The right question at the right time can alter the course of our swimming.
Whether it’s after a great swim practice (“How can I replicate those results more often?”) or after a terrible meet (“How can I make sure that never happens again?”), asking the right questions can lead us towards creating better answers and faster swimming for ourselves in the pool.
Here are five questions that you can use repeatedly over the course of a season to help propel your training and results in competition:
What does my perfect day of training look like?
Champion swimmers are built in practice.
They are honed and sculpted through a seemingly endless number of sessions and meters in the water. Each day you are given an opportunity to develop the result you want: are you doing the things each day that will give you the outcome you desire?
Essentially, this question is asking you what the process of becoming the swimmer you want to become looks like.
From sunrise to sunset, what does the typical day of the champion swimmer consist of in your case? What are the things you are working on each day, what are the blades you are sharpening, where is your focus and energy going to go on a daily basis?
The best swimmers in the world don’t just produce the best results, they produce the best process.
How hard am I actually training?
Our biases are sneaky little things. They convince us that we are working harder than we really are, that we are showing up to more practices than we are, and that we are doing all the other tangibles—getting enough sleep, managing our nutrition—to the best of our ability.
Sitting down at the end of each workout and trying to distance yourself from them is critical in developing free-range self-awareness: one of the things that truly separates champions from the rest of us.
You don’t need to write a 1500 word essay in your training journal, a simple 1-5 ranking each time you get out of the water will keep you more accountable and on top of pushing yourself in practice.
Am I focusing on the things that I can control?
News bulletin: swimming is a competitive sport. Performed with other swimmers. Competitively. In a pool.
Which means that at some point the way we perform is going to be measured up against how others swim. As a result, we can get lost in comparison-making, often to the detriment of our performance.
Obsessing about how other swimmers are training and performing can be a motivational boost—it lights a fire under your butt to push yourself—or it can be the kindling of anxiety and stress.
The next time you catch yourself getting bent out of shape from something you can’t control, step back and refocus on something you can control. Your preparation. Your technique. Your pre-race routine. And so on.
Am I being consistent with my attitude?
A lot of swimmers have no problem displaying awesome character when things are going well.
Enthusiastically showing up to practice after a great meet, or doing the workout when you “feel like it”, or cheering on a teammate when you are in a good mood—these things are easy to do when our swimming is going our way.
It’s when things that aren’t going well where your true character reveals itself.
Your attitude and character are reflected in the moments of adversity. That’s when we really see what you are like. When you have a bad workout. Or when you get DQ’d. Or when you are tired and exhausted and the last thing you want to do is head back to the pool for another round of pace 100’s.
Am I setting the standard for others to follow?
Not all of us are masters of the pep talk, or like to be the vocal leader—but any one of us can lead by example.
You can be the one to complete the set even when coach isn’t watching. You can be the one to keep track of the reps and intervals. You can be the swimmer who doesn’t give up on the interval when it gets tough. And you can be the one to help take down the equipment after practice without being told or asked to.
Leadership isn’t about being the fastest swimmer in the pool, or giving cinema-worthy speeches—the most powerful form of leadership is example and action.
This kind of leadership has another side-benefit: by encouraging others to rise to your level you are creating a culture that promotes success for everyone, including you.
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