What You Can Learn From The Olympic Swimmers (Part 2/2)

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In Part 1, we discussed the importance of the Why in athletics, and, in the rest of life. Today we will get into the “how” of what you can learn, with a few tips.

by Chris Hague

I am sure many of you are watching the Olympic swimming events with great enthusiasm. I love watching others swim and not only the Olympiads for many reasons. I love the energy of the crowd, the level of commitment from the athletes, their dedication, the numerous stories of perseverance, the thrill of victory, and even the sorrow of defeat. I also like to watch them for myself. I find that watching these high caliber athletes helps me visualize my own stroke. By seeing how they breath when they are going all out or how they swing their elbows, or rotate their hips allows me to at least attempt to mimic them in my own stroke.

Moreover, this type of mental training may not be just day dreaming but counts as a workout.

Research on visualization shows that when athletes picture in their mind the exact action that they are going to take,the same neurons fire as if they were doing the action. Applied to swimming, when we visualize our form, we are encoding into our muscles how they should move. For this process to work though, we do have to actually get in the pool and swim. Just visualizing the workout will not make you like Phelps unfortunately, but it does help especially for visual learners.
Before your next workout try these tactics to visualize your swim:

1.Watch a video of an athlete with perfect form, or a drill that you are working on, or a part of your stroke that you need help on.

2.After watching the video a couple times, close your eyes and replay the video in your mind.

3.Picture yourself doing the same move.

4.Hop in the pool and do it, BUT make sure that you have a friend or coach watch you. Even better, have them video tape you. (This second part is VERY important since in our mind we are perfect swimmers and do not realized some of the annoying habits we have)

5.Watch the video and make the necessary changes in your stroke.


While you may not be going to the Olympics anytime soon, at least in your mind, you can be on the podium with them.

Note from Coach Kevin: In watching the 50 Free semifinals last night, I found the underwater shots interesting, as well as the commentary. Even Rowdy Gaines (the color commentator) said “Swimmers no longer do the S-curve!”. You could see that no matter how fast their arms were moving, there was always a bent elbow on pull- pulling straight back. Having said all this, Olympic swimming and a 20 second dash across the pool is quite different than a triathlon swim of 1k or more followed by a long bike & run! So you may not want to emulate the turnover you see with the Olympians. 🙂