In a Nutshell
In April of 2023 I was delighted to be named to the National Swimming Team to represent Canada at the Pan American Games in October 2023 in Santiago, Chile. Delighted not only because Lululemon was the kit sponsor (although that was a major bonus), but because this was a full-circle moment for me from when I made my first senior National Team in 2015 for the Pan American Games in Toronto. From 2015 to 2023 I had made the team for the Olympics (2016), Commonwealth Games, Pan Pacific Championships and World Championships x4. During that time, I also ran into a serious injury, struggled with mental health, muddled through training during a Pandemic and missed the 2021 Olympic team due to a discretionary decision. A lot had happened in those eight years, good and bad.
A (much needed) Change from the Norm
After 2021 I knew things had to change for me. I was tired of feeling like my body was tearing itself apart while I was desperately trying to keep it together as I asked it to perform nothing less than miracles in the pool and the gym every day. I was getting older (yes, I know 30 isn’t old, but in the swimming world it is…trust me). My mind was also not the same post 2021 Olympic Trials as is was pre 2021 Olympic Trials. I changed my training from eight swims, three lifts and two bikes a week to five swims and two lifts a week. The lifts I did at home with 10lb and 30lb dumbbells. This overall change was more out of necessity than thinking it would actually be good for my swimming. I wasn’t aware of anyone at a world-class level training like this. Fast forward to 2022 World Trials where I had the most successful placings I have ever had at a National meet and made the World Championship team. I swam well enough at Worlds to earn my spot for the breaststroke leg of the 4x100 women’s medley relay, where we placed third. I had never won a long course World Championship medal before.
A Bump in the Road
The next season I decided to take my weight training a bit more seriously and dedicate myself to going to the gym to lift, instead of doing it at home with minimal equipment. I had finished my schooling at this point and started working at TCR! This was a good balance for me with maintaining the five swims, two lifts and some work each week. At the trials meet in April, 2023 I didn’t swim well enough to qualify for World Championships in the summer, but I swam well enough to be named to the Pan Am team in the fall. I was frustrated with these results as I didn’t perform any better than the year before, despite making changes to my weight program. There was also a technical piece of my stroke that wasn’t where in needed to be and I was annoyed we hadn’t identified that earlier. After this meet I decided to make yet another change to my weight training. I lifted heavier to build strength. My body had responded well to this kind of training in the past. This allowed me to incorporate power and intensity into my training, without having to add more into my swim workouts and still maintain good recovery. Every stroke of breaststroke, every practice, every day I focused on the technical piece that was missing from my stroke at trials.
We had a meet in the early summer in Los Angeles in 2023 that was at a bit of an awkward time of our training cycle. I wasn’t confident that I was going to swim fast there, so I went in with a mentality of “don’t sweat the small stuff” and “just race the girls beside you.” In European football (soccer) there is a manager called Carlo Ancelotti. He has seen it all and done it all (I promise I am going somewhere with this). During a high-stakes game his team scores a winning goal. Athletes, support staff, coaches, everyone around him is bouncing around and jubilant. Pan to Ancelotti. There he stands, bundled in his parka with a cup of tea in hand. He slowly raises the cup to his lips, blows on it, takes a sip, then turns away from the uproar around him and saunters off. For some reason this attitude has spoken to me more than anything else in recent years. My mentality at this LA meet was to harness my inner Ancelotti. Bad swim? Ancelotti. Good swim? Ancelotti. Been there done that kind of a vibe. I thought about this before every race to help calm my nerves. In the end, this doesn’t matter much. At this meet I swam the fastest 100m breaststroke I had in years and a fantastic 200m breaststroke, winning a tight race. Manifesting my inner Ancelotti, racing my competitors and the exciting atmosphere of swimming in an outdoor pool (at sea-level) in America was a potent mix for fast swimming.
Going into Nationals in August I tried to maintain the mentality I had in LA. Thinking about letting the swim come to me, not fighting for the swim. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect. Race. You don’t have to do everything right. You don’t have to feel a certain way to have a good swim. Do what feels right. Listen to your body. Trust yourself. Have FUN. Be HAPPY. Surround yourself with good people. Serve yourself. Allow yourself to feel good. Enjoy the feeling of moving well. Strategize the races. Stay relaxed. Don’t get bog down in the nitty-gritty of race details. Think about technical focuses before the race, but not during. Let yourself race. At this meet I went the fastest 50m breaststroke since 2017 (before being injured), my fastest 100 since Olympic Trials in 2021 and my fastest 200 ever. Pan Ams was not far off now.
Pan American Games 2023
The one constant of any international event I have been to for swimming is that things will not be perfect. Whether it’s the transportation, food, accommodations, difficulty to sleep because of noise, the way the meet is run and so on, things are not ideal. This Games was no different. We are always told on the National Team to be adaptable. A big reason for this is because international events are not run like clockwork. Some people manage inconveniences better than other. Luckily, I was already going in with my Ancelotti attitude and nothing mattered! The prelim session was 40 minutes behind schedule. Ancelotti. I swam a 1:08 in prelims, which isn’t a great time, but I beat the gal beside me in a tight race and I was going in first for finals. Ancelotti. The turnaround time from prelims to finals was very short. Ancelotti. The bus to finals took an extra half hour. Ancelotti. My warmup had to be rushed because of this. Ancelotti. The event was 30 minutes behind, again. Ancelotti. My pants get stuck on my shoes when I was about to walk out for the final, so I had to take the shoes off too and walk out in my socks. Ancelotti. You’re in the middle of racing two women who have swum faster than you in the recent past. Ancelotti. You win the race, earning gold eight years after a bronze at Pan Ams in 2015. Ancelotti….with a smirk.
This is all to say, the journey isn’t linear. Roll with the punches. Don’t stay stagnant if something isn’t working. Try something new in training (maybe at TCR!). Just because someone is doing something a certain way doesn’t mean you have to. But maybe you should! It is good to listen to other people’s experiences in success and failure. Think outside the box. Training has to change as you get older. Listen to what your body is telling you. Finding comfort in yourself and your body is how you perform best.
If it wasn’t for the flexible work hours and encouraging staff who believed in me, life would have been a lot harder. This past year was my first year of working while swimming (usually I do school and swim). I am so thankful for the faith the TCR team had in me then and continues to have in me today. Swimming without having something else to do drives me nuts, so I am eternally grateful I was given the chance to keep my kinesiology mind fresh, learn new things and meet so many amazing people here.
If you’re interested in hearing more swimming stories, want to chat about training or book in some sessions with me, you can find me at TCR working with the TX3 team in the pool and in the gym, doing personal strength training sessions or in the physiology lab doing assessments. There is also a new strength circuit group class that I will be running on Wednesday evenings that I would love for people to come check out!