For most college students, Christmas break is a long-awaited escape from the strenuous day-to-day life of college. However, for some athletes at Oklahoma Christian University, Christmas break brings forward the hardest and longest days of training.
Junior swimmer Griffen Cornell is one of those athletes. Cornell is a sprinter for the swim team at Oklahoma Christian and is on the travel team for the school. For Cornell, Christmas break ends a week earlier because the team is set to travel to San Antonio for a week of the hardest training of the season on Dec. 28th through Jan. 4th.
“The swim team will be participating in a training trip on the last week of the Christmas break,” Cornell said. “The training over Christmas break is definitely the hardest training all season. Since we don’t have any academic work to do over the training period, the coaches shift our focus heavily to training.”
Cornell says leaving his family and home a week early is not the ideal situation, but being able to focus strictly on the sport is a large benefit of the trip.
“Having our Christmas break cut short definitely isn’t an ideal situation, but being able to spend a week with my teammates without the stress of school work is a positive,” Cornell said. “The training trip allows us as a team to push ourselves very hard in practice, while spending time with each other in between practices. Not to mention for some, it is one of the few times we can get a healthy amount of sleep in the midst of training.”
Team chemistry is a large part of any sport, and Cornell says training over Christmas break together helps to bring the team together as they push into the end of the season.
“Growing as a team is a large part of the benefits of the training trip,” Cornell said. “We grow together every tough set we knock out together. There is a lot of comradery that is present towards the end of a difficult set, and the training trip consists of nothing but very challenging sets. We have much more free time in between practices that we primarily spend doing activities together as a team or hanging out with our tight-knit friend groups.”
Cornell says since he is an electrical engineering major, it is hard for him to juggle academics and swimming during the regular schedule, and although the training trip is inconvenient, his favorite part of the grueling process is being able to focus strictly on swimming.
“My favorite part of the training trip is being able to rest and recover in between practices with my team,” Cornell said. “Normally in the semester my schedule consists of early practice, classes, evening practice, or at bare minimum an ab workout, and then homework at the end of the day. During the training trip, we have one afternoon practice, about 9-10 hours to relax, then a late evening practice.”
The physical and mental toll is the worst part according to Cornell. He says the week of intense training is very tasking mentally and physically, and it leaves everyone drained at the end of the week.
“My least favorite part is the difficult training and the mental and physical tax on our bodies,” Cornell said. “It is very difficult to go to a two-hour practice twice a day for six days when every practice leaves everyone completely exhausted. It is also difficult to get past the mental barrier your brain puts on your body when you have reached the absolute brink of exhaustion at the end of every workout.”