First, you set yourself a target. Then there is work, work and still more work. There are results. That gives you motivation to continue towards the aim you set yourself at the start. Every athlete follows this process numerous times during their career, and 22-year-old swimmer Luis Troughton is no exception. He has a dream in mind, and he intends to achieve it no matter what it takes.
For the past ten years the water has been Luis' natural habitat but it wasn't until the week of his 19th birthday that his competitive spirit really took off, because that was when he took part in his first Andalusian championship.
This swimmer from Malaga suffers from a condition called lumbosacral agenesia, better known as caudal regression syndrome, a congenital malformation which confines him to a wheelchair. However, he has not allowed this disability to set him back, nor has it stopped him dreaming. Every day, Luis puts on his backpack and heads for the swimming pool, determined to do better every time. Although he has been doing this for several years now, recently his progress has increased more than he ever thought possible.
During the weekend of 12 and 13 December, Luis took part at the national adapted swimming championship at the municipal pools in Oviedo, with the Andalusian team. A week earlier, during training, he had swum 50 metres breaststroke in about 55 seconds. In the competition, his time was 53.48. "I wasn't expecting that!" he says now.
It earned him top marks in his category, and was his fastest time so far. He ended in first place, but didn't receive the gold medal because of the way the scores are marked, as each competitor's score is compared with the world record in each category and that determines how the medals are allocated.
"The medal isn't important. Beating my personal record is what matters to me. The satisfaction comes from knowing that you have improved so much," he says.
His dream now is to compete with the Spanish team. "What we're working on now, although I know it's in the long term, is to try to get through to a European championship and to do that I need to improve over 100 metres," he says.
In the national competition he did improve his time over that distance, from 2.05 minutes during training to 2.02. "I would need to be able to do it in 1.40, so I'm going to keep working towards that," he insists.
The date of the next championship isn't certain yet, although if the coronavirus situation improves it could be the National Open in Adapted Swimming in Valdepeñas, possibly in February, and then the next Spanish championship which could be in March.
As we saw earlier, one of the most important aspects of an athlete's career is work, and plenty of it. Luis had made so much progress last year that a few months ago he joined the Real Club Mediterráneo adapted swimming group, and saw his results improve even more.
"All the work we have done in these three months has had a really good result," he says.
He used to train five days a week for an hour and a half each time. Now, he spends two or three hours a day, six days a week, training with Olympic swimmer Melquiades Álvarez, for whom he has nothing but praise.
"He is an absolutely fantastic trainer, he really pushes me as far as I can go," says Luis. "And now that I'm training twice as much as before, I'm doing about 18 hours a week."
Reflecting on his situation now, after having set himself such an ambitious target, Luis Troughton realises that having worked hard and achieved positive results has given him the motivation he needed to keep going.
"I need to focus on what I have to do, and that is to improve, to work, and to keep beating my personal best," he says. And he certainly has the determination to do it.