Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.
Being comfortable with your swimming is safe. It is easy. It’s the default setting. Where we are comfortable we manage to avoid risk, avoid hurting ourselves (mentally, generally speaking), and yet, we also remain placid.
Leveling up our swimming requires a daring sense of adventure. To be willing to do what we have never been able to do before. And when you embrace this adventurous view of your swimming, you approach every day at the pool as an opportunity to do something you have never done before in the history of your own swimming.
Think back to the last time you surprised yourself in practice. You held an interval that you had never done before. Dropped 5 seconds off of your best 200 kick time. Swam a near PB from a push.
Those moments, those visceral, high capacity jolts are exhilarating, aren’t they? For days afterwards you thought about that performance, wishing that you could grasp it and hold on to it forever.
There is no reason you can’t manipulate those feelings on a frequent basis. Each day go to the pool and do something you have never done before. Live on the precipice of the unknown, and dare to reach out and achieve something great and new and unknown every day.
Here are 5 tips to help shake you loose from your comfort zone:
1. Self-directed challenges are the best.
Sure, it may be rewarding to perform past the expectations that someone else holds of you (i.e. coach, parents, teammates, and so on), but the most rewarding moments are when you blast out of a comfort zone that you created for yourself. There are fewer things more satisfying than directing a plan to achieve something, and then fully and utterly completing it.
Identify the things that are limiting your thinking, that are keeping you mentally locked, perpetually circling and never advancing, and then create challenges based on them.
2. Change your environment.
Our comfort zone is one of familiarity and safety. It’s the people we surround ourselves with. The habits we have. The attitudes and behaviours we carry along with us over the course of the day.
Search out friends and teammates that share a desire to hunt down excellence wherever it lies. Seek out positive influences in your internet browsing. Improve your habits (more on this here and here).
3. Face your fears in steps.
Often times we get parked in our comfort zone because what lurks on the other side has us feeling anxious and fearful. What if we try to stretch out and end up coming short? What if our abilities don’t match up to what we dream for ourselves?
Identify what it is that has you staying in place. And then take small steps to get unstuck. They don’t have to be ground-shaking steps, but substantial enough to get energized and feeling confidant enough to keep moving forward.
4. It won’t hurt nearly as bad as you think it will.
We tend to build up the unknown in our minds. That tough set. Hell week. Coming up short on our goals.
And yet, when they come to pass, we find ourselves wondering why we had tortured ourselves mentally in the anticipation of the experience. In other words, we are fine. We are okay. We managed to survive.
When you feel the resistance pulling you back, think back to all of the times where you worried yourself to the point of inaction, went through with it anyway, and came out on the other side relatively unscathed. Have faith in the fact you are far tougher – both mentally and physically – than you give yourself credit for.
I am not talking about elongating your muscles after a particularly punishing workout – although there is certainly a place for that – but rather, learning to think yourself more capable of achieving things than you currently do.
Growth in the pool, improvement of any kind, comes from testing our boundaries. This is uncomfortable for many of us because right at the edge of improvement and where we believe our current abilities lie is risk. What if we can’t do it? What if we aren’t good enough? What if we fail?
When we are younger we have a limitless enthusiasm for new things. We brave new opportunities and tasks easily, quickly, and with a child-like naivety that we will never fail. When we learned to walk we fell many a time. But eventually we could stand, than walk, and than run, and than swim. (For some those last two may have been in opposite order.)
But as we get older we start to shut down this risk-taking part of ourselves, citing past failures, doubt, and even the naysaying as others as proof that we are actually not capable, not deserving.
Don’t shut the door on an opportunity to get better because you think there is a chance you might fail. Or that you will be uncomfortable.
Be willing to stretch yourself. Your abilities. Your talents. Your prowess in the water. It’s at the edge of our discomfort that excellence preciously balances itself, and it is up to us to brave-heartedly refuse the doubtful and negative thoughts in our minds and climb the mountain on a daily basis to grasp at it.
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. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.
NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.
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