What is the mental edge in swimming?

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Have you heard of the expression “Act as if”?

Some will say “Fake it til you make it”… I don’t think this applies here, but it is possible to build your confidence by “faking it”… just a little.

When I was a college swimmer, I spent my last year as a sprinter- both in backstroke and freestyle.

One of the drills the coach had us do was to swim with bands tied to the wall. Partly, this was a strength building exercise- we would swim 25 yards against the resistance.

But on the way back, we would swim 25 yards WITH the bands pulling us along.

This exercise gave our minds the feeling of what it’s like to go really fast in the water.

Now, I’m not suggesting that you should try this exercise out! Training for 100 and 200 yard events is much different than training for a triathlon swim- so you don’t need to go really fast in your swim.

However, the feeling of “getting it right” can be really helpful in your swimming progress.

So how can you “act as if” in triathlon or distance swimming? Here are a few ideas:

1. Hang out with and train with people who are faster/more experienced than you. This doesn’t mean getting your butt kicked on the regular, but more getting into their mindset and how they go about training. Maybe you have training partners who each have their specialty. Yours may be running, someone else’s is swimming. Make an effort to swim with them, even if it’s in a different lane, and learn what you can. Then you can run with them and shed your wisdom. Win-win.

2. Train FAST (sometimes). About once a week, we recommend doing sprints in your swim workouts. Every other time you can even add a “cheat”, like fins or Lava Shorts in your sprint training (but definitely don’t overdo that!)

3. Watch videos of Olympic athletes. He’s not very popular, but Sun Yang has one of the best distance freestyle strokes out there, and just watching videos of his underwater mechanics can go a long way to your own improvement.

4. Dress the part. I know, I know. This likely congers up images of the stereotypical tri-geek, with all the most expensive equipment, only to have no clue how to pace, and fall apart in his or her race (but look good doing it). What I’m talking about is not about style or worrying about image, but more of a little extra mental edge- start wearing the suits or goggles the fast people are wearing and you start feeling like someone who knows what they’re doing- and your body will do its best to follow along.

There’s a few ideas to get the mental edge. Unfortunately none of this will replace the physical work that must be done to succeed, but the combination of the two can get you to where you want to go a little faster than just grinding away in the pool. 🙂