Conquering My Everest Part II: The mental peak

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by Coach Chris Hague

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In part one of this series, I talked about my favorite three swim drills to help improve my endurance and that helped me be able to swim 10,000m. In this post I will discuss the mental drills to improve my brain endurance.

To achieve you must believe

My friend compared swimming 10k in the pool to running a marathon on the treadmill but without music, TV, or any other distractions. It may sound cheesy, but I began to include visualization techniques before I would go to bed, when I would wake up and before swims.

In psychotherapy such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, visualization has been shown to help tremendously with conquering fears and different scenarios. Psychologists would lead the patient through their fear and all the different possibilities that could arise. Sports Psychologists have employed the same techniques to help athletes with their anxieties when approaching a key race or overcome a barrier in training. Since this workout was a huge undertaking placed in front of me, I wanted to try everything and anything that would help.

Visualization has three main parts: mentally preparing yourself, affirmation, and then implementation.

To start, I would relax as much as could, breathing deeply from my diaphragm. After about 10 breaths,  I began to visualize everything about the workout: the trepidation the night before, my fear and doubt that I would be able to do it but still getting into the water, my stroke, looking down at my watch and seeing that I only had done 10 yet still continuing on, and finally finishing. In different sessions, I would deal with all the “what if” situations and how I would deal with each.

Next, in this process comes, positive affirmations in which you say little phrases that you create to reinforce the mental pictures. Throughout the visualization sessions, I would say little catch phrases like “you can do this” and “you did this once, you can do it again and again.” It may sound childish but it helped greatly.

Lastly, I implemented my mental movies. In my workouts, if I would start to fade, I would recall some of those catch phrases and say them to myself. This would boost my energy and ego to push me forward onto the next set.

Regardless of what you want to achieve or your personal fears whether its an open water swim or finishing an Ironman, visualization can help. Just remember, the biggest barrier is between your ears.

In the next and final installment I will finish my odyssey but only after a few major pitfalls.