Sports Psychology Tips for Swimmers - Table of Contents

Sports Psychology - Mind Training for Swimmers

The table of contents for swimming sports psychology tips for swimmers and parents of swimmers from Craig Townsend.

The Most-Common Recurring Swimming Problems

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.

You Are Creating Your Future Swimming Results Right Now

Believe it or not, the way you practice today is going to have a direct result upon your results in the near future.

Reasons Behind Your Swimming Best Times Drought

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.

Handling Harsh Swimming Criticism

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.

The Most Common Swimming Mental Mistake

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.

Hungry To Win vs. Afraid To Lose in Swimming

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.

Breaking Through Mental Swimming Barriers

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.

Overcoming Swimming Fatigue Out Of The Swimming Pool

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.

Overcome Pain During Swim Training and Swimming Races

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.

The Common Fear Of Swimming Success

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.

Modify Your Swimming Goal If It's Stressing You Out!

Some goals can actually create stress, and hence become twice as difficult to achieve. A reader contacted me about how making the cut for Nationals by August was her primary goal, but that she could never stop thinking about it and it was driving her crazy.

Watch Out For Silent Saboteurs To Your Swimming

When you are at a meet, there are all kinds of silent hazards to watch for which can affect your mental attitude (and your races) - and many swimmers don't even know they are there. Recognizing these hazards is the main step towards a successful mindset - as many swimmers don't recognize them and simply allow their mental approach (and their races) to be silently sabotaged - without even knowing it!

Comparing Yourself To Faster Swimmers - Good or Bad?

One of the worst things (for self-confidence) and one of the best things (for improvement) is to regularly compare yourself to better swimmers in your own team or squad. Yes - I know this doesn't seem to make sense, so let me explain. Laura Broadbent, a swimmer with Stratford Kinsmen Y Aquatic Club in Ontario Canada asked me about this recently, and the answer is that comparing yourself to others can be a 'double-edged sword' - meaning it can be good OR bad for you, depending on your personality type.

Think Powerful, Successful Swimming Thoughts

Being a successful swimmer is not just something you do in the water. It follows you everywhere you go in life. Being successful in the pool means thinking successfully out of the pool as well. It means expecting the best - of yourself and of others. It means never being satisfied with anything that is second-rate, but demanding excellence of yourself in all areas of your life. Powerful thoughts.

The 5 Major Beliefs for Swimming Success

What you believe is more important than anything when you are about to race. Of course, thoughts are important, but your beliefs will actually determine your results. So I have come up with what I regard as the 5 most important beliefs to remember when you are approaching a meet - instill these into your mind and make them your automatic attitude to all meets from now on. These beliefs can transform your performance without even changing a single thing in your training - they create inner change which automatically creates the outer changes you desire. But creating these beliefs is the hard work which I leave up to you - this is where your discipline must come in.

Surviving All The Swim Meet and Swim Team Pressures And Still Winning

Being a winner often requires having some time alone to psych yourself mentally into shape, which means NOT always being the 'life of the party' with your team - and unfortunately this is not always popular with all squad members or team mates. Here are some guidelines designed to help you continue winning - whilst keeping everyone happy and the pressure from your team to a minimum. Meets and team expectations can occasionally force swimmers into situations where they find themselves racing without any mental preparation, and this does not bring success.

Learn To Mentally Prepare in Swim Practice

Most swimmers work hard physically in training - but this is not enough, not if you really want to be successful. You must also practice your mental preparation at training as well.

Psychological Swimming Warfare to Avoid

Some swimmers can try and play subtle little mental tricks on you (designed to give them an advantage) without you even knowing. These can only affect you a) if you allow them to, and b) if you do not realize what they are doing. Mental energy should never be wasted upon worrying about anything these swimmers say or do, as that is exactly what they want you to do - focus upon problems instead of the race!

Handling Psychological Swimming Warfare

Races are often won and lost before they even begin. Some swimmers who know this often try playing subtle mental tricks on their competitors - designed to give them a mental advantage without you even knowing it is happening. Occasionally these can backfire on the swimmer by taking their focus off their own race, but it is also important to be ready to handle these unexpected 'attacks'.

