Don’t treat mental training or improving your mindset as a one-off. It takes patience and consistency, just like anything else in the pool.
One of the frustrating realities of training—and this goes beyond mindset, we could just as easily be talking about your conditioning, your technique, attention to your nutrition, and so on—is that it’s an ongoing process.
Even though we tend to believe that once we work hard enough, put enough time in, and sacrifice enough we will be able to coast towards more improvement based on our previous hard work.
It doesn’t work this way.
Improving requires continual effort.
It never stops.
You need to bring the knowledge and the tools with you to the pool with you every day and continue working at improving it.
Case in point.
Last night I walked out onto the cold pool deck of a local aquatic center with a workout that had been emailed to me by an old coach. The workout was straightforward: a descending 500-400-300-200-100 warm-up with assorted swim, kick, pull and drill.
And then straight into a test set of 20x100s swim as fast as possible on 1:30.
For two days I thought about this set.
I would go so far as saying that I rued the thought of it. I knew it was going to hurt. I’d done this exact set before, but having someone else send it—and awaiting the results—added a layer of pressure to the workout.
In addition, the set was going down towards the end of the week, coming off of 12 straight days of training. I’d be feeling like a pile of smashed up pull buoys at the bottom of the equipment bin.
As the set got underway I found myself playing it a little cautiously. I had to resort to the full bag of tricks in order to crank up the speed and do the set as instructed:
- I created more ends: focused on doing sets of 5 at a time. When five got to be daunting, I concentrated on that rep and that rep alone.
- I counted strokes in order to distract myself from my muscles and lungs screaming for oxygen and rest.
- Reminded myself over and over again how satisfied I would be by working my butt off.
And so on.
Even though I know this stuff, and regularly practice it, the voices of doubt still persist. The brakes still get pumped when a hard effort nears—even if it’s mostly subconscious.
And the little whispers of “relax man, you can take it easy” continue to pipe up, even when I know for a chlorinated fact that they are baseless and full of you-know-what.
These impediments to a full and complete effort in the water—and the maxed out results that it brings along with it—keep showing up, even after you read and learn about how to deal with them.
Now, maybe that’s not what you want to hear.
You’d prefer to believe that learning about mental toughness will suddenly make you impervious to the mental roadblocks of the past.
You want to think that it gets easier after a while.
That you can coast through after throwing down a streak of hard work.
But the reality is that doubt and those mental hurdles will keep showing up. You just need to make sure that you do, too.
Remember: It doesn’t get easier, you just get faster.
Mental Training Doesn’t Stop at the End of a Book
Since launching Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset I’ve been getting a ton of emails from swimmers who are excited about what is to come. “Buzzing” was one way it was described from a former Olympian.
I can understand how reading that book—or any other book on honing your mindset—can give you a burst of enthusiasm for what’s possible in the water.
Take the tools you learn, whether it’s self-talk, visualization, setting better goals, and continue to work at it. A better mindset isn’t something you do and forget about: it requires maintenance, consistency, and above all, patience.
More Stuff Like This:
Trust the Process. If it’s success you want in the pool, stop worrying about it and start focusing on this instead.
This Mental Training Workbook Will Help You Swim Like a Rock Star This Season. Confused about mental training? Want to unleash pro mode on your swimming this year? Learn how this mental training workbook will change your mindset and help you pummel your PB’s this season.
Why Change is So Hard in the Pool (and How to Make It Easier). We all want change in some measure—so why is it so dang difficult to make happen? Here’s the reality behind making change that actually sticks in the pool.
17 Things That Mental Training Will Do for Your Swimming. Not entirely sure what mental training can do for you? Here’s just a sampling of the superpowers it gives you in the water.