Amanda Beard - Recommended Reading

Posted: 08-19-2012

Amanda Beard InTheWaterTheyCantSeeYouCry

I initially ordered this book because I wanted to support the author, Amanda Beard, an athlete who I have come to respect over the years. Honestly, my expectations were very low because based on how this book has been promoted, I was sure that it would be another sappy melodramatic “Chick Book”. I was wrong! I read the book in a single day – during a heavy 4 hour training load day nonetheless.

I’m not really a hard core swimming fan, but I respect the sport because it is so training intensive, engaging of the whole body and your head is down facing away from the crowd like rock climbing (a rarity in athletics). Unlike outdoor action sports, swimming definitely seems like one of those sports in which it must be very difficult, if not prohibitive, for athletes to express themselves in the water – so they’ve got to do it out of the water.

I enjoy reading about the internal mental game and behind the scenes battles of athletes in other individual sports as I have had plenty of my own along the way. Knowing the history of other athletes helps us put our own struggles in perspective. It also teaches us how to balance training and the pursuit of goals and prevail despite our engrained patterns of doubt and self-sabotage. I firmly believe that it is important to learn from athletes in other training intensive individualized events that demand a high degree of mental commitment like rock climbing.

I remember watching Amanda Beard swim for the first time in the ’96 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GA on Eurosport with my coach while I was living and training in France. Like so many other young athletes, I often wondered how she would progress and what would become of her, not just as an athlete, but as a functional adult. I’ve caught bits and pieces of gossip and media about Amanda over the years – most of it I simply dismissed as over judgmental double standards stemming from jealousy and being a mere bi-product of over-sensationalized media. I had sensed that she had definitely found her way through life by breaking the mold of the traditional archetype that most people hold of swimmers – especially young female swimmers.

I honestly didn’t follow her career very closely except when I would see the Olympics. I didn’t know much about her other than everyone was talking about how hot she was, the fact that she was modeling and how she was supposedly creating scandals and alleged PR problems for the image of the all-American prude sport of swimming (which I think is great by the way). I saw her seductive image pop up in men’s magazines that I would flip through in the waiting room of my dentist or sport chiropractor’s office, but I never even cared to check out her spread in Playboy magazine – although I’m sure she looks great. I was actually more interested in how she was navigating the internal game – not the superficial circus to which all athletes must conspire to a certain extent to earn a living.

Her book articulated how being great in a sport is not a matter of being perfect in one’s abilities, personality, relationships, personal habits, crucial decisions, training or even outlook on the world, but rather by a defiance to succumb to one’s own weakness and fight back at imperfection with raw passion. This internal fight for self-concept, dignity, redemption and balance is the thread of any athlete’s life – regardless of the sport. In my opinion, the ability to directly confront this internal battle is the most important and overlooked aspect of athletic training.

If you are interested in learning how to fight your internal battle with courage to become better at rock climbing or any other sport you should read this book! After reading her book I am even more impressed with Amanda Beard as a human being than as an athlete…………..or a model.

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