How Do I Cope If I Don't Achieve My Swimming Goal?

One of the toughest experiences is for a swimmer to physically and mentally build up for a big race or event, only to discover that they don't achieve their goal. This is something every swimmer must learn to overcome, as even the world's best do not achieve every single goal in their lifetime. But the hardest part is to emotionally detach from the goal and move on to new goals, as often the swimmer can experience huge disappointment and a 'let down' after the event is over.

A Swimming Pre-Race Psych Up - Powerful, Unique, Unlimited Swimming

There is no-one like you. You are unique. There is no-one to compete with, because you are different from the rest. No-one has your strokes, technique, mind or body - but you. This is where you have the advantage.

Nervousness Is Good for Swimming

Probably the most powerful and under-rated ally that you possess during your races is your own nervousness! Almost every swimmer I speak to seems to regard nervousness as a sign of weakness, something bad and which they are often ashamed to admit. This is the exact opposite of what it really is! Nervousness creates great performances. If you are not the slightest bit nervous before a really big race, it's quite possible that you are not truly psyched for the event, and this may not provide you with your best possible swim on the day.

Your Swim Team's Influence On Your Swim Training and Swimming Performances

The atmosphere at training can have a huge effect upon your future results at meets. Jeremy Tillman from Holyoke YMCA Vikings in Massachusetts wrote to me as he noticed that in the past he was greatly affected if a swimmer in the lane next to him was not trying as hard as he was. This touches on a subject which is highly under-estimated and rarely discussed - the huge influence your team has on your performance. Each team or squad possesses its own collective group attitude or mindset which has the capability to either raise each swimmer to the greatest heights of their ability, or pull them all down to the depths of despair if not watched carefully.

Unconscious Swimming Sabotage

One of the most frustratingly powerful negative forces in swimming (to avoid) is unconscious sabotage. This is definitely the one to avoid at all costs! Unconscious sabotage causes a swimmer to 'self-destruct' during the pressure of a race, through making a host of major and uncharacteristic errors that were simply never there during training. This is certainly not fun, as there's absolutely nothing you can consciously do at the time to change the situation, as the problem is not conscious, it's sub-conscious (or below our normal conscious awareness).

Swimming and the Power of One

It's important for you to know that you have a mind as powerful as a Ferrari just waiting for your instructions. This unbelievable computer mechanism you possess has the ability to create huge personal best times (through a mental state known as 'the zone'), overcome pain instantly, and create an immense burst of energy (through natural adrenalin-release) at a time when you may feel that you can't swim another stroke.

The Power of Tailoring Your Swimming Visualization

Visualization is the most powerful transformational tool on the planet. If you want to make great strides forward in your swimming, you must visualize the perfect swim regularly. But you must also tailor your race visualization.

Never Focus On Other Swimmers

What motivates you to swim well in a race? The answer to this may reveal more than you think about your results. A common trap some swimmers fall into (especially young swimmers) is to focus upon beating their competitors instead of trying to achieve their own personal best time. This approach takes your mind's focus off your true goal (which is excellence in the pool) and changes it into more of a 'personal vendetta'.

How To Overcome Tiredness During A Swimming Race

Your body is designed to be able to do this. This is often referred to as "getting your second wind". When your body is being over-exerted, your immune system is designed and often triggered to come to the rescue, by releasing powerful, natural adrenaline into the bloodstream which boosts energy and performance. Adrenaline gives the body an incredible 'turbo-charge' and is simply life's natural form of 'fuel injection' for human beings, very much like a fuel injection for a car.

Use Your Most Powerful Swimming Advantage

Right now you have a huge advantage over your competitors, and you may not even know it! You have the most powerful computer known in the history of mankind residing right there within your brain - which gives you the power to do almost anything you choose to ‘put your mind to’. (Actually, to be even more correct, science is now saying that the mind may actually reside right throughout your entire body, not just within the brain - which means that your mind and body may truly be ‘one’).

