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Happy St. Patrick's Day

Almost thirty years ago, I married into a large Irish-Catholic family. I was not familiar with Irish traditions, yet I grew to love and celebrate them.

I have to say that St. Patrick's Day can be a real barrel of laughs with some playful pinching and pitiful attempts at an Irish accent. Mine being the absolute worst! Admittedly, if you're Irish, you're probably thinking, "Ah, sure it's just another day, like!"

But for the rest of us, there's nothing quite like enjoying a good Guinness and singing along to some famous Irish songs. Who can resist belting out a verse or two of "Danny Boy" or "Whiskey in the Jar"? It's enough to make anyone feel like they've got the luck of the Irish on their side!

And let's not forget about the Irish blessings. Sure, they might seem a bit cheesy, but they're also heartwarming and full of good wishes. "May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back" – it's hard not to feel a little bit better after hearing that, even if you're not entirely sure what it means. What does it mean? :)

But, let's be honest, the best part of St. Patrick's Day is the excuse to have a good time. Whether you're donning a green hat and fake beard, or just enjoying a quiet pint with friends, there's nothing quite like celebrating Irish culture and heritage, even if you're not Irish yourself. Life requires good friendship and some pleasure.

Let's also reflect on the patron saint of Ireland, who this day celebrates. He was a man who faced great challenges and obstacles in his life, but through his faith and determination, he was able to overcome them and leave a lasting impact on the world. It seems St. Patrick was acquainted with pain. Something all elite athletes know well, at least within the body.

I'm sure you wouldn't have to look too far to find Olympic swimmers whose journey to the top was filled with heartache, disappointment, and pain. It seems that this is just par for the course in the human experience. Sounds a bit like St. Patrick's journey.

According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the concept of the Holy Trinity to the people of Ireland. The symbolism of the three-leaf clover, as associated with St. Patrick's Day, has a lot to teach elite swimmers. The three leaves of the clover represent the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, which are three distinct entities but are also one. This idea of unity and balance can be applied to a swimmer's training in the understanding that elite swimmers are three-dimensional athletes. They must consider mind, spirit, and body when training to achieve success.

Firstly, the mind is an essential part of an elite swimmer's training. Mental preparation is critical for performing at the highest level, and this includes visualization, goal-setting, and self-talk. By training the mind, swimmers can build mental toughness, overcome adversity, and perform better under pressure. The mind can make or break you. For most athletes, this became evident during the pandemic when all they could train was their mind.

Secondly, the spirit refers to the emotional and psychological well-being of a swimmer. It includes their motivation, passion, and sense of purpose. By nurturing the spirit, swimmers can find inspiration in the challenges they face, maintain a positive attitude, and develop resilience to setbacks. In addition, much like St. Patrick, there are some swimmers who incorporate biblical principles into their training, using their sport as a form of worship and an expression of gratitude towards God. As Olympic athlete Eric Liddell said in the movie "Chariots of Fire", "God made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure."

Finally, the body is the physical aspect of an elite swimmer's training. It includes strength, endurance, technique, and recovery. By training the body, swimmers can develop the strength and stamina needed to perform at the highest level, refine their technique to optimize their efficiency, and recover properly to avoid injuries. However, there are times when our bodies let us down. We may experience injuries, performance plateaus, fluctuations in body weight, illnesses, or even diseases. Our bodies don't always perform the way we want them to. In these moments, we might find some common ground with St. Patrick.

St. Patrick faced many challenges throughout his life, including being kidnapped as a young man and sold into slavery. However, he never lost faith and remained committed to his beliefs, eventually becoming a priest and later a bishop.

Swimmers, just like St. Patrick, can cultivate determination and resilience in the face of setbacks and challenges that arise in their training, both in mind, body, and spirit. Don't lose heart. Remember that the three-leaf clover represents a greater truth – you are not alone. Draw strength from the Trinity rather than relying on mere luck, which can be fleeting.

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