after a 250g of steak, as Vitamin C increases the absorption of Iron, and Iron is good for me as an endurance athlete because it potentially increases the red blood cell count in my body, therefore having better oxygen transportation when I’m in the pool.

 

3) Protein + Carbohydrate source

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People always ask, what is the best protein to take?

To me, it’s not about how well the protein absorbs in your body. I know there’s Whey protein isolate, Whey protein concentrate, Micellar Casein, Milk protein, and many many more forms. However, to me, the most important thing is TIMING and HAVING A CARBOHYDRATE SOURCE to go along with the protein

Always remember that protein absorbs better when taken alongside carbohydrates. So instead of finding out on which is the “quickest” absorbing protein, aim for a product which has both Carbohydrate and Protein in it.

With regards to timing, I would recommend drinking your Carb+Protein shake within 30 minutes after training as that is the best window for our body to absorb the nutrients.

I’ve tried cycling on and off protein shakes and to be honest, my muscles are less sore when I started to take protein shakes right after my training, so I would highly recommend it.

For me I take 1/2 a scoop of Optimum Nutrition’s PRO Gainer, it taste really good and I like it. Half a scoop of that has a good 40+ grams of Carbohydrates and 30 grams of protein, which is what my body needs after a hard session.

You might be wondering, why take a mass gainer when I want to be lean? Honestly speaking, even though this product is marketed as a mass gainer, it is essentially just a blend of good Carbs and Protein, which is what I need post training. I have not gained any weight ever since taking this product so I think that as long as you have a good training program in place, you won’t go wrong with this product.

 

4) Hydration

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Lastly, hydration is key when it comes to training. (Yes! Swimmers sweat too!)

For me I usually take Gatorade or BSN’s Amino X and it has helped me with the hydration aspect of training. I rarely get any cramps during training so I guess these products are keeping me well hydrated during training.

 

5) Caffeine

Waking up at 4:45am every morning, it’s pretty impossible to stay awake if I were to not have a coffee dose before training. Even the 20 minute drive to the stadium is quite a challenge. I find that a cup of coffee helps with mental clarity and alertness during my training sessions.

For me, I have a cup of coffee right before my morning and afternoon sessions, and I feel that it has helped me.

However, if you are able to hype yourself up before your workouts, you can skip caffeine.

 

In summary…

PROBIOTICS + VITAMIN C + PROTEIN/CARB + HYDRATION +  CAFFEINE + TRAINING =

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So there you have it! If this is your desired body shape, then these supplements are essential and sufficient for you to achieve your goals. I know this current supplement stack is really basic but trust me, that’s all you need.

Also, an important factor to note is that whole foods are always better than taking supplements. However if you have a really tight schedule like me and can’t have the luxury of whole foods (e.g. having a meal prepared for you within 30minutes after your workout) then supplements will help you with your recovery.

Always remember not to be too reliant on supplements, because nothing beats having a proper training goal and training schedule.

 

5) Things to AVOID

There’s a lot of marketing hype about supplements nowadays but a thing which you should take note of is that if there aren’t sufficient scientific studies done to a specific product, it is best to avoid it as you may not know the potential side effects the products may have. I strongly am against “Natural testosterone boosters” as there hasn’t been sufficient studies done on it.

I strongly recommend going to Australian Institute of Sport’s (AIS) Website before investing in supplements. Here’s the list of grade A supplements (click on this link), whereby extensive research has been done and these supplements are supported for use.

Overall, this is my personal opinion towards supplements. Supplements are really dependent on your goals and lifestyle so choose the supplements which suit your lifestyle and training goals. Some may recommend Creatine for bulking (it is a grade A supplement on AIS) but I can’t answer that because I haven’t tried it myself. It would be great if you consult your nutritionist (if you have one) before trying on these supplements, but I know that not everyone has the luxury of having their own nutritionist and hence this blog post!

I hope this blog post gives you a clearer idea on the supplement stack which I’m on! This is the current supplement stack which I stick to after trying out many different brands of products for years.

Always remember, prevention is key, so staying healthy is the most important aspect when finding your supplement stack. And of course, stop spending money on unnecessary products unless there has been research done for those products.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or write to me and I’d be happy to answer them!

 

EDIT: As feedbacked by Nutritionist Belinda, it is important that athletes are aware that there may be doping substances in sports supplements. It is best to consult a sports nutritionist/dietitian before purchasing supplements which you are unsure of. 