A Roadblock To Swimming Success - The Pushy Parent

After years of frustrated questions from coaches regarding this, it's finally time to address the issue of how some parents are unknowingly preventing their child from achieving swimming success (and possibly even success in other areas, for that matter). Coaches often refer to these problems caused by 'over-zealous' or pushy parents, who get overly-involved and pre-occupied by their child's performances, mentally 'pushing' them to do better, and even worse, telling them that their performance was not good enough.

Swimmers, Learn To Bounce Back

One of the toughest times in swimming is when you physically and mentally prepare yourself for a big meet, only to find that you don't achieve your goals there. (Or even worse, having a meet where you didn't even go close to achieving your dreams).

Swimmers, Do You Need The Killer Instinct?

How important is the 'killer instinct' in swimming? Do you need to be 'highly competitive' in your attitude to make it big in swimming? Is it bad to feel sorry for other competitors at times? These are common questions I hear from swimmers and also parents of swimmers, and the fact is, the answers are different for each swimmer - it all depends upon the swimmer's individual personality.

Don't Fall Into The Swimming Excuse Trap

One of the biggest and easiest traps to fall into, right before a big race or event is to allow your mind to create excuses for you. This is a very common trap, where your mind basically gives you 'permission' to swim a mediocre race. For instance, you might find yourself thinking thoughts such as: "I was sick a few weeks ago, so if I don't swim well, that will be why", or "my coach told me to taper incorrectly, and so if I lose badly, THAT will be to blame".

Swimmers, Don't Allow Stress To Ruin Your Swim Strategy

Do you ever find that you train brilliantly for weeks before a meet, only to find that you cannot pace yourself in the races during meets? A swimmer wrote to me this week saying that if he swam anything above a 200m event, he would "die on in the first 100" and have nothing left for the rest of the race. This is actually a few problems all rolled into one, but which luckily can be overcome with one easy 'cure-all' technique.

Swimmers, Plan Your Daily Mental Training

The most important thing about mental training is to DO it. Yet as time goes on most people begin to find excuses for being too busy to do their daily visualization, and this is the attitude which separates most regular swimmers from the champions. Champions MAKE time for the important things, and this is definitely one of them. If we had to REMEMBER to breathe each day (in order to stay alive), we most probably wouldn't forget, would we?! Yet for a swimmer who wishes to make it to the very top, visualization IS just as important as breathing, and nothing must get in your way from making the time to do it if you are serious about improving.

The Awesome Power Of The Quiet Swimming Achiever

Are you a swimmer who lets your swimming do your talking for you? Do others seem to get more attention because they are louder, whereas you prefer to concentrate on your swimming? Then you share the same attitude with most of the illustrious champions!

Dealing With Blatant Intimidation in Swimming

How do you respond if a swimmer tells you just before a race that "you're going down!"? This seems to be quite a common occurrence from what I hear! Well, how you respond verbally to them is really up to you, but the most important thing is not to let comments from other swimmers stop you from swimming a brilliant race. In fact, some swimmers manage to swim an even BETTER race because of negative comments such as these! So let me explain the two ways you can respond in a race to intimidation tactics such as these.

How Much Confidence Should a Swimmer Show?

A swimmer wrote to me this week with one of the best 'problems' you can have! She felt highly confident of her ability, and when people asked her about her swimming, she told them she was swimming very fast and doing very well. However, she was unsure if this was a good thing - and it's is a very important question. This inner confidence she possesses is something we should all work towards acquiring. However, displaying this attitude to others (through what we say) may occasionally cause problems in the form of unwanted criticism.

Use Mind Power In Your Swim Training

Every day you train at the pool determines the results you will receive in the future. This is because each day you are conditioning your mind and body to perform with a specific attitude or approach, which eventually becomes your automatic attitude in the meets. Sure, there are occasional freaks who train badly but bring out the goods when it counts, but for every one of these, there's another million who don't. So number one is to work at your attitude to training each and every day, which includes trying to develop a powerful attitude to training sets which you know will bring pain.

Training Great, But Terrible In Swim Meets?

