Part 3: Lap after lap

by Tony Roetzel

Puzzle (Summer Blog Theme)

Growing up I had this idea that the world was puzzle and that every individual was a piece. Each person was unique in their own way but worked together to build a greater whole. I never understood how people found their fit, I simply assumed it’s one of those things that just happened. Well here I am, 23 years old and still looking for that fit. This is my story. Read part one here and two here.

lap after lap

Part 3 – Lap after lap.

I love the water It’s consistently unforgiving, honest, and deprivating yet fully immersive. The water requires your constant attention. It demands respect and understanding. It doesn’t care how old you are or how comfortable you are in it. It’ll kill you if you’re not careful. The water allows you to feel weightless but only if you know how to balance in it. The water will dull your hearing, take away your sense of smell temporarily, blur your vision, and distort your taste. Though at the same time it will allow you to feel more aware of what every part of your body is doing.


Something that I have come to understand about myself is that I am always looking for that next challenge. If I don’t feel challenged I tend to have a hard time engaging in something. As a kid, I could never master sitting still.  I was a wanderer, an explorer, always on the hunt for the new thing that I hadn’t discovered yet. If one of my senses were triggered I’d be off to go find answers about what sparked my interest.


When I was in middle school I was introduced to competitive swimming. It changed my life. Swimming allowed me to be constantly moving, I could float, sink, tread, sprint, dive, and flip all in one confined space. It was the perfect marriage of freedom and focus.


The beauty of swimming is the peace it brings. Lap after lap you’re hearing just turns into white noise, your sense of smell is seemingly turns off. In order to allow you to focus on breathing, all you see is the bottom of the pool or the ceiling. Every stimulant around you seems to disappear and you are left to focus on what you feel your body doing and the thoughts going through your head. Swimming introduced me  to levels of self awareness I hadn’t experienced before. It cleared my mind, helped me focus, and brought on some of the biggest epiphanies that I have had.  


So far in this blog series I have talked about finding my motivation and what it meant for me to get to know myself and what make me tick. Now I am going to wrap this series up with talking about balance. Swimming is all about balance. It’s one of the first things that I teach new swimmers when I coach and I am constantly reminding my athletes no matter what skill level they are. One of my favorite drills to teach balance is what I call the star fish. I ask the swimmers to find an area of the pool the where they have enough room to spread their limbs out like a starfish with their stomachs facing the bottom of the pool. While standing on the deck I ask them to float while keeping their eyes on me. They are not allowed to move their hands or feet at all. Almost instantly when they swimmer attempts this their hips start to sink as the weight of their head starts to push the body under.


Next I ask them to do the exact same thing except instead of looking at me, I want them to take a deep breath and keep their head facing the bottom of the pool. Guess what?! They float. What I love about this drill is not only does this illustrate to the swimmers the importance of keeping the body inline and how that will keep them from fighting against themselves while swimming. It also illustrates the balance of life.


Here’s what I mean:


  1. Focus

If you are asking yourself to do one thing, like when I ask the swimmers to float, but also at the same time asking yourself to do a completely different thing, in this example keep their eyes on me, the lack of focus leads to a lack of balance which in turn leads to fighting against yourself to stay afloat. The same is true in life. In my life I have found that in order to stay focused I need to be fidgeting with something. I’ll be totally engaged in a conversation as along as I have something in my hands to play with. Whether it’s twirling a pen, folding little bits of paper, or flicking a fidget spinnner. The stimulation keeps me focused and in the moment. If your focus is not 100 percent on the task at hand you end up fighting against yourself to complete something. This is where time management comes into play.

  1. Management

One thing that has taken me a long time to understand is that distractions aren’t necessarily bad things. They are just a part of everyday life. Distractions are things that demand your attention when your focus is elsewhere. This means while at work, school could be a distraction, or family, or even just the fact that you’re hungry. What is important is knowing how to manage these distractions. This is where the balancing act of time management comes into play. What I have found for myself is that I need a certain amount of social, free, and leisure time each week in order to keep myself grounded. I have a tendency to start grinding and not wanting to stop. When that happens whether it’s days or even hours into working on something I will find my mind wandering onto other things. If I know that I set aside my Friday night for fun, it helps me focus on the work that needs to be done in the present. When it comes to time management, finding balance in life doesn’t mean you need to divide your time equally among the things important in your life. It means allocating a proportionate amount of time to those thing.


Finding that balance isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight. It’ll take time and attention and very rarely will what you did a year ago work for you now. That’s the challenge of it, a challenge to make you the best version of yourself.