The idea of being mentally tough is super appealing, isn’t it?
After all, when you are mentally tough…
Setbacks don’t bother you as much.
You use failures and disappointments to fuel the next stage of training instead of letting them crush you.
You refuse to be beaten.
Gives you the power. The way other swimmers perform doesn’t dictate how you train or race.
You stay focused on the things that matter.
You mentally stay in your own lane, zeroed in on your training and your performance.
Commit to the W.I.N in training, Whats Important Now, and that will lead you to achieving your goals faster than you can imagine.
The combination of all these things makes you tough to beat.
This much we already know.
So how do we develop some of that mental toughness for ourselves?
Lie to yourself.
A sneaky maneuver an old coach of mine used to do would be to get us through the really, really hard sets by lying to us about how many we had left.
For example, the main set would start out as 15x100 on the fastest possible interval, and once complete then he would stack on two more at a time. He knew that many of us would hedge our effort in the first fifteen.
You can do this on your own in training as well. (I did almost daily.)
Commit to the first few reps and no further. Once done you’ll be in the swing of things and it will be harder to quit now that you have started.
Get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Our comfort zones are, well, comfortable!
Within them we are safe and everything is familiar. The danger that comes with being perpetually in our comfy bubble is that the moment something unplanned or “uncomfortable” happens to us it destabilizes us.
Nobody ever became great training/living in their comfort zone. The more you take yourself out of it both in training and in racing the closer you will be do achieving those dreams and goals you have.
Be willing to try new things regularly. Do the main set all fly one day without coach having to tell you to do it. Choose the harder interval.
Reach and stretch as often as you can, so that when circumstances don’t favor you, or you find yourself in an unfamiliar situation, you’ll have developed the mental resiliency to cope with it.
Be consistent with it.
You’ll always have those practices that are more of a stunt than an actual training session; the 100x100’s that that alot of clubs do at swim camps, for instance.
You can do these mammoth, one off sets and walk off the pool deck feeling pretty darn good about yourself. Like you have achieved a whole new level of toughness.
But that shouldn’t be the only time you are displaying mental fortitude. You don't need to bang out 10,000m in a practice to develop mental resiliency.
It should be done daily. Not in huge swings and jumps, but little by little.
Manage your progress.
How best to know how far you have come, both in the water and mentally?
By journaling out your thoughts at the end of your training sessions. By having weekly evaluations where you go over the week that was. By planning out the things you want to accomplish.
This way you can…
See where you really pushed yourself (and have the proof right before your very eyes).
Break down the habits and behaviors that lead to “mentally tough” practices.
And plan out the next level of targets and goals for your swimming.
Your Log Book is perfect for all that and more