Most swimmers work hard physically in training, but this is not enough, not if you really want to be successful. Swimmers must also practice mental preparation at training as well.
One of the worst things (for self-confidence) and one of the best things (for improvement) is to regularly compare yourself to better swimmers in your own team or squad. Yes - I know this doesn't seem to make sense, so let me explain. Laura, a swimmer, asked me about this recently, and the answer is that comparing yourself to others can be a 'double-edged sword' - meaning it can be good OR bad for you, depending on your personality type.
Pain can be one of the toughest hurdles to overcome for a swimmer, which I am sure you already know - however, one thing that is not well known is that you can regulate how much pain you will feel. Yes, this is really possible, and it is not difficult, it just takes practice (like anything!). Your subconscious mind is in complete control your pain levels, and it also has the capacity to kill pain immediately by releasing the natural painkiller morphine into your system. Yes, this is the very same painkiller routinely used in hospitals for major accident victims, and it is created inside your own body at the command of your own subconscious.
Ian Thorpe provided a few subtle but valuable insights after his 3rd consecutive world record at the 2001 World Championships during the week at Fukuoka, Japan. I just wanted to mention these before beginning today's topic of breaking through mental barriers. After winning 200m freestyle in a fabulous tussle with his friend, the great Pieter van den Hoogenband, he mentioned how this race had been his main focus since the Olympics and that he truly believed that he would always be tough to compete against as his preparation was always so complete.
Some swimming goals can actually create stress, and hence become twice as difficult to achieve. A reader contacted me about how making the cut for National swim meet was her primary goal, but that she could never stop thinking about it and it was driving her crazy. If this ever happens to you, then this is a sign that your swimming goal needs to be changed in some way.
P is for Perfectionism
By Dr. Aimee Kimball, Mental Training Consultant
Wouldn’t we all like to be perfect and live a Ferris Bueller type of life, Of course we would, but reality makes perfection pretty hard to achieve. I know far too many swimmers who, when they don’t have the perfect race, are extremely hard on themselves. This article will focus on the concept of perfectionism and how to encourage individuals to be OK with being slightly less than perfect.
By Dr. Aimee Kimball, Sport Psychologist//Correspondent
The demands of sprinters are much different than those of distance swimmers, both physically as well as mentally.
Being fast while being relaxed, and swimming strong while not trying too hard are often challenges sprinters face. This article will focus on the mental demands of sprinters and offer some quick tips to be mentally tough.
One of the popular questions I get asked by swimmers is "what’s the best way to handle nerves?" The answer is, of course, is relaxation.
But before we talk about that, it’s firstly important not to panic if you find nerves affecting you before a swimming race, it’s perfectly normal and actually a very good sign that you are psyched up and ready to go. Every great swimmer, in fact, any athlete or performer, feels nervous every time they go out there, and very often if they don’t feel nervous, they’ll actually worry about not being psyched up enough to perform well!
One of the toughest experiences for a swimmer is to physically and mentally build up for a big race or swim meet only to discover that they don't achieve their swimming goals. This is something every swimmer must learn to overcome, as even the world's best do not achieve every single goal in their lifetime. But the hardest part is to emotionally detach from the goal and move on to new goals, as often the swimmer can experience huge disappointment and a let down after the swim meet is over.