what helps me every day – having competed as a pro athlete


I was a pro swimmer for almost a decade. It started with me not coming out of the water as soon as the pools opened. So my parents brought me to audition at the local swim club, and starting from the age of nine, I went to train with a bunch of other crazy kids. Every day of the week. In the end of my career, I had 7 swim sessions and two gym sessions a week (talking 5 days). All in all, it would consume around 24h a week and I would swim about 50km/week. And that does not include the competitions I would attend on the weekends.

Well, I haven't trained properly for more than 10 years now, but I am still reminded and influenced by it on a daily base. I only realized it a couple of years ago but this experience influences my work life extremely.

1. DISCIPLINE & A LONG BREATH So many times I hated to jump into the pool. But it did not matter and quitting was no option, because one week of not training meant a significant fall back within the group or on the next competition.
I can tell it follows me around every day. Sometimes I hate to work but I push my self to produce stuff constantly. Not moving or producing is not an option, because you simply get out of practice, out of shape and get lazy and slow. Consistency is key because one win basically means nothing in comparison to a career where you constantly put out great work and live with a certain drive.

2. KNOW YOUR LIMITS AND GO BEYOND THEM More than one time my body told me to stop. told me, that I can't go any further. But my trainer wouldn't let us out of the water until we had finished his training plan. This involved puking from exhaustion, sour muscles you didn't know that existed and much more.
I am very aware of my limits these days and I always try to go one step further. Always. I really try not to give in to the first idea or a layout where I know it needs more tweaking. And I try to fight for ideas when I know they are right.

3. TEAMWORK, MENTORING & LEADERSHIP As a team, we traveled the whole world for competitions and training camps. We would flee the winter to train in Florida and Teneriffa and by the age of 15, I had traveled more countries than my parents. My team became my family and it was clear that the older ones would look after the younger ones. We would push each other when someone was tired and wait until the last one was out of the pool.
This mentality shaped my work ethic within teams and groups tremendously. Working in a team means that you are as good as the weakest link in the group. So you better surround yourself with really good people and you are not stupid enough to NOT ask for help. You hang in there help each other out and realize that different people have different skills and strengths. Learn from them.

4. IN THE ZONE There is a thing called "flow" or "being in the zone". In the end of the day, I was alone in the pool. Nobody swam for me. So I really had to get to know my body and be intuitive about it. 
I still trust my guts to the day - sometimes I forget to do so, but every time I ignore it, it bits me in the end. This is something that can be trained and it helps you through any experience.


4. WORK HARD & PARTY HARD Since we would be in training for months and months there were only a couple of weekends a year we would have off. So we went out (again as a team) and would celebrate and party like there is no tomorrow. It was important to push the "reset button" every once in a while to not become crazy.
So I am still doing that :)

personalSandra Reichl