Many swimmers who write to me often seem to feel they are experiencing a problem that most other swimmers do not - yet nothing could be further from the truth. It may be very helpful to know a big secret - that a huge amount of swimmers go through the very same problems, all over the world - and they quite often experience these over and over again - yes, sometimes even for years.
Believe it or not, the way you practice today is going to have a direct result upon your results in the near future.
The main reason why a swimmer experiences a dry spell of PB's (assuming their strokes are technically correct) is simply due to the huge influence of subconscious belief.
A coach asked me in desperation a few weeks ago how to handle an increasingly common situation in highly competitive swimming - where swimmers within his team were openly sniping at each other, with swimmers exchanging insults, put-downs, harsh criticism and backstabbing.
There is one common problem which happens over and over again with countless swimmers all over the world, and even though I don't know you personally, today is the day I am going to make absolutely certain it never happens to you ever again. This problem happens even at the most elite level, as Ian Thorpe mentioned it at the World Championships in Fukuoka Japan.
Sometimes you can want something so much, you chase it away. This is very common in swimming, where quite often, the best swimmer often doesn't win the race.
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.
Fatigue outside of the pool is an issue which is just as important as fatigue in the pool - as this can affect your performance on many different levels, in both training and meets. This is a problem I regularly get asked about by concerned swimmers.
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.
A common problem I come across is where a swimmer (for various reasons) are actually scared to win - often feeling too scared to finish a race off, or pass a particular swimmer in a meet or even training. This can be due to a variety of reasons - such as intimidation, fear and (yes, believe it or not) even being physically hit by competitors as they pass them in races! But what it really comes down to is that these swimmers are simply scared of success - and (more correctly) the unwanted attention that success will bring. This might sound ridiculous but it is far more common than most people imagine.