 

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Hard work pays off

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Why every bad race isn’t always a bad experience

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Everyone’s got their fair share of bad races in swimming, and it’s really impossible to name a swimmer who hasn’t had one. Personally, I’m someone who always finds the positive in every negative situation, even though things might not go my way sometimes.

The Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championships (SNAG) just happened last week so I’ll be sharing about how the bad races I had were actually great experiences. 

DISCLAIMER: This is going to be yet another long blog post about my experience, so it would take about 10-15 minutes of your reading time. If you’re in a rush for time I’d suggest you come back and read it again another time. 

So the SNAG’s probably the most important meet of the year for Singaporean swimmers, as it serves as the ONLY local competition to qualify for the Olympics this year in Rio. So simply speaking, it is a make or break meet. The Olympic dream is common in many of us in the National team, because Olympics the most prestigious event any swimmer can ever take part in in their sporting career.

Leading up to the SNAG, I’ve had the most solid preparation I’ve could have ever asked for; I did pace times which I’ve never thought that I would ever achieve them in my life and I was even surprising myself on how fast I could actually go. It’s those kinda swimming times that make you go “Ah, I’ve got SNAG in the bag.” Even my coaches were really happy with the progress I’ve made ever since SEA Games ended last year. 

With such good preparation, I was really excited to swim the SNAG. However, shit happens sometimes and to cut the story short, I caught a stomach flu right smack before SNAG. In summary, I did 0 personal best times this meet, even when I had the best preparation leading up toward it. I even took lesser modules in school so that I could prepare wholeheartedly for this trials. It obviously does not feel good, knowing that all your hard work over the months has gone down the drain just because you caught a little bug. 

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But today I will not be crying over how unlucky I was to have caught this virus during the week of SNAG. Instead, I’ll be talking about the positive experiences I’ve had for this meet, even though it may seem like a negative one. This is my story: 

Having a stomach flu is an unpleasant feeling – Apart from the tummy aches, it makes you weak, disrupts your sleep, sends shivers down your spine for no apparent reason, and makes you sweat profusely, even when you’re not doing much. 

I still remember 2 days before my race, I had to take a day off the pool just to make sure that I get rid of the virus fully. Although I spent most of my time resting in bed, I had to wake up several times for obvious reasons. It came to a point that it got so frustrating because at the night that I was supposed to be resting and recovering, I literally woke up at 1am, 3am, 5am, 7am, and finally 9am where I just couldn’t fall asleep anymore. I got up of bed a little lethargic and when I looked in the mirror, I couldn’t believe how heavy my eye-bags were, despite sleeping for almost 10 hours, but I just shook it off and hydrated as much as I could. 

I think what made me feel a lot better were the texts received from my coaches and friends, who were really concern about how I was doing. “Great!” I replied, even though I was feeling a little weak that day, but I know that positive self-talk goes a long way to in the road to recovery. I have to give credit to my mum, as she made me the positive person I am today with the different lessons that she’s constantly teaching me in my life. 

“Sheng Jun, I know you’re feeling unwell, I can see it from your face, but in times like these, you still have to learn to stay positive, and put your faith in God. Look at those people living with Cancer, if they didn’t fight for their lives, do you think that they could have won the battle against cancer? Obviously not. So you’re going to fight through this sickness, and give your best shot in 2 days time. I know you can do it.” After listening to her, I felt really inspired to give it my all for the race coming up.  

So time passed and I seized every opportunity I could to get as much rest as possible, and prepared my best before race day. 

When race day came, I woke up feeling dizzy and a little weak but I knew it was ok because it was just preliminaries, so all I needed was to give a swim good enough to secure myself a spot in the finals. I took quite a bit of effort in completing my preliminary race, but I was glad to advance to the finals. 

I went back home and tried to get as much rest as possible. But as usual, I woke up after an hour of sleep with my blanket feeling a little moist due to the profuse sweating. I just shook off that feeling and decided to read and keep my mind off how my body was feeling that day. 

Before we left house I opened up to my mum and dad about how I was really feeling. Mum, dad, before tonight’s race, I would like to thank you all for all the constant support you’ve given me throughout the many years of my swimming career. I’m sorry that I fell sick this time around, but I will still do my best and leave everything in the pool tonight.” 

“Son, whether you swim well tonight, or not, dad just wants you to be happy. So what I want you to do tonight is to go out there, and race your heart out. No matter what the results are, dad will always be supporting you, so go out there, and enjoy yourself, because dad is already proud of what you have achieved in this sport, so don’t feel any less of yourself.” I felt a huge load going off my shoulders after what my dad said, and all I wanted to do was just to race my heart out and see how things would pan out. 

