“Every day I want a world championship medal. I want to win, and I train for that.” Joju Aranda is crystal clear when it comes to his performance goals in swimming. At the age of 46, Aranda is one of the top masters swimmers in Spain with more motivation than ever, recently setting two new national records at a provincial championship meet.
Aranda had an excellent swimming career when he was younger, progressing quickly and earning a spot on the Spanish national team where he raced successfully for many years. He naturally transitioned into coaching during his final years of university, making a progressive change from being in the pool to being on deck. Today, Aranda coaches athletes from all over the world from his home in the Canary Islands but he still swims. And he is still fast.
“It’s about finding motivation,” Aranda says. “You’re never too old. We have so many examples of people training with a lot of years. If you feel too old, you need to find motivation. We all need to learn, enjoy, and evolve,” Aranda explains. Aranda’s motivation is a world championship medal and when the 2022 competition was cancelled, Aranda was disappointed but simply turned his focus to European championships and an open water crossing in between two of the Canary Islands.
Finding motivation is one thing, keeping it is another. After such a long and successful career, Aranda says his motivation is from maintaining life balance. “Not in one year but in the life of your career,” he explains. “Sport is a lifestyle.” Consistent, year after year intense training might have been something Aranda did when he was young, but, Aranda laughs, “You can’t do that for thirty years.”
The difference now, Aranda says, is that he trains and competes more with his mind. Years and years of swimming has given him the technique and physical ability to train and compete but it’s the years of experience, personal growth, and his deep relationship with the water that really fuel his competitive fire. While his times might be slower (only by a second or two), his mindset skills have continued to develop and it’s that progression, that matured perspective, that not only makes him a competitive athlete but also defies the convention the high performance is reserved for the young.
In his last competition, Aranda says training hadn’t been going well. He had to spend some time in quarantine, he had family obligations over the holidays, and even when he was able to swim, he had to keep training easy and short. Before heading to the competition, Aranda says he knew he didn’t have the best fitness, but he took it as a challenge: “ok, I will compete more with my mind. Open your mind, let’s go, and we will see. And it was good,” he smiles.
“When you are younger, you have more pressure, and your performance is the priority—it is always first. Then you change: priority is training, enjoying, staying happy and healthy, and then the performance goals,” Aranda says. It’s not about having smaller or less ambitious motivations, only changing what has the priority in the experience. “The idea is the same,” Aranda says, “high performance is for everyone. It’s giving all that you have in every moment—with a good attitude.”