A Head Swim Coach asked if I could focus some tips on training for swim meets, as well as the events themselves, for some very valid reasons. He teaches his swimmers that if they maintain positive thoughts and attitudes during the training session, it does two things; firstly it greatly improves their enjoyment of each session, and secondly, it helps them to prepare for the actual meet, as it's much easier to be positive at a meet when you've practiced being that way everyday. He also believes that as so much time is put into training (as opposed to meets) that this time can surely be used for practicing new techniques such as mental training, and he is absolutely correct. So here are a few tips you might like to try in your daily training (but not necessarily all at once!).
- One method is that when you are on the block, to imagine that there is a huge crowd watching and that this is a huge race. This mentally prepares you for the big occasion, making it much easier for you when you are in that actual situation. Change the occasion each time, and you can even pretend it's an Olympics or Pan Pacs race, there's absolutely no limits to your imagination.
- Another method is to experiment with using affirmations during training, repeating a positive statement such as "power and speed" (or anything of your choice) over and over again, to the perfect rhythm of your stroke rate. This does several things; it sends powerful messages to the subconscious mind, and also distracts the conscious mind (the primary reason behind bad performances) from being involved in the swim, which is what you want. I must emphasise the importance of experimenting with this technique, as it works brilliantly for some, whilst others prefer not to use it at all. The affirmation can even be a song or tune you sing to yourself (which many swimmers use already), as this can be a great relaxer for the mind and body, which promotes good performances. If you find an affirmation that works well and seems to give you a boost, try bringing it into your swims at meets.
- Another method is to practice 'positive reinforcement' by asking yourself each day before you train (or even race) "what do I love about swimming today?", and mentally go through a checklist of all the things you think are great today. For example:
This promotes a positive thought pattern and positive emotional state, essential to strong performances. This is a great method which coaches can get their swimmers to use before each session begins. This method can even help to bring a swimmer out of a bad mood which may have come from an earlier experience that day.
- I feel great today.
- My friends are here at training.
- I love training in this pool.
- I really want to put in a good training session today.
- My coach is helpful and get on well with him/her.
- I'm practicing for a meet in 2 week's time.
- I've had a great day so far.
- Another method was suggested some months ago by another coach, which was to: Each day (or week) challenge yourself to do 'the best turns (dives/kicks/etc) of my life today'. This focuses your mind on one particular aspect of the swim rather than 'everything at once', which helps improve that area of your stroke, and this works great for training (although it's not so effective for meets).
- Yet another method is to imagine that as you get towards the end of your sets, and you are feeling the pain beginning to build, imagine that your body is releasing 'energy' into your body which kills the pain and gives your body a huge boost of energy. In reality, this is what your body can actually do. Your body contains natural morphine which is designed to kill pain whenever we need it, which is released into the painful area by the subconscious mind. Practicing this technique daily can literally lead to training and racing almost pain-free.
Your attitude to training is a good indicator of how you will perform in the meets. Begin making mental training a part of your daily routine, and you will notice some major improvements.