Ever since I started competing, regardless of the sport, I’ve had massive trouble with the mental side of things. When I was growing up, I didn’t even know it was something I could work on. All my practices focused on the physical side of things.
In college, we visualized before our big champs meet of the season. But our coach had us do it first thing of morning practice. Aka, after I walked a mile to the pool, at 4:45 am, in the dark, laying down on the pool deck…
If he wasn’t asking me to take a nap then he really should have re-thought that strategy.
Up until recently that had been my only foray into visualization and mental training. But I’m trying to work on my stroke. (My catch has been terrible for the past 20+ years, oops.) And I don’t have a lot of time to get in the pool, I’ve been throwing some mental training into the mix.
You know when you’re in a terrible mood and your mom keeps telling you to smile and act happy? Then you find yourself actually having a good time, bad mood long forgotten? Pretty neat trick, huh?
Turns out your brain is very good at making false memories. Even if things as you think and remember them aren’t actually what happened in real life. This is along the lines of the same concept I am talking about in terms of mental training. And since my freestyle catch needs the most work, that is what I’ve been working on visualizing.
I know the movements that need to be made, and how I need to look when making them, thanks to the few times I’ve been able to get in and swim these past few weeks. So I take that, cue it up in my brain, and try to visualize myself making the proper movements as I swim through the water.
This probably sounds like something you’ve only done as race preparation, but it works in the same respect.
You might be thinking, “can’t I just watch a video of someone swimming properly so I know what I need to look like”? Well, you can. But it won’t help you much in making the corrections you’re working towards because you’ll be envisioning someone else when you’re trying to swim and mimic their movements, not your own.
Visualizing yourself making the proper movements makes it so much easier to physically make these movements when you get in the pool. Think of it as a mental trick if you will, but what you’re really doing is a mental workout. Mental training.
Just like in the pool, don’t try to work on more than one thing at a time. If you’re a complete newbie to this concept, it’s going to seem weird for a while. But keep at it see how much help it gives in terms of correcting your problem areas.
Lissa Henderson, Tri Swim Coach