Often I hear about swimmers who 'train the house down' for months, only to swim terribly in the meet they had been gearing up for all that time. These problems can create a 'downward spiral' that can be difficult to get out of, and so I thought I would create an Action Plan for swimmers who may be experiencing this widespread problem.

Your Mind Is A Computer, So Run The Right Swimming Program!

Your mind is far more powerful than any computer will ever be - but, just like a computer, it can run several different 'programs' at the same time. This is not always good, however. So says John Fletcher, Head Coach of Jersey Storm Swimming, who sent this gem into me during the week. He believes that for the best results, you should only run the specific mental 'program' you need, but you must also close down the other programs - or it will affect your speed and power.

Overcoming Swim Visualization Problems

What do you do when you find you can't visualize? A few swimmers have written to me since the last swim tip (on using visualization to improve technique) with the common problem of not being able to visualize the new technique. There are also many people who say that they simply cannot visualize at all - but this is untrue, EVERYONE can visualize. The thing is, everyone visualizes differently.

The Secret To Improving Your Swimming Technique

Are you trying to master a new technique? You can do this much faster and much easier than you think. A swimmer wrote to me during the week asking how to best overcome a technique problem such as over-using his arms and not utilizing his legs enough. I don't generally get involved in the technical side of swimming (I much prefer to leave this to the coaches, and remain within my own area of expertise) however this is an area where your mind (as well as your coach) can be of great assistance. By using your mind (as well as your body), you can be master a new technique 3-4 times quicker than swimmers who only work on the physical side!

Beat Fear And Succeed in Swimming

Fear is one of the greatest hurdles for a swimmer to overcome in their quest for greatness. Just to make your quest a little tougher, fear arrives in many different masks so that you never quite know where it will be lurking, or when to expect it. However, today I will show you one of the most potent ways of overcoming it - and at first, you're going to think I have gone a little crazy (But you will also see that I am right!).

Swimmers, You Must Conquer The Doubt

To be truly successful in swimming, it's not always the case of trying to achieve a goal, but being able to break through your own resistance to it. What is this resistance? The doubts you have in your own ability. But why would anyone have resistance to success? Surely everyone wants to be successful in their swimming?

Ups and Downs in Swimming

Are your results always strong and consistent, or do you experience extreme highs and lows, up and down like a yo-yo? It seems that some swimmers would do almost anything for more consistency in their results, which can sometimes range from brilliant to terrible all on the very same day. So where can you buy some consistency? There's only one place you can get it, but there's no need to hurry, because it will always be right there waiting for you... in your mind. This is where consistency lives. Let me show you how you can get hold of it.

Swimming Mind Games

It was interesting to notice many high-profile and successful swimmers, who are well-known for their mental strength, using subtle, legal and clever mind games to unsettle their competitors at this 2000 Sydney Olympics. These psychological ploys can be simply labeled as 'everyday psychological warfare' in swimming. As we all know, in a sport such as swimming (where every hundredth of a second counts) even a slight advantage can make a big difference to the result.

Nervousness Is Energy For Swimming

Ian Thorpe, Inge DeBruijn and Lenny Krayzelburg all won gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics - which in some respects is not surprising as they were considered the 'swimmers to beat' in their particular events. However, as experienced as these swimmers are, they all admitted battling with severe bouts of nervousness - even with THEIR levels of inner-belief!

Experiment With Other Swimmer's Routines

One of the secrets of success is to copy certain areas of successful people's training, but especially those parts which fit snugly into your own routine. Here are some great ideas for mental preparation which were sent to me this week by a first year pro triathlete, Gordo Byrn, and he seems to have covered most of the important areas of mental training. I will try and do justice to his explanation he sent me.

Belief - An Essential For Swimming Success

The most potent weapon a swimmer can possess in their armory is a powerful, unquenchable belief in themselves. It can single handedly overcome a competitor with superior ability, technique and physical strength - and all because it originates from the subconscious mind, the control center of all human movement.

Fear of Failure: Your Self-Worth Determines Your Swimming Results

Do you honestly believe, deep down, that you're worthy of being a winner? This question may not be as silly as it sounds! What you really think of yourself down at your deepest subconscious level will determine your results. If you don't honestly believe that you deserve the best results, something will always prevent you from fully realizing your potential.

