Why Swimmers are the Most Underrated Athletes

1) We Train Insanely Hard 1958187_10152276985907363_405049553_n

Back in my Sports School days the swimmers were always the first to be up. Long after our swimming training had commenced, we would start seeing student athletes from other sports walking to their respective training areas. I used to be really envious of the other student athletes but I kind of figured that the demands are really great in swimming. You might be thinking, why do we train so hard?  When it comes to a race, swimming the ‘perfect race’ isn’t actually quite enough. We have got to have the ‘perfect race’ 2-3 times if we want to even get close to winning. Why is this so?  In swimming, we have heats, semi-finals and finals. In most cases we only have heats and finals in one day, which means we have to have 2 perfect races a single day in order to get the Gold medal. So you touched 1st place in the heats with a solid race, you might feel really accomplished about your race. But in reality, what you only accomplished is being a finalist. During the finals, whatever times you did in your heats does not count, everything starts from ground zero again, a guy that qualified 8th place gets equal chance of getting the Gold medal in the finals. So in order to have enough stamina to go hard for heats and finals in a single day, we have to train extra hard to match up to our competitors.

 

2) It is Not Only Physically Strenuous, but Mentally Strenuous as well   10442466_282669438573161_7491070363692971691_n

Qualifying for the finals makes a swimmer really excited because you are amongst the 8 fastest swimmers which will get to swim again in the finals! Everyone would be watching you race so the pressure is definitely higher. Due to the heats and finals being on the same day, swimmers must learn to stay calm right after the heats to get the appropriate recovery they need to race again in the finals, and trust me it is not an easy task to remain calm knowing that you have a final race later in the evening. I remember back when I just got into my first final in an open age swim meet I got so excited that I could not sleep before the race. My heart was racing so much and I just could not calm myself down enough to sleep. “I’M FINALLY TOP 8 FASTEST IN SINGAPORE!!!’ I just could not believe it. I ended up not sleeping at all and raced in the finals. What was the verdict of my final swim?  It was the biggest regret of my life. I was so tired at the start of the race that I could not perform during the finals. The adrenaline rush came too early and that had caused me my race. But every race is a learning experience, and over the years I have learnt to keep myself calm and contained before the finals. Music helps a lot 🙂

 

3) We Analyze and Plan Our Races A Lot  10481717_282816405225131_7866411241556373472_n

Since winning the heats does not guarantee you a medal in the finals, swimmers analyze our races A LOT. Personally before every race I would sit down and strategize my race plan with Coach Gary and he would give me the best advice for my race. What makes a perfect heat swim is usually having a perfect race without spending too much energy during your heat swim. The key goal of a heat swim is to get into the top 8. However, it can be really tricky as well. Yes I agree that top 8 swimmers advance to the finals, but do you really want to be 8th place? Not for pride’s sake, but qualifying 8th place in a race means you would be in lane 8 for the finals, which is a corner lane. The downside to a corner lane is that you may not know what is going on in the middle of the pool (Lanes 3, 4, 5, 6) which are the top 4 qualifiers. Unless you are confident of your own race plan, I would not recommend qualifying 8th place in a race, it can go really wrong. So it is all about analyzing your competitors, and planning a specific race plan to allow you to use the least amount of energy and still be able to qualify for the finals in a good lane. Ultimately it is all about winning your competitors for the finals, heats do not matter. For me I find that qualifying top 4 for the finals would be best because you would be able to see your competitors when you race during the finals. That really motivates me to swim faster as I hate to lose so I will try to win my competitors to the best of my ability.

 

4) If We Do Not Train Hard, Others Will  10520843_10154396581335294_9000382389641759259_n

There is a constant battle between swimmers and their 4:50am alarm clock. Waking up is only the first step to winning the battle with the bed. Jumping in the ice cold pool in at 5:30am is also another thing swimmers dread most. But if it is so tough, why do we still wake up to train every morning?  That is because if we do not get up, others will be busy training their hearts out while you snooze. “You snooze, you lose” it is that simple. We do 6-7km of high intensity swimming per training session so if we do skip a session we would be missing out on a lot. To me that is a strong motivator to get up that early in the morning because if I hit the snooze button, I am already a step behind my competitors as they would not be hitting the snooze button for sure. I am sure that many of the national swimmers in Singapore have this mentality as well, that is why swimming times in Singapore are getting faster and faster each year.

 

5) Every Part of Our Body is Being Used in Swimming  pang sheng jun

Literally every part of our body is engaged during swimming, which makes it so hard. After each week of training my entire body will be so sore that I feel like lazing my whole weekend away on the bed. Yes, trust me, it is that bad, but we are already used to it.

 

5) Constantly Saying No to Your Friends  IMG_1548

If I had a great party which I really want to attend, or a game that I really want to play, the first question would be, “Will it end by 10pm? I have to get up for morning training tomorrow.”  My friends outside swimming would laugh at me most of the time at the amount I sleep. They cannot believe that someone so old can actually sleep so much. But yes, I do sleep a lot because that is the only way I can recover from my hectic training schedule. So most of the time if an outing or game has a potential of passing 10pm, I would say no to it as it would affect my training the following morning. I do miss out on quite a bit of fun, but this is the price you would have to pay if you want to be the best athlete you can be. But do take note that life is all about balance, when it is time to enjoy, just enjoy life. I enjoy my life after every major competition so there is a balance to my life. (E.g. having late nights after a major competition like SEA Games or Asian Games)

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So this pretty much sums up a life of a national swimmer. Though we make many sacrifices, I personally enjoy this lifestyle as swimming is my passion, and there are goals that I hope to achieve in this sport, and whether I achieve my goals or not, these sacrifices have shaped me to a more disciplined individual in general so I have no regrets. 🙂 People outside of swimming may not know the amount of sacrifice we go through to get the results we want, so hope this story would give you a clearer idea of a swimmers work ethic!

