Over the course of the hundreds of articles that I have written over the past couple years for SwimSwam I have repeatedly touched on the importance of training the noodle between your ears in order to swim fast.
That once you get your swimming habits in order, are willing to take the steps necessary to master yourself mentally, that unbelievable things can happen for you in the water.
When you get a hold of your mindset, crazy stuff happens.
- Your mindset is what dictates whether you give up on that tough set long before your body gives in on you.
- It’s what separates the swimmers leading the lane day in and day out at practice, and the talented athlete who swims with the current instead, content to lag behind the pace.
- And it’s why some swimmers always seem to be able to dominate the pool when it matters most. It’s the reason some athletes show up consistently and crush the competition at meets.
Here are some simple, yet powerful, tactics to embrace the mindset of an elite swimmer this season:
It’s not enough to have big goals in the pool.
We all want great things from ourselves with our swimming.
The friction comes when we find resistance to our goals, whether it is as a result of a lack of progress, injury, illness, or any other myriad of hurdles that will come our way.
To get from planning to being in the arena, daily fighting the battles that come with grinding after a big goal you need to adopt adaptability.
When things don’t go your way, you adapt.
Injured shoulder? Strap on those fins and get some vertical kicking in.
Had a bad meet? Change the training circumstances moving forward.
Not getting the sleep you need? Hack your sleeping environment until you find what works for you.
Being adaptable is a hugely powerful trait that will help you navigate through the minefield of setbacks that will inevitably happen as you train your butt off towards excellence.
Being vulnerable, I can hear you say. What?
I know, being vulnerable probably isn’t the first thing to come to mind when you think about swimmers who have elite mindsets, but when you open yourself to the fact that maybe you don’t have all the answers, and that there are weak areas in your swimming than you are better prepared to learn from and take advantage of those soft spots.
Being vulnerable doesn’t mean being a pushover, or being soft with your goals.
It’s about acknowledging that there is much to be learned from moments where we come up short. It’s about recognizing that we need to grow with our goals. That we should have an open mind about our training and the seemingly reasonless sets coach scrawls up on the board.
And that we should be willing to reach out and ask for help when we need it.
As a vulnerable athlete you are less likely to suffer from excessive hubris, and it even allows you to set more realistic and ultimately motivating goals for yourself.
Doesn’t sound so bad, now does it?
Be more focused.
Being more focused sounds easy, right?
Stare harder at the set on the white board. Focus with all of the mental resources available to you on having a high elbow catch. Brain strain your way to having loose ankles and hips when you kick.
But I am talking about being more focused in a broader context.
About how the rest of your life fits into your training.
It’s natural to want everything. We are told that if we just work hard enough that we can have our cake and eat it too. That we can train ten times a week, go to school full time, work part-time, have a social life, and have enough time to binge watch 2 television series per week.
If only we work hard enough.
The reality is this: if you want hyper-fast results in the pool, you will need to laser-focus your efforts around that.
Yes, balance is important. Massively important.
You need the downtime away from the pool to recover both physically and mentally. This isn’t a call to abandon the rest of your life to dedicate solely on your swimming.
But you are fooling yourself if you think that you can go out three nights a week with your friends and still be in any kind of reasonable condition to make the prescribed morning workouts.
Train with no regrets.
There are fewer worse feelings than knowing you are better than the performance that you just laid down.
If only you had given a better effort at practice, been more consistent with making workouts, and had done the seemingly tiny things that would have added up to making a big difference.
Opportunities are limited, despite what we lead ourselves to believe from time to time. There are a finite days of training and competition at hand.
Sadly, we won’t always have the chance to do awesome things in the pool.
This season install a sense of urgency in your training so that when you fly into the touch pad at the end of the year during your best event and look up at the scoreboard, you can do it with a clear conscience and an awareness that the swim represents your very best efforts.
It happens to all of us—we get locked in to a lane or training regimen that is dead-center within our comfort zone.
When we find ourselves in the default setting, in the tried-and-true, in a place where there is nothing to be risked and even less to be gained, it’s time to challenge your comfort zone.
Growth and improvement comes from stretching ourselves and our self-perceived limits.
Don’t underestimate the power of being uncomfortable—it not only forces you into a position where you need to stretch what you consider possible, but the resulting confidence that comes from having leveled up will only feed the positive feedback loop encouraging you to do it again.
(In other words, you become an habitual envelope pusher!)
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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