Visualization is Key to Your Swimming Success

Many people ask me "what's a really 'MAGIC' technique? What's the quickest, easiest and best technique to use in mental training?" - and this should probably be a difficult question to answer... but I have no hesitation in giving them this reply. Visualization.

The Knockers Versus the Doers in Swimming

One thing that you must learn to overcome along the journey to being a successful swimmer (and person) is the inevitable people who will criticize everything you do. One sure sign of success is when you begin receiving unwanted attention from those who do nothing but try and destroy your dreams. These people often parade around as 'experts', but most often, it is important to remember that these people are not usually qualified to judge anyone but themselves. Success always demands some kind of price or sacrifice, and unfortunately putting up with the 'knockers' while you're working your butt off at becoming a 'doer' is one of them.

Use Routines To Create Your Swimming Success Formula

Ian Thorpe was asked about his pre-Olympic preparation for the 2000 Games, and whether or not he would be doing anything different or unusual in his preparation. His response was that he would not change a thing - his approach for the Olympics would be the same as for any other meet.

Swimmers, Are You Positive Or Negative Perfectionists?

Are you a perfectionist? This could be good, or it could be bad - it all depends on what type of perfectionist you are - a positive or a negative one. Many champion swimmers are perfectionists, never being 100% satisfied until they have achieved what they set out to do.

How A Champion Swimmer Came Back From Nowhere

This is a story designed to inspire those who have been doing it tough, and are searching for some inspiration to keep them going, because everyone needs this at some time in their life. Twenty-four year old Australian Bill Kirby is not a household name around the world and yet he is a miraculous human being. His main goal in life was to make an Olympic team, but in 1996, in his preparations for the Olympic trials, he was battling with health problems which threatened to de-rail his dreams.

Reverse Swimming Psychology - Pain Is Good!

Pain is often be more of a mental barrier than a physical one. Some time ago I wrote about how it's possible (through the mind) to actually delay the feelings of pain at the end of a tough race or training set - or even make it disappear completely! This is possible because your mind has the capacity to release morphine into the bloodstream, a chemical which is one of the most powerful painkillers known on this planet, and a chemical which is used daily in hospitals for accident victims.

Don't Panic When a Swimmer Passes You!

Do you feel a tremor of desperation go through your mind when a swimmer passes you in a race? Relax! You never have to feel this again. Believe it or not, even when you feel like you are about to die from fatigue and pain during a race, you still have the capacity to find power and energy that you do not even know you possess!

Secret To Swim Success

Do you enjoy training and swimming meets? I hope so. Because here is a fact of human psychology which many do not realize - humans can ONLY truly succeed at things they enjoy. Why? Because your very own subconscious mind's purpose (in every life situation) is to move you AWAY from pain, and TOWARDS pleasure!

Whom Do You Swim For?

Champion swimmers train every day and swim at meets because it is their OWN personal ambition. No one else's, just their own. Sure, it's also nice to win for other people, such as parents, coach or friends, but if these other people became the MAIN reason why they trained everyday, they simply would NOT succeed, it's as simple as that.

Mental Toughness Makes Swimming Champions

Alex Popov and Kieren Perkins have several things in common; both are trying to win the Olympics for the 3rd time in a row, and both a true champions who have earned the title of being 'mentally tough'. Only a month ago I was reading how Popov was meant to be going through huge motivation problems trying to get himself up for a 3rd Olympic Games, and yet a few days ago he set a new world record to put the world on notice that he is not a spent force.

Bend Your Swimming Reality

The mind is so incredibly powerful it can actually 'bend reality' so that you will no longer experience a problem you may have been battling to overcome. We've already discussed how the mind can overcome pain, nerves, intimidation, negative thoughts and a whole host of other problems.

Moving Up to a New Swimming Age Group

Do you feel under pressure when you move up into a new age-group of swimming competitors? It seems that many swimmers do. Many seem to feel that any reputation they may have earned in the past age group no longer means anything now that they're swimming against older swimmers, and this really isn't true.