 

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Hard Work Pays Off

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Never give up on your goals, no matter how hard it may be

I’m pretty sure every swimmer can relate to this, setting our alarm clocks everyday and making sure that we’ll be able to wake up for training or we’ll have to pay the price of losing out when it comes to competitions. Diving in to the cold pool at 6am everyday and wondering if everything is worth it.

Here’s what I’ve prepared for the year of 2014:

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It is important for every person to find something that motivates you. For me, the fear of losing motivates me to wake up every day. I hate to lose, and that keeps me going every training session.
In preparation of the SEA Games, I’ve had extra boxing sessions after Saturday’s swimming training session. Coach Jason from the Singapore Sports School was willing to take his own time off to teach me boxing. Even though everyone called me crazy as I sacrificed my own social life for this, but I know that it would all be worth for SEA Games. Lucky for me I had another teammate, Lim Ching Hwang, who was equally as motivated as me, to join me for my boxing sessions after Saturday morning’s training.

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Photo with my teammate Lim Ching Hwang

I’ve had days that I couldn’t get up of bed due to really bad muscle aches from all the gym, but that never stopped me from training as I always believe that a minute of glory triumphs hours of hard work. The happiness earned from victories would last a lifetime.

Be prepared that the road to success wouldn’t be as smooth as you think it is, but never give up as perseverance is the key to success. When you’re about to give up, always remind yourself the reason you started. If I had given up after the loss in 2009 and 2011 SEA Games, I wouldn’t have been able to celebrate my victory from the recent SEA Games, and my swimming career would have ended as an unsuccessful one. The message I’m trying to bring across here is that nothing is impossible. However ‘unachievable’ you think your goals are, as long as you put your heart and soul in it, you’ll achieve it one day.

Of course there would be negative people in your life telling you that you should give up, you should try something else, and maybe you’ll be better at it. But always remember that you’re the master of your fate, and if you like what you do, then learn to shut off what other people say and just continue to go for your goals. Your own future lies in your own hands, not theirs, so live your life with no regrets! I’d rather fail in doing something I like rather than being successful in doing something that I don’t like. Because even if I fail, at least I know that I’ve tried my best. One of my best friends Russell Ong told me that the biggest risk is life, ironically, is to not take one. Life is short, live it your way!

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Photo with Russell Ong

So get up, put your feet on the floor, and don’t look back because you’ve got work to do! Start living your dream and you’ll find that you’ll have a more fulfilling life.

Welcome to The Grind!
Just remember, when you’re headed upstream, when you decide to get out of your comfort zone, don’t ever turn back on what’s comfortable because the battle is already half won when you’re heading towards your goals! It will get tougher but trust me it will all be worth it once your goals are accomplished.

Do make sure this is something you want. Because the easy way out will always be there, ready to wash you away, all you have to do is pick up your feet. Remember this is a battle between your heart and your mind, follow your heart and you’ll have no regrets. It may seem impossible at first, but trust me, once your goal is accomplished; all the hard work, body aches and pain will be gone and forgotten.

Never give up on your goals, no matter how hard it may be, because no matter what, you’ll get there one day. 🙂

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Gym sessions for your reference

A lot of people have been asking me what I do for gym, so here are the sets that I do on a weekly basis.

My gym sessions are on Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

Feel free to follow my sessions if you want your body to look like this:

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Photo with one of my swimming idols and Olympic finalist Ryan Napoleon

Gym Session (Mondays and Wednesdays):

I do heavy weights on Mondays and Wednesdays as my coach wants me to build strength in the water.

Warm up:  

15minutes of dynamic stretches

15minutes of core work (lots of variation, important thing is to keep it continuous)

Weights:

Upper Body
High Elbow Catch 3 sets of 15
Pull Ups 4 sets of 10
Lats Pull Down 2 sets of 12 – 120 LBS

2 sets of 8 – 160 LBS

3 sets of 6 – 180 LBS

3 sets of 3 – 200 LBS

 

Bench Press 2 sets of 15 – 45kg

2 sets of 10 – 50kg

2 sets of 6 – 55kg

Wrist Curls 4 sets of 50 – 40 LBS
Lower Body
Squats 4 sets of 10 – 45kg
Dead Lifts 4 sets of 10 – 40kg
Frog Jumps 4 sets of 10 Jumps

I personally feel that lat pull downs are crucial in swimming performance as the lats are the primary muscles used when swimming all strokes. My coach has given me a pretty tough lats pull down set. As you can see, he focuses on muscle strength, hypertrophy and endurance. Ranging from 3 to 12 repetitions. It would definitely help me both muscle strength and endurance. I feel really strong in the pool after this exercise. 

Gym Session (Fridays):

I usually go lighter in the gym on Fridays as my coach doesn’t want to tire me out too much as I have a really tough swim session on Saturday.

Warm up:  

15minutes of dynamic stretches

15minutes of core work (lots of variation, important thing is to keep it continuous)

Weights:

Upper Body 
High Elbow Catch 3 sets of 15
Pull Ups 8 sets of 10
Bench Press 4 sets of 10 – 45kg
Wrist Curls 4 sets of 50 – 40 LBS
Lower Body
Squats 4 sets of 10 – 40kg
Dead Lifts 4 sets of 10 – 30kg
Frog Jumps 2 sets of 10 Jumps

Basically these are the gym sets that I’ve done in preparation for the SEA Games.

Feel free to follow these sets! Hope I helped. Good luck to everyone and hope you all achieve your goals. :)

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And everytime you feel like giving up, always remember this:

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That’s how I always motivate myself every time I get tired.

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