My coach has suggested that I keep a swim journal? I am not sure why I should spend the time on this.
I am a firm believer in the power of writing down our dreams, goals, and experiences we go through, such as training, racing, nutrition, school, social life, reflective time, etc.
I have kept a journal since 3rd grade, and it is fascinating to go back and read much of what I wrote during different periods in my life. We can find patterns that evolve in how we think, feel, are motivated, and what we do based on them.
For swimming, I liked to track my training and race performances, such as actual sets I did in practice, what I held, let’s say, on a set of 10x100s. What kind of set it was supposed to be (all out, recovery, drills, what did I hold per 50 in the 100s, or what specifically). I would note details of such sets, so that I could review it later, if we had a similar set later in the season. I could see if I did better or worse, and what else I was doing around that time. Was I doing more weights that might have caused me to be tired? Was I closer to taper time? As I review sets, do I find a pattern that having a day off and then racing is best for me, or having a really hard day before I do really well in a meet or practice? How does this change from the middle of the season to the end of the season?
What did I feel good about in practice today, and when did I space out, give up, or not do as well as I had wished. I found it helpful to review yardage, intensity, rest, nutrition, stressors that could be distracting me, communication with my coach, family, friends, and peers.
At a meet, what did I exactly do in warm up to get ready for my event? Did I swim 3 events that day? Which one did I feel best in?
If I had a great race, what was I thinking (or not), how did I feel, was I calm, excited (where was I in terms of arousal)? What was my focus like? Did I use distraction to help or hurt me? Was I super focused? Basically, look at what is working and what isn’t. Note that at some meets, you might need to calm yourself down more than normal vs. get excited. There is much that can be written about this – I go into much more depth on the psychological side in my book, about how to prepare for a performance. For now, just start with what seems important to you.
So many factors play out when we train and perform.
The more we become attentive to how we are training, and living outside of the pool, the easier it will be to try a new training idea, or race a new strategy, based on past information.
When we take time to observe our own habits, we have more awareness that can allow us to make positive changes.
As I work with clients, I have often been told how journaling has been a powerful asset not only in their swimming, but in every aspect of their lives. Even writing about stressful events can release a lot of repressed feelings, and often times a solution can come as we let it out on paper.
Most importantly, use the journal as an opportunity to notice what you are doing really well (i.e. got focused even after a rough day, started using the pace clock, I knew my times on a set, I knew my splits within a set, started being more committed by attending 1 more practice per week, and so on,) and what you can improve on.
I encourage you to keep a journal, and see what you notice as you do. Take time to read it about once per week, as you set new intentions for the next week. It can help you take small steps and feel supported as you focus on your bigger dream.
Katrina Radke is an Olympic Swimmer, Sport Psychology Professor, and Bestselling Author of Be Your Best Without the Stress, where she shares her own Olympic story, and tools for you to realize your true potential.
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