Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's the little things that matter

Life is marked by the big things, the milestones: Turning 16, 21 & 40; graduating from high school and college; getting a job, getting married and starting a family. But it's the little things that are the pulse of life, that ones that make your heart beat faster and make you happier; the ones that make a difference.

Like waking up to the smell of breakfast cooking, sweet kisses from your five-year-old that leave little wet spots on your cheek, your dog's wagging tail when she greets you, the first daffodil of spring, reconnecting with childhood friends who knew you before you knew yourself. The small things are the ones that change your life and give meaning to the milestones.

I was thinking about this today while I was swimming laps because, really, you've got to do something with your mind, something to entertain yourself, as you swim back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth some more.

I once was on a master's swim team at a time when I'd been a lifeguard, but never a swimmer. My coach, my husband, and fellow teammates offered many tips and drills to help improve my stroke, form and technique. Like a sponge, I soaked up every bit of advice that was offered. Gradually, lap after humbling lap, I indeed became a swimmer. I even swam across the Chesapeake Bay. Twice.

Now here I am again, ten years later, swimming back and forth once more. But this time, I entered the pool a swimmer, my goal no longer to learn the basics but to fine tune; to swim better, faster, and I'm finding that the tiniest things have the biggest impact.

One day I was doing backstroke kick and my coach and another swimmer were watching me, brows furrowed. They were trying to figure out what was wrong with my kick; why I wasn't faster and more efficient. (I often wonder that myself!). Then came the "aha!" moment when the other swimmer figured it out. "Your hips are too high," she said. "Pull your hips down a little and you'll go much faster--less effort, better stroke."

So I did. I pulled my hips down the tiniest bit and it made all the difference. I swam the next set faster and it was easier. After all these years, all I had to do was move my hips about an inch. The little things.

Little changes have made a big difference for me in other sports,too. In running, changing my stride and finding the right shoes have allowed me to return to running and remain injury-free.

On the bike, painful "hot spots" in my feet were resolved by shifting my cleats a mere quarter inch. Small change, huge difference.

In triathlon, as in life, it really is the little things that matter.

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