I got to the pool and started stretching. As usual, the sweat started breaking out again, but I ignored it and just stuck to my normal routine. By the time my normal stretching ended, my shirt was pretty damp due to all the sweating. I got in to do my warm up, and got up a little dizzy after I was done warming up. What was most ridiculous was that when I got up to suit up to my competition suit, my legs were shivering when I was trying to pull my suit up, which has never happened in my whole swimming career. So you can roughly imagine how weak my immune system was then.

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But I knew nothing could be done to change the fact that I was sick, so I’ll just do my best and control what I can, which is to stick to my race plan. Before leaving for the reporting area, I gave my phone one last glance. “This swim is for you, mum and dad.” I dropped my phone in my bag, and left for the reporting area with a smile on my face. 

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As I getting onto the starting blocks, I could hear my coaches and teammates from both sides cheering for me, and that spurred me on to give my best shot, even when I was at my lowest. 

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White lips… Pale Face.. Breathing in snow flakes… 

I gotta say that this was hands down the most painful 400IM race that I have ever swam in my entire life. I remember feeling a sharp pain in my head going into the last 100m of the race, but the end was near so I kept my head down to finish the race, and I left every ounce of energy I had in the pool.  

I swam a 4:26.40, a second lifetime best, just behind my 2015 SEA Games time of 4:24.80. To be honest, this was a pretty solid time considering the circumstances I’ve been through, so I’m really happy with the outcome of the race. 

I feel that the biggest takeaway from this SNAG was neither about the times I did, nor how shitty I felt during that week. Rather, it was about experiencing a different kind of happiness; knowing that everyone still believed in me and still stood by me during this really tough week. It is when I’m at my lowest, that I embraced all the care and concerns which I was receiving. I felt an even stronger bond between my parents and realizing how much they really care for me, makes me really thankful for this experience.  

To all the people that cheered me on during my race, here’s a big THANK YOU to you all, because without the support from each and everyone of you, I think I wouldn’t have been able to achieve a second life time best time in my race. 🙂

It’s really a nice feeling knowing that no matter what the outcome is, my parents will always be happy to be part of my swimming journey. I’ve always had the misconception that doing well = making my parents happy, but that is actually not the case. In reality, parents are actually just happy to be able to be together with their children on their various grueling journeys.

It was also really a whole new racing experience this time around because as a competitive swimmer, I’ve always been the confident one during competitions, my parents kinda left me to do what I needed to get in the zone because racing for more than 15 years in my life, it was pretty much second nature to me. However, this time around, we kinda switched roles and they really gave me the strength and confidence to stay positive and do my best.

So all in all, even though the SNAG has been a totally different experience for me, it was still a happy one. Always remember that no matter how negative or how tough a situation might be, there will always be positives in it. And if we can channel our focus into the positives instead of the negatives, we will lead a happier life.

However, don’t fully ignore the negatives aspects of the situation. Instead, learn from what went wrong, and make sure that the same mistakes don’t happen again in the future. 

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My quest to chasing the Olympic dream may have slowed down a little, but it will not stop me from working hard. 

 

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Constant reminders go a long way – in my case it’s a towel [Sp]

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Constant reminders go a long way into motivating yourself towards your goals. Many of you have been following my blog to know that I’ve always live by my “Hard Work Pays Off” motto, because I always believe that as long as we work hard towards our goals, it will only be a matter of time before we achieve them!

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Uchino is a brand that always consider customer satisfaction for towels and bathroom items, taking care of how we can spend better quality time in the showers. Hence, Uchino dedicates to create the world’s finest towels and towel wear with quality materials and standard.

They also place great emphasis on manufacturing towels which are pleasant to the point that it is safe even when it comes in contact with a baby’s mouth, how cool is that?

I was really excited and happy when Uchino had me in mind and sent me one of their towels, the kishu-binchotan fiber series. What I liked best was that they even embroidered my name and favorite motto on it which made fall in love with the towel instantly. 🙂

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I’ve been using this towel everyday ever since I received it and it has definitely served as a constant reminder for me to push through the toughest times of my training. Training sessions can get really hectic at times, and when the going gets tough, we may sometimes lose track of what we’re aiming for, so any form of constant motivation is always good when we get really tired.

