Mental preparation can provide an effective breakthrough in swimming, yet, it’s sometimes an overlooked element of training.
Athletes focus on tweaking training and increasing competing opportunities, which, can help but if anxiety and focus don't improve, preparing our mind to meet the target on race day may prove to be more effective.
What is mental training anyway?
It's our ability to build resilience, allow ourselves to stay focused amidst the chaos have a grip on how you react in different scenarios (in sport).
How are we able to manage our energy and focus in challenging times and work with the irregularities that competitive environments bring us? Often, the way we react to stress and our ability to refocus on the routine necessary to execute the event can help reduce nerves and keep us on track. Routine & adaptability are key.
Simulate race-like conditions
Training in a controlled environment is important for athletes. It allows the coach and swimmer to set measurable benchmarks and create a routine that reaps improvements, but sometimes the swimmers get too comfortable with the training routine and environment.
One of the most challenging training sessions I ever had was showing up at the pool on a Wednesday afternoon with my race suit. It was a 10-minute warm-up followed by swimming a 200m free dive for time. That’s it. Mentally, this training session put more pressure on me than some of the strenuous race-pace sessions and sprint sets I've had over the years. One can simply not shy away from the event, it's the intensity, and the expected result. It's facing reality. You're left with few excuses to fall back on, no hard sets swam moments prior, and no opportunity to socialize at a swim meet with friends to calm nerves. You are left with one thing, swimming fast.
Here are some mental training strategies that Olympians use to prepare for their big event that you can incorporate in training or in-season competition:
Build a pre-race and pre-workout routine that helps you build a sense of controlled and automated preparation.
Train your ability to focus and cope with changes that affect your preparation, equipment, and racing quality.
Ask yourself what truly motivates you to race and perform. What motivates you intrinsically? Can you focus on that idea when training is increasingly challenging?
Be resilient when things are falling apart, take into consideration your preparation, and often your ability to pull through even against the odds.
When you experience a set-back take a break to allow yourself to recharge and refocus.
Here's how you can get started today!
Step 1: Gradually implement small things
During your training sessions, find ways to remind yourself of the technical habits you need to work on. It all begins with the details.
Push off the wall and complete all your underwater kicks with speed and intent.
Focus on maintaining your body position and engaging the right muscles even under fatigue.
Find ways to implement the technique that helps you swim fast even when it seems like it is a lot of energy. This will help improve technique, train your mind to focus on the task and help build good training habits
Step 2: Set-up your warm-up and