Here at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the first things drilled into our head is to “put your heart in the work.” And while this has become a borderline recurring joke among my classmates, it’s a motto that I have come to identify with. In the sport of swimming, you only get as much out of it as you put in. No matter how talented or naturally gifted you are, if you don’t train, and train hard, you’re not getting anywhere.
I found this out the hard way my junior year. Coming off what had been my best-ever season as a swimmer, I pretty much coasted through my summer training. While I was putting in the hours in the pool and the weight room, I was mostly going through the motions, not pushing myself until is was absolutely needed. Once the fall rolled around, and with it 2-a-days, 5 a.m. practices, and all of the rigors of a full CMU education, I was hit by a figurative truck. My training fell behind, my academic performance suffered, and I did not have a great year, in or out of the pool. I needed to re-evaluate my approach if I was going to be successful again, at any level. So I went back to the beginning and asked myself, “what made me successful in the first place?” I pored over my training schedule, my lifting routines, my dietary practices, and even the specific drills I did while warming up. The answer to my woes ended up being much simpler, and I ended up reshaping how I approached my life in general. I needed to enjoy the work. I needed to find joy and passion in the grind. So I took another step back and thought carefully about what I loved about swimming. I thought about what practices made me feel great, how I could mix up workouts to be fun, as well as challenging. Finally, I started interacting with people who had maintained a lifelong passion for the sport.
This past summer, I had the privilege of training with a Masters team. These were people, anywhere from 25 to 65 years old, that didn’t have to be at practice, let alone at 6 a.m. every day, they wanted to be there. They found happiness in simply working hard, and they were genuinely putting their hearts in the work. So that’s what I did. In my last year of collegiate swimming, I came in with a rekindled passion for the process. I was able to get through distance sets with more ease and fluidity, and sprint sets with more power and speed. Even tackling problem sets in my classes became more fun when I learned to love the subject I was studying. I’ve only had ephemeral glances at these during my CMU career, and they’re now becoming a regular appearance. I’ve been able to succeed by embracing the work, and my teammates could not have responded better. I’ve never seen a more united and collectively uplifting team than I have this year. I’ve been floored by how much genuine work they have put in, and how much we have come together around it.
The swim team, and its insatiable work ethic in and out of the pool, is what I’m going to miss most about CMU. Every year I’ve had 60+ of the best friends that simultaneously push each other and love each other, and I could not dream of a more inspiring group of people with which to spend my career as a Tartan.