Mental Toughness Tips for Swimmers

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Guest post by Chelsea Watterston / Premier Pools

The term ‘mental toughness’ refers to the resolve not to quit. Specifically, it’s the mental force that helps you stay on track and focus on maintaining perfect form even when your lungs and muscles are about to give up on you. This is what certain sports fans call ‘heart’ or ‘the will to win,’ and is romanticised in fiction as the force that spells the difference between victory and defeat.

In order to learn and master it, you’ll need these seven elements.

1. Starting out will always be the most difficult part, but once you have established an epic level of mental toughness, only a few things will be needed to motivate you. You automatically show up, get to work, and avoid dealing with the mental gymnastics associated with the need to motivate yourself.

To learn this first element, there are two things you should do, and these are:

• Making a commitment to starting out, and nothing else. For days when you’ll need to do a tough main set, just stick to warming up. When blood circulation starts to speed up and once you start feeling the strokes, you can expect the awkwardness to start going away.
• Starting small. During big days, focus on whatever challenge is in front of you to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

2. Avoid listening to negative self-talk. Humans normally underestimate themselves, even if it has been proven time and time again that anyone can, at the right conditions, surpass their own limitations. Thus, it’s safe to say that whatever you think about yourself is not necessarily true.

This does not, however, give you free pass to set unrealistic expectations on yourself during training. Instead, you need to keep in mind that what our bodies are actually capable of will always be an unknown until we actively try to surpass those limits.

3. Always compete with yourself and stay hungry for improvement. If you’ve just done a bad set, ask yourself what elements made it a bad set and then remove those elements so your next will be better overall.

4. Develop helpful routines. While it is true that by switching things up, you stay engaged and interested in what you do, this will only cause you to go on nonstop detours. The only way switching routines works is ifit is done in order to achieve certain goals and milestones. Thus, it is best that routines developed be in line with the milestones and goals that need to be achieved.

5. Focusing on your strengths is better than trying to be good at so many things. Trying to be amazing at so many things results in the watering down of your efforts, the thinning out of results, and being only decent at those things. By choosing to be good at just a few things, you can actually excel at something and actually have an edge over the competition.

6. Commit to doing more and doing better than the competition. Doing more can mean practicing on the weekends or until late at night. This may mean doing your research and watching tapes at dawn. This can even mean practicing in a pool made by Premier Pools filled with very cold water.

The point is, you may need to put yourself in an uncomfortable position to get better in the sport, and if the time does come that you’ll need to do so, you should take pride in it, because it’s what top athletes do. This does not mean, however, that rest should be taken for granted. Rather, you should take rest periods just as seriously. After your practice session, you can take a dip in any of the hot tubs and spas nearest you, for example.

7. Set up some cues into the workout. You will lose focus at times, and cues help get the mind back on track. While the simple “FOCUS!” is more than enough to get you back in action, physical cues, such as three deep breaths and the clenching of fists, are proven to be more effective. Combine both phrase and physical cue methods and you have a tool so effective in priming up your body for maximum performance instantly.

Swimming is a very challenging sport, not only in the physical sense, but also in the mental sense. By attaining and maintaining your mental toughness, you can keep overcoming challenges, surpassing limits, and winning competitions.

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About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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