Recently CougarMedia staff member Jordan Tucker interviewed senior Gillian Ryan in regards to Gillian’s swimming.
- As someone highly invested in a sport, can you describe a typical day?
A typical day for me begins at 5:40AM. At that point I get up and eat breakfast, get dressed (in a swimsuit under my clothes), and leave for the pool at 6:15AM. From arriving at the pool at 6:25 until about 6:50 I stretch and prepare for morning practice which begins at 7:00. I swim until about 8:45, and then go immediately from the pool session to a dryland or weight lifting session. This can last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. I usually will return to my apartment between 9:45 and 10:00 where I eat a recovery meal and take a nap. I get up about 11:30 to eat lunch and finally start schoolwork for the day. I work until 1:15 when I leave for the afternoon practice. I stretch from 1:25 to 1:50, and practice begins at 2:00. This is just a swimming session, which ends at approximately 3:45, and so I am back home about 4:00. I will usually whip up a light smoothie to drink at that point, and work on making dinner. I’ll eat dinner between 5:30 and 6:00, and then work on school and homework until about 8:00 or 8:30. At that point I will stretch and do any necessary recovery work in order to prepare for the next day, and my light is out no later than 9:30PM.
- What has been your biggest accomplishment in your swimming career so far?
My greatest accomplishment to date is probably winning a gold medal while representing Team USA in Mexico at the Pan American Games.
- When you were younger, did you ever imagine that you would accomplish so much in your sport?
Never! I started swimming because my older brother, Jamie, swam, and I always wanted to prove that I could do anything that he could. Since then, I not only fell in love with the sport and all of its challenges, but I have continued to train so that I may improve as much as possible. At this point, I am pleased with what I have accomplished so far, but am constantly hoping and shooting for goals I have not yet achieved.
- How do you balance schoolwork and swimming?
Some days better than others. For me, the balance is all about economizing my time. If I have to take the bus to practice, then I have reading or journaling that I can do while at the bus stop and throughout the ride. Over the weekends, since there is usually only one practice on Saturdays and Sundays, I use the morning to recover and the entire afternoon and evening to be academically productive. During meets or training camps, keeping up is even more challenging, since there is sometimes no Internet access, or simply no time around training or competing. The most important thing that I have found with regards to the Cyberschool system is to plan and organize each week, leaving enough time in the schedule to address any classes that I fall behind in.
- What are your future plans/goals?
I am definitely hoping to be successful in the college swimming arena, to represent my team well, and hopefully still qualify for opportunities to represent Team USA as well. As far as school, after my Bachelor’s degree, I may proceed to graduate school, but I have no definitive plans yet.
6. What are your plans for college?/ What is your intended major in college?
I have committed to the University of Michigan and was accepted into the LSA Honors Program. I intend to major in Neuroscience with a Creative Writing minor.
- What, if anything, do you miss about living and attending school in Kutztown?
I definitely missing actually attending classes, with both classmates and a physical teacher. Cyberschool has its challenges as well as its perks. Baltimore was a huge cultural shock after living in Kutztown for my entire life, and while there are amazing advantages to a city (including a mass transportation system that I relied upon for a couple of years), I miss the security of a small town, and being able to walk or bike to anywhere that I needed. Aside from missing the people I know, that other major difference is my house in Kutztown versus the apartment in Baltimore. It is amazing the little things that I miss (like being able to have a yard or fireplace) when they are suddenly not available!
- Do you have any advice for any up and coming swimmers, or just for anyone who wants to accomplish a lot in their sport?
For swimmers, my advice would be first and foremost to swim only if it is your passion, because it is a sport that demands so much time and energy from you that it cannot be your parent’s choice. It must be your own. Self-discipline and motivation are key, because there are points when you are practicing or racing that you will have to push yourself, without any outside assistance. For any sport, proper technique and execution comes before achieving goals, and so pay attention to the details and the little things, because there will come a time when those details make all the difference, and you do not want to have to look back on your preparation and have regrets. Find ways to have fun! Not every practice or every competition will be fun, and there will be days when absolutely everything seems to go wrong, but still take comfort in your teammates, coaches, improving yourself, and the opportunities ahead.
9. What is the biggest lesson that you’ve learned through swimming/life in general?
This question has so many answers that I can barely choose one. There are so many lessons through the sport, from how to manage disappointment, to goal setting, independence and self-reliance, accountability, and time management. But I suppose that self-discipline and respect are the most widely applicable. If you learn how to discipline yourself in a sport setting: to go beyond what you previously thought you could do, or to continue to give your best even when exhausted, then that skill can be transferred to academics or a job, and give you a greater chance for success. As far as respect, I have met so many amazing coaches, competitors, staff, and spectators, and each deserves respect. It is not that everyone you meet will be a person that you enjoy spending time with, but being disrespectful only hurts yourself and sows animosity. There may be a time where a more flexible personality and the ability to work with others effectively is required for a specific position, and you do not want to have that opportunity denied to you because of past attitudes and behaviors.