Lessons Learned From Green Hair and A Lotta Water

I’ve had a variety of careers that have led to this one. You may never have guessed that some of my most profound lessons were learned underwater.

Let me explain…

My first career started at the age of six. It would span twelve years and it involved

Green hair and a lotta water…


I took a liking to competitive swimming and apparently swimming liked me too. Now that I think back on it, I’m not sure what kind of kid enjoys the repetition of swimming back and forth for hours on end doing what seems to be the same thing day after day.

About a week or two into my young career, my mom had a near proud moment. The coach came up to her and commented on my natural ability. My mom, being a very shy woman, thanked him and puffed out her chest a little with pride. However, his next question surprised her.

He asked, “Is your daughter retarded or something? She keeps hitting her head on the wall on every turn…”


Turned out I had very poor vision. I started wearing glasses, coke bottle thick, shortly thereafter.

It also turns out there’s a ‘T’ on the pool bottom that I could see to warn me of the impending wall.

(Geesh coach, don’t you think you coulda just told me that??)

In any case, I remember I couldn’t wait to hit the pool day after day, five days a week and as I got better, the commitment increased. I started morning practices. Again, I question the kind of kid I was to get up at least three mornings a week for 5 am workouts. That would be followed by five two hour evening workouts as well.


I couldn’t miss out on school sports, so I would often swim in the morning, rush to school for a volleyball practice (or whatever the school sport I was involved in), attend school all day, practice a school sport after school and then head back to the pool for another two hour swim session.

I guess there was little wonder why I didn’t have a weight issue at a young age. There was barely enough time in the day to eat enough to fuel my body for all the activity I did.

Luckily I was a good student and had a manageable amount of homework in the evenings, I’d do that and fall into bed before 9 pm.


I can see that my ‘party animal’ lifestyle started at a young age, (not)!

Now, what kid starts to protect their sleep patterns in junior high school?

In fact, sometimes I was so worried my parents wouldn’t get me up in time for morning practice that I began setting my own alarm. On several occasions, my mom would find me in the kitchen at 2 am having breakfast. She’d ask me what I was doing up and then realize that due to my poor vision I couldn’t really see my clock, and just assumed it was time to go. She’s shoo me back to bed for a few more hours of sleep.

Yes, I was an odd kid indeed. clip_image006

The lessons learned from this sort of experience are many….

I had a clear vision of what I wanted out of life. To be honest, I’m not sure it was conscious decisions so much as I was in touch with my core values. I always wanted to do ‘my best’ and I set the bar high for myself. Whether this was in school, sports, whatever. I practiced goal setting at an early age and it’s a great habit to develop.

Being a chronic overachiever can have it’s downfalls too, but for the most part, whether it was training for a local, provincial or national swim meet or studying for a school test, having a clear vision of what I wanted helped me to focus and achieve.


How can you know where you’re going if you don’t have a destination or goal? It’s super important to set realistic goals for yourself in relation to your fitness. If you know where you want to get to, then it’s so much easier to develop a plan. You’d never just randomly start driving down a road, you need a destination to figure you’re your route. It’s no different with your fitness plan.

Time management was a necessary lesson learned early on. Just thinking back on the sheer volume of training hours I logged, I HAD to manage my time effectively.

In relation to professional matters, my mentors tell me to ‘guard my time religiously’ in order to achieve my dreams. I learned this before I was a teenager. The down side of this is my lack of spontaneity since I often have my day timer jammed. I guess I need to learn to ‘schedule’ in some ‘spontaneous’ time in my life.


In relation to any goal whether it’s personal, professional or fitness, time management is imperative. For fitness, your workouts won’t ever ‘just happen’ without you making them happen. So when you’re ‘penciling’ in your work out, forget the pencil and get your workout time written down in ink.

I guess nothing big or important will ever happen without a little blood, sweat and tears. Your work ethic will ultimately determine where you land in any aspect of life.

As for me and my swimming career, I wasn’t the most gifted swimmer, but I was a work horse. With hard work I was able to reach a national level of competition. In fact, my sister was a much more talented swimmer than I ever was but she just didn’t have the drive or determination in the sport. Success with anything is mostly just ‘showing up’ on a consistent basis.

As for you and your workouts, showing up is half the battle. It’s not the amount of time daily that you devote to training in particular that counts, it’s the amount of time commitment you devote over a long period of time, or consistency over time that adds up in the end.


I learned at an early age the subtleties of workout design. Training variety is the key to success. What looks to be the same workout to the average onlooker, is completely different from the swimmer’s perspective. To the onlooker, the swimmer looks to be just swimming back and forth endlessly, but there are so many variables that are switched up constantly: intervals, rests, distance, time, etc.

As with anything, variety is the spice of life and as far as your training goes, if you want to remain status quo, don’t change a thing! But if you’re looking to shake up your physique, you need to constantly change up the variables in your training too. You should never be repeating the same workout in a 6 week period. You can always change up one or two variables to make a workout almost completely different.

As for my training now, I rarely get in the water for a swim, but I change my workouts just the same.

Not sure if I’ll ever get back into competitive swimming ever again. I was proud of my accomplishments at the time, making national times while doing a ton of other sports and receiving academic scholarships at the same time.

As for you, if you employ some of the principles here towards your fitness goals and challenge workouts, you’ll surely meet your goals. I’d love to hear about YOUR lessons. Post a comment!