By Olivia Poirier-Leroy//Contributor | Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Last week, we published eight ways working on your mindset will help you become the swimmer you’ve always dreamt of becoming. Here are nine more.
9. How to make the voice in your head work for you.
Each day in practice you are telling yourself a story: I feel great in the water. I feel like crap in the water. I can do this set. There’s no way I can do this.
Back and forth goes your self-talk, usually unattended, driving the way you end up performing in the water. Self-talk is the key to your mindset.
Decide what to tell yourself, and your body will generally follow (as long as it’s realistic and relevant: I can tell myself that I am 10 feet tall, but that doesn’t make it so).
Mental training includes a heap of ways to re-frame your self-talk so that you can get more from your swimming each day in practice.
The key to a better mindset starts with the way you talk to yourself in the pool.
10. How to manage pre-race stress.
Choking. It’s perhaps every swimmer’s worst nightmare. (That and having your suit fly off on the start of the Big Race…)
The nightmare is visceral, and the reality of it is just as frustrating. Training your butt off for months on end, putting the work in, hitting the race pace times—and then tensing up and cratering when it matters most.
There are things you can do—you don’t need to forever identify yourself as the kind of swimmer who chokes every time the pressure goes up.
Mental training gives you the tools to help deal with the tension and excess anxiety before big races so that you can reliably swim to the best of your ability.
11. Learn performance cues for faster swimming, more often.
One of my favorite mental training tools to use with swimmers is to have them describe the way they felt in the water over the course of an epic set or race.
Taking those same cues—“Easy speed”, for instance—we use them in future sets and to help build smarter race plans.
This little trickeroo keeps you focused on the right things in training and competition.
12. Better deal with distractions.
Swim meets (and practice) can be loud, busy and shiny affairs. Your friends are there. Parents in the stands.
With all the hustle and bustle and fast swimming going on, it can be easy to get distracted.
A clearer mindset allows you to stay focused on the things you need to do today to kick some chlorinated butt, even while surrounded by the mayhem of a double-ended, 3,000 swimmer competition.
13. You’ll do the right kind of comparison making.
How many times have your coaches told you to keep your eyes in your own lane? Probably lots, right?
Comparison-making—whether it’s to the swimmer in the next lane, or the performance from your last competition when you swam out of your mind—can oftentimes be debilitating.
But it can also be profoundly motivating when used in the right manner. Mental training will help you to decode the difference.
14. You learn to focus and build your process.
“The process” is something that mystifies a lot of swimmers I talk to.
It seems to imply that by focusing on what you can control and influence in your preparation that it means they somehow care less about the results. That by focusing on the process of executing the result, and not obsessing on the outcome, that they don’t deserve to perform.
Which is weird.
But mental training helps you lean your focus on the process of being successful, and away from fixating predominantly on the outcome.
The difference may seem meaningless from the outside, but a process-oriented swimmer is far less stressed and far more productive than the swimmer who gets solely wrapped up in the results.
15. Confidence, supercharged.
Confidence is typically treated as an innate skill. Something we have, or we don’t.
But confidence—the real, hot-blooded kind that keeps you training your brains off day after day—comes from action.
There are proven things that you can do to be more confident, more often, that have nothing to do with the things we tend to assume represent confidence: bravado, talking a big game, etc.
When you spend some time on your mindset, you learn that confidence is something you can regularly build and deploy when necessary.
16. Build race and competition plans that work for you.
Do you show up at the big meet with a plan for your preparation, or do you just kind of wing it?
By having a race plan, as well as a pre-race routine, you give yourself a powerful sense of familiarity and comfort, which can be a massive performance boost when you are competing far from home and under pressure.
Mental training means taking control of your preparation, and this extends to what you do on the day of the big race.
17. Makes for a better training environment.
When the swimmers in the group are focused on the right things at practice, are better dealing with setbacks and problems when they arise, and have a more focused and optimistic approach to the sets, what kind of effect do you think this has on the overall training atmosphere?
When the environment is less stressful, but still challenging, when there are high expectations, and a focus on dealing productively with failures, great things tend to happen.
One swimmer with a better mindset is powerful, a whole group of swimmers with a better mindset is unstoppable.
Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer and contributor to USA Swimming.
He’s the author of Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset, a 300-page workbook that gives swimmers the tools and knowledge necessary to bulletproof their performances in the pool.
He also writes a weekly mental training tips newsletter for swimmers and coaches that you can subscribe to for free here.