Create Your Dream Swim Race

I am sure you, like most swimmers, have experienced a time when you felt like you were 'in the zone', where every action flowed absolutely perfectly and effortlessly. These are times when you feel, even just for a few minutes, like you are the world champion. Well, those times when you felt invincible can propel you towards even greater success in the future!

Reverse Swimming Psychology Can Take The Pressure Off

There are champion swimmers who occasionally use unusual approaches to achieve their goals. Some of these unusual methods may not be great for all swimmers to copy, yet some may find these alternative methods very helpful. Here is an example of an unusual approach, which may (or may not) be useful to you. You be the judge.

How Strong is a Swimming Reputation

How important is a swimmer's reputation? Does it have an effect on other swimmers? Sure it does, overall a swimmer's reputation has a huge effect on most competitors - but here is a piece of information about reputations which you may never, ever want to forget. A swimmer's reputation is ONLY powerful if you ALLOW it to be!

Thinking into Swimming Success

What do you do when you are approaching a meet, but suddenly find that you cannot think one positive thought by you will do well? Plus, what do you do if you don't BELIEVE that you can swim a particular time, or beat a certain competitor? The answer lies in your thoughts, and surprisingly, your 'reasons'.

Maintaining Focus for Multi-day Swim Meets

How can a swimmer possibly remain focused over a 5-6 day meet? How can you be positive about swimming a final tonight if you've only qualified in the heat in 4th place this morning? The answer to these questions is this: Switch on, then switch off.

Swimming Secret to Beat Fear

Does your confidence desert you when you need it most? Do you worry about competitors who should be worried about YOU? Do doubt and fear plague you before big races? Well, I'm going to divulge a little secret to you today, no - actually a huge secret, that most of the great swimmers and champions would definitely NOT like their competitors to know about. You are not alone.

Swimmers, Feel Like a Winner to be a Winner

An email I received during the week mentioned that Gary Hall Jr. was quoted as saying that his coach told him to 'try to reproduce or re-enact the same winning mood he felt when he won a major event' rather than worrying about the specifics of his next swim. How could this possibly work?

Swimming in the Zone, Your Peak Emotional State

You may have never noticed it before, but you are in a particular mood every time you swim at your best. All you need to do is find out what it is! Moods (or emotional states) are vital to your chances when swimming important meets. They are somewhat less important in training - as it's difficult to get as emotionally charged in training as you might in an important meet. Every swimmer possesses their own winning mood which will bring them with their own best possible performance. When you swim at this level, we call this mental state the zone - as mentioned in some of my earlier tips.

Sprinters and Long Distance Swimmers Differences in Mental Preparation

An open water swimmer asked me recently about the difference in mental preparation between a sprint swimmer and a long distance swimmer, especially when finishing the race (not winning) becomes the main concern. This is an interesting question because the preparation for both swims is similar in one way, but different in another.

Use Swimming Mental Training Daily

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.

Swimmers, Control The Un-controllable

I received an email from a coach asking how to stop her swimmers from worrying and reacting to un-controllable in races, which are the things we simply have no control over in a race whatsoever. She gave examples of when her swimmers would worry about things such as the temperature of the water, thinking there were too many people in the warm-up pool, or not liking the lane they were assigned. She said their minds would get stuck on these small problems and they would put in a bad performance. This is where the mind can focus upon minor details, looking for an excuse to use in case they didn't swim well in the meet. The best way to overcome 'un-controllables' in a race is by knowing that "What You Focus Upon, Expands".

Swimming After Being Sick or Injured

I am often asked is it possible to perform well in meets directly after coming off illness or injury? Judging from my experience with many swimmers, the answer is definitely yes. One of the very few 'benefits' a swimmer gets after being off sick for days, weeks or even months is that there if virtually zero expectation put upon them. The pressure is taken completely off because no-one (and possibly not even yourself) expects you to do well if you've missed lots of training and have been unwell.

Swimmer's Mental Toughness

I conducted a seminar for some young swimmers at Sydney’s Olympic swim site, and (as usual) found myself being asked some unusual questions about the power of mental training in swimming. This is one of my favourite subjects, because regardless of whether the time is fast or slow, the mind plays a huge part in every swim, much more than most people think.

