With all of the time and energy spent in the water over the course of the season it seems a little surprising how few athletes pay attention to the mental aspect of their performance and attitude in the water.
Yes, the work required of high performance swimming is challenging. And it can certainly be frustrating at times, particularly when things aren’t going your way.
But being the swimmer that has a positive outlook and a strong and resilient mindset when it comes to their performances and training means that you are able to get past failures faster, set smarter goals, and derive more satisfaction from the process.
And, like, swim faster. And who doesn’t want that?
Think you might need to give your mindset a tweak?
Here are 5 signs that your mental approach to your training needs some improvement:
1. A majority of your thoughts are spent thinking “what-if” and “if only.”
Wishful thinking is nice—it is great to think about the things we want to achieve. But at a point wishful thinking begins to dominate your thoughts and behaviors, and that is a paralyzing transition.
You want to have your big goals, but you want to have the action that comes along with it.
This could mean spending more time creating shorter term goals and objectives for your training. It could also require you to forgo the notion that you need perfect circumstances in order to take action.
2. Your focus is on not screwing up instead of excelling.
High pressure situations tend to bring this line of thinking out of a lot of swimmers. Instead of focusing on the things they want to achieve, of dialing in mentally on the aspects of the process that they can control, they flounder in the “worst possible outcomes.”
What if my suit falls off on the start? What if I lose to my biggest rival? What if I miss my heat?
Being prepared to race in adverse conditions is one thing by mentally rehearsing all possible outcomes (Michael Phelps used this to great effect), but you can also prepare by showing up and training hard every day in practice no matter what the circumstances dictate.
This means working your butt off even though you had a short night of sleep. Or had a stressful day at work or school.
The effect of being able to crush it in practice when the situation isn’t ideal is undeniable. Excelling in the face of difficulty you develop a real confidence that is hard to fake when it comes to meet time.
3. You are constantly looking outwards for change.
When things don’t go our way in the pool, whether it is in training or competition, we have a tendency to look outwards for culpability. After all, we did everything we could to prepare and to be ready to race fast, right? (Not necessarily.)
Sure, on occasion external factors will play a role in how you perform, but at the end of the day how ready you are to swim lights-out on race day comes down to you. When you are willing to be accountable to your performance in the water it grants you full control of your swimming.
4. You are getting hung up on the negatives.
When some swimmers face a challenging situation they see only the downside.
Injured shoulder? Missed training time. Illness? More missed training time. Bad practice? Must mean that the next one will be bad too.
It’s natural to spend more time focusing on the negative things that happen to us in the pool—our brains are hard-wired to do so. But when we fixate solely on the crappy stuff that happens to us we lose out on the development of a crucial skill: adaptability.
The reality is that bad things will happen, not only in the pool but in life. What matters next is not how you fixate on what is happening to you with feelings of life being unfair, but how you will pave your way forwards.
Injured shoulder? Develop a monster kick. Sick? Get fully rested and healed up and come back roaring to go. Bad practice? Come back furious and itching for a chance to atone for it.
5. You want to have a struggle-free ascent to your goals.
When we daydream about our lofty goals and record-breaking swims we tend to forget that there is a hilariously large amount of work that stands in our way.
Having massive goals is important, but even more critical is a fundamental awareness that it is going to tough work to bring it to fruition. There will be resistance, there will be setbacks, detours and failures along the way.
The struggle, the pain and doubt that comes over the course of the day-to-day training and grind tend to make most athletes squeamish to the point that they decline stepping forth with their best effort.
They expect things to go smoothly from day one, and while they wait for those perfect conditions to materialize, the swimmer comfortable with struggle and who is realistic about the grind cruises right past them.
It’s amazing what can happen when we adjust our mindset accordingly.
Setbacks and problems suddenly don’t become so intimidating. Defeats and failures are suddenly not so debilitating.
Be the swimmer that walks on deck with a positive and open mindset and reap the rewards in not only being able to bounce back harder from adversity, but more importantly, be the swimmer that can thrive in any situation or circumstance.
Take Your Swimming to the Next Level
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more.
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