Or they have a hard time understanding why one day they swim like a beast one day, and the next like a potato.
Throwing some time and attention at your mindset doesn’t take a whole lot of time (despite what you may think), and it doesn’t have to involve diving into a slew of sport psych textbooks to tease out solutions. Just a little knowledge and some consistency.
At the end I’ll share some resources and guides that you can use ASAP to give your mindset boost.
But first, here are some signs that you need to TLC that water-logged brain of yours:
PRACTICE YOU VS. COMPETITIVE YOU.
This is the bane of just about every swimmer’s existence at some point—they work their tail off diligently for months on end, perform well at in-season meets, nail their taper, and then fall flat on their chlorinated face on race day.
Competitive swimmers log a hysterical amount of hours and laps in the pool with the expectation that within the frame of a minute or so on a very exact day, at a specific time, they will unleash all that hard work all over their personal best times.
Your mindset and approach to racing needs some attention when your training doesn’t align with competition. I know how infuriating this can be—it’s the mental and emotional equivalent of jamming your fingers into the lane rope at full speed.
THE MINDSET YOU HAVE CHANGES BETWEEN TRAINING AND COMPETITION.
Swimmers are generally confident when walking out onto the pool deck at swim practice. They reasonably know what to expect, have a good guesstimation what they are capable of, and understand that even if they fail or bomb the workout or main set it’s just one practice. Not the end of the world.
In the days leading up to competition, our mindset shifts. No longer are we so confident in ourselves. We start worrying intimately about failing ourselves, the team, our coaches, our friends and family.
The end result is a swimmer who is tense, worried, and who has lost a lot of that “care-free” mindset that fueled high-grade performances in training.
YOU HAVE A MUDDY UNDERSTANDING OF PERFECTIONISM.
It’s interesting to hear the perspectives different swimmers have on what perfectionism means.
For some, it’s an ideal that gives them endless motivation and purpose, fueling them to chase their best performance possible.
For other swimmers, it means comparing ourselves relentlessly to others (and feeling down about it), not taking any pride in the journey because it’s only about the end result, we have trouble moving past mistakes and failures, and are generally fairly miserable when it comes to training and competition.
Care to take a guess which type of perfectionist is the healthy kind? (Or that there even was a good kind of perfectionist?)
YOU GET SUPER WORRIED ABOUT PEOPLE WATCHING YOU.
Even the most confident athlete feels self-aware when they walk out under the bright lights for the first time. Particularly when there are lots of people you really care about that are watching. You don’t want to swim poorly for risk of feeling embarrassed or even how your performance may reflect on the people you love and respect.
The fear of negative evaluation is something we all struggle with in varying amounts. The successful swimmer has learned to compartmentalize what is going on around them and stay focused on what’s happening directly in front of them and nothing else.
Some people pick this up faster than others, but it is something you can work on and improve.
THAT WHOLE “TOO MUCH ANXIETY” THING.
Anxiety is a funny thing. Certainly not funny when you are experiencing it and it is making you feel like you are losing control, but in the way that we interpret it.
Anxiety, like anger, is immediately labeled as a negative emotion. But the way that we experience anxiety, and the resulting performance that follows, lies in how we choose to frame that anxiety.