Relaxation for Swimmers

One of the popular questions I get asked by swimmers is "what’s the best way to handle nerves?" The answer is, of course, is relaxation.

Swimmer's Mental Edge

Is it possible to beat a swimmer who is faster than you? Yes! In fact, it happens all the time. Let me explain how this is possible. Many times I have worked with swimmers who have been technically better and faster than another competitor, yet they were consistently beaten by these competitors at meets. Even more frustrating, they quite often put in better training times than their competitors, only to find themselves battling to catch them in the meets.

The Pressure of Swimming Expectations

This is something all good swimmers experience at some time in their careers, which can often bring on feelings of stress and anxiety, and this can affect your performance in the big meets. Whenever you experience these feelings, an important thing to know is that these thoughts very often become exaggerated in the mind, and become ‘mental monsters’ which they usually have no right to be!

Five Minutes Before Each Swimming Race

The most vital time for a competitive swimmer is in the five minutes before each race. This is the time that makes or breaks a swimmer – often from this time they will end up on the block either mentally prepared or beaten before they start. During this time the mind becomes ‘programmed’ for a particular result, from being bombarded by a host of positive or negative thoughts – and these determine the quality of the swim to come.

Trying Too Hard in Swimming

Has it ever seemed that the harder you try, the further away from your goal you become? This is often experienced by swimmers whose desire to achieve a major goal becomes so all-consuming that they have trouble thinking about anything else. This often creates the situation where (much to their frustration) the goal appears to be moving further away from them instead of getting closer.

Overcoming Swimming Intimidation

Have you ever felt that a swimmer scares, intimidates or just bothers you? Do you ever feel that you just don't have what it takes to beat them? Well, join the club! Many swimmers experience this at some time in their career.

How Does a Champion Swimmer Think?

What goes through a champion swimmer's mind before and during a race, compared to a regular swimmer? When two swimmers are at the same level of skill, talent and experience, this is what will separate the two at the end of the race.

Swimming Frontrunners and Swimming Underdogs

Most swimmers I've worked with are either "frontrunners or underdogs". This means they either prefer to lead the race, or come from behind, to win. The majority of swimmers seem to prefer coming from behind to win races, rather than leading the race from the start. This way they seem to feel that they 'know where they are' in the race, instead of worrying about who's coming up behind them, as the leader often does.

Swimmers, Believe in Yourself and Your Abilities

Probably the biggest problem I have found facing most swimmers is a distinct lack of real belief in their own ability. I am not talking about external confidence (which is simply a brave face put on for competitors!). I mean real inner belief that you truly KNOW that can win, or swim the time you desire. This lack of real belief in oneself creates a mental approach of fear

Swimming Self-Talk - The Power of Pre-event Thought

What thoughts go through your mind before an important race? This question may be crucial to your results in the pool. It seems that the more science discovers about the human mind, the more important the power of thought becomes, especially in swimming. Believe it or not, every thought you think, and every word you say in the 5-10 minutes before a race can have a major effect upon your results

Delaying the Swimming Pain

One of the greatest abilities the mind possesses for the swimmer is its ability to kill pain. The body, so top endocrinologist and mind/body expert Dr. Deepak Chopra tells us, possesses every chemical you will find in a pharmacy or drug store, including morphine, commonly used in hospitals as a painkiller. It is quite common to read in the newspaper that when a person has lost a limb in a major accident, they often never experienced any pain at the time of the accident, because the mind's powerful immune system instantly released morphine to the affected area, numbing all sensation for the victim.

Swimming Self-esteem and Confidence

The opportunity of being in contact with so many people has shown to me that all over the world a large number of swimmers, even at the very elite level, are struggling with loss of confidence and lack of inner belief and self-esteem. This seems to be an ongoing problem for many swimmers, and so today I am going to resist the temptation to teach any techniques, and simply drive home a powerful truth which must become embedded in the minds of all potential swimmers of the future.

Updated by Dr. John Mullen on April 27, 2016