The Difference Between Work and Play

By Dr. Keith Bell – August 7, 2012
Photography by Brian Fitzsimmons

The difference between work and play is how you view it. How you view it is largely determined by the manner in which you talk about it, especially to yourself.

I raise this issue because my editor usurped my words in my last appearance in AFM. Well, okay, she had the right, but it made me cringe. Precision of words cranks the amps on the delivery of the music. Be careful what you say. Your brain gets cued to act accordingly.

Back to the May issue. As I recall, I wrote “swimming practices,” but what got published was “swimming workouts.”

I like to play swimming. I train. I rehearse. I practice. But mostly, I play swimming. I never work out. It sounds too much like work.

It drives me nuts that people term preparing for athletic competition, or even exercising one’s being, as playing baseball, playing golf, playing tennis. They talk about playing lacrosse, playing basketball. They go to football practice, basketball practice, soccer practice. But when going to swim practice, they call it “workout.” As mentioned above, I don’t work out. It sounds too much like work. I play swimming.

I guess if you want to, you can make swim training laborious or boring or both. But why in the world would you ever choose to make swimming a drag? It’s not productive. And, it’s not fun.

I don’t know many ultimate truths. But one of the few ultimate truths I know is this: “the responsibility is mine.” It can be no other way. I’m responsible for my actions, for my responses, for my choices, and for my views.

Swimming is one of the nicest parts of my day. When I train, I get to race (others or the clock). I have a constant opportunity to meet challenges that are as tough as I want to make them. (“The tougher, the better.” It’s more fun that way). I feel support from, and the gentle caress of, the water. I use goals to make everything I do into a game. And, I choose to label all of it as fun. I love to play in the water. And, what I play in the water is swimming.

Of course, should you choose to make swimming boring, you are free to do so. Should you decide to focus on the black line on the bottom of the pool and decide that doing so is boring, fine. I don’t see how that works for you or why you would want to do that. But okay. It’s your choice.

If you want, you can seemingly choose to abdicate the responsibility for making your swimming fun and exciting, but remember: it’s your choice. It’s up to you. The responsibility for how much you enjoy swimming is yours. You can do nothing to make your swimming enjoyable. You can find a coach that helps to make it fun and interesting. You can accept whatever you get. You can buy the garbage that others sell. Or, you can recognize the responsibility is yours and make swimming fun. You can choose to play swimming.

I love to swim. I choose to make swimming one of the nicest parts of the day. And, I take care to protect that choice by making it fun, in part, by the labels I use, how I think about it, and how I talk about it. After all, the responsibility is mine.
I play swimming. I never work out.

What do you do when you swim? How’s it working for you?

A former University of Texas Head Swimming Coach and United States Masters Coach of the year, Dr. Bell currently coaches TeamTexas Masters, is the President of the American Swimming Association, LLC, and is a Sports Performance Consultant. As an author, he has written ten books and more than 70 articles. As a swimmer, Dr. Bell is a four-time Collegiate All American, has 36 World and 99 Masters National Records, and over the years has won gold medals in two World and in 67 Masters National Championships.

Previous Article
Next Article

Related Articles

July 1, 2024
July 1, 2024

Up Your Health & Fitness Game

Stories from the community and the latest on health, nutrition, fitness and wellness.
  • Austin Fit Magazine
    Ambassador's Corner: Austin Bo...
  • Article title
  • Austin Fit Magazine
    A Sneak Peek at the New AFMDC ...
  • Article title
  • Austin Fit Magazine
    Countdown to the Crit!
  • Article title