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Now for my experience – The thing I like most about kishu-binchotan fiber towel is that it’s very absorbent, and trust me, it feels SUPER DUPER SOFT on my skin. Something unique about this towel is that it is woven in double face of gauze and pile unlike the normal pile towels we tend to use. With the charcoal powder kneaded into the towel, it further enhances the towels with the ability to absorb moisture and repel odor. In all honesty, I never knew that towels would make a difference after baths, so this towel has given me a whole new post bath experience.

It’s hard to explain how it feels, but I’ll try my best – It feels like you’re having thin pieces of super absorbent tissue papers which soaks the moisture off your skin when you’re drying yourself, so it doesn’t take much effort to try and wipe off all the water after bathing.

And of course, the added motto also makes it a far more enjoyable bath experience for me especially after a long day of hard training 😉

So all in all, this towel has made my post bath experience far more convenient and enjoyable with its super absorbent effects and added embroidery service.

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If you’re interested in getting Uchino towels, feel free to head down to departmental stores such as Takashimaya, Isetan, Tangs, and many more stores. They’ve got a wide range of face, body, hand, and many more towels for you to choose from, so do check them out! Not only that, you can follow them on Facebook & Instagram to get constant updates on their promotions!

I hope my post has given you a clearer idea on how constant reminders can go a long way, so start finding your own source of motivation today. 🙂

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Legitimate reasons on why you can’t study sometimes

Ever had those days where you just find it super hard to focus on studying even though your exams are on the way? Here are some possible reasons why you may find it hard to focus during crunch time:

 

1. Too full to study

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You just ate too much for lunch therefore you feel too lethargic to study. Research has shown that Seratonin (a sleep hormone) releases after a huge meal, therefore causing us to feel drowsy. So if you find yourself being tired after lunch, you probably ate too much!

 

2. It is too early

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Your brain is not fully active when it’s so early in the morning because you’re not fully awake yet, therefore you may find it really hard to focus on studying when it is too early.

 

3. The procrastinator

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4. The weather is too hot

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Some days the weather gets so hot to the point whereby you’ll even be sweating when you’re in an air condition room. These are the days which are hard to focus and you probably feel less efficient when studying due to the heat.

 

5. The weather is too cold

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On the other hand, some days the weather gets really cold to the point that you just feel the strong urge to tuck yourself under your blanket and never ever get out from there. It’s definitely a sign for you to catch up on that much needed rest!

 

6. End up snacking more than studying

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Who else has the habit of snacking and studying at the same time? According to Harvard’s Mental Health Letter, have stated that stress increases the intake of foods which are high in sugar, fat, or both (which explains why we like to snack, especially when exams are coming and we are mugging like mad). & on top of that, when you have too much good food at home… You’ll just end up snacking more than studying.

P.S. another freshly baked homemade Oreo chocolate chip cookies by my mum, who wants some?

7. Distractions

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Don’t you feel that everything else around you gets more interesting or disturbing when you start studying? It’s like noises become more prominent from everywhere, and your mind will start being preoccupied with irrelevant thoughts that don’t matter after you stop studying?

Don’t worry, I feel you bro.

 

8. Not having passion for the subject

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When you don’t love a certain subject, you’ll just find it seriously hard to understand the concepts and theories of that particular subject. You’ll end up being inefficient in your study time as you are basically memorizing the information just to pass the test, and not because you want to gain new knowledge.

But not to worry, you get to choose the course you like when you enter university! 🙂

 

9. The assignment weightage is not high enough

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5% of total grade for a 1500-2000 word essay is simply not worth it.

 

10. Not in the mood to study

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Ever had some days whereby you just feel like even when you try your best, you just cannot absorb anything? You sit down and attempt to study, one hour has gone by, and you only completed 5% of what you need to study.

Don’t worry, I experience the same thing too. It’s not like we didn’t attempt to study. We did try our best, but nothing seems to be going in.

 

11. Because your room is too comfortable

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When your room is simply just too comfortable and all you wanna do is to laze in bed every time you’re home… say bye bye to studying.

 

12. Knowing that you will still fail even after studying

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If you know this will happen, all motivation to study is already lost.

 

So these are some legitimate reasons on why we can’t study sometimes. Feel free to share some more reasons via the comment section below on why you can’t study sometimes as well! Hope you enjoyed this post! 🙂

 

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Instagram: @swimpsj

Facebook Page: Pang Sheng Jun


Contact:
 swimpsj@gmail.com

Check out my FAQs here

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