By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, December 28, 2017
Every year as the clock strikes midnight on January 1, many of us make New Year’s Resolutions that we keep for a few weeks and then often casually (and secretly) abandon.
But if you have high aspirations for achievement in swimming in 2018, you need to stay true to your resolutions and goals, so you can hit those times and finishes.
Following are some resolutions and tips from top swimmers and coaches to help you meet those goals – and make those times and teams – in the New Year.
“A simple tip for the New Year would be to leave each practice having done at least one thing better than you did the previous day. Even if you’re having a bad day, find a little thing you can improve upon.”
“There are so many different levels of swimmers setting New Year’s resolutions. My biggest suggestion heading into 2018 is to track those resolutions. Get a notebook, draw out a chart for Sunday through Saturday and check off every day that you do your resolution. It’s a good reminder to do it, and it’s a great way to keep track.”
“Pick 1-2 actions you can take to support a goal. The action should be something small that you can check off a to-do list. Write it down and when you’re going to do it. Most resolutions fail because we try to change too much too quickly and give up at the first bump in the road. Lasting change comes from viewing it as a process and breaking it into smaller, attainable tasks. For example: resolve to work on improving your freestyle turns. Two actions to take include watching YouTube videos of a swimmer you admire after Saturday practice and pick one thing you can do differently in your turns that you notice this person does. Second, after practice on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, do 10 race turns working on that skill. And always illicit feedback from your coach.”
“Something that I did in 2016 that I feel helped me a lot was taking a moment to set my intentions. Before walking in to a practice, I would take stock of how I am feeling that day and what I could do to get better. It’s easy to get caught going through the motions and just trying to survive through a tough practice. By setting your intentions before, you can remind yourself of your goals and what you need to do in order to achieve them.”
“Get more sleep! Sleep is essential for growth, development and motor function. It helps to enhance your ability to learn, heightens alertness and positively impacts perspective and mood. Sleep is a cornerstone for anyone looking to perform at a high level. It’s time to get to bed and let your body recharge for tomorrow.”
“Become more mindful in the pool. A lot of times, we get tired and fatigued going through a long fall and Christmas training, and we become guilty of just going through the motions. Each practice, choose two basic things you want to do better – whether it be streamlining, breathing patterns or making it to the yellow marker on kick sets. These are the little things that will set you apart from your competition come championship season.”
“I think every young swimmer should pick ‘one’ thing and make a commitment to themselves, their coach and their team that they will always/or never do for the entire year. For instance, never breathe off a turn in training or competition or never pull on the lane line again or always do 3-4 or 5 kicks off of every wall. A commitment to themselves can be very powerful.”
“Set daily goals such as writing down your best practice times. If you’re improving and being at your best daily at practice, you can consistently be sure you will be at your best and do your best at the goal competition.”
“Remember – this is YOUR swimming career. This New Year, take ownership of it all – the successes and failures, your future. When I was 16, I got second place at Nationals in a race I should have won. I was screaming inside; it was everyone else’s fault. I thought the results should have had an asterisk after the times, with an explanation of what happened that year. But they didn’t. That was it – 2nd place. I realized that the only person who could prevent me from getting injured was me. The only person who could make sure I didn’t miss a workout was me. The only person who could make sure I didn’t get over-trained or depleted nutritionally or sleep deprived or kept my left elbow up or streamlined off the walls was me. All of it. Rather than handing my career off to anyone else to impose rules externally; it was ultimately up to me. This means sometimes I had to tell my coach no, my friends no, my parents no. I never got injured after age 16, and I kept swimming until I was 22. Your swimming career is a gift to you. I say all of this because if I’d known the source of pride my swimming career would bring, I would have worked harder, had more fun during stretching, slept more and goofed around more during warm-down. And I would have looked internally to get the best out of myself earlier. IT’S YOURS – GO FOR IT! And Happy New Year!”
“If I could offer a resolution tip to younger swimmers as they enter the New Year, it would be:
Before practice, decide on something you are determined to get better in. For that whole week of practice, focus on that one thing you can improve on. After practice each day, thank someone, a teammate or a coach, for a specific reason in how they made you a better teammate, student of the sport, and/or swimmer.”
“Replace any negative thoughts with two positive ones. Set time aside before each practice (even just a couple minutes) to decide what you’ll focus on for the practice (technically and physically). Writing them down helps. Send encouraging texts to different teammates each week. And with any tips/resolutions, the key is to be consistent with keeping up with them because the ones who see the most improvements are those who make a decisive choice to stick with their goals.”
“I have one simple tip - be honest and true to yourself.”
“Set small goals every week to work on the little things. It's the little changes and improvements from practice to practice that make big differences at the end of the season. Tracking these goals and holding yourself accountable is very important, too.”
“Be a good teammate. Encourage the kid next to you to work harder and get better, too. You will be glad you did.”
“My tip has to do with switching your paradigm of success and happiness as described by one of my favorite books The Happiness Advantage. We’ve all been told that hard work leads to success and success leads to happiness. In reality, that’s an age-old myth. Research now shows that those who engage in something that makes them happy first (a game or jokes, etc.) are actually able to physically work hard due to the endorphins it produces. This harder work then leads to success. So, the true paradigm should be happiness = hard work = success in that order. In other words, be the bright side of your team. Bring the fun every day, and your work will become easier and success will come sooner…maybe too long, but that’s the science behind the ‘have fun’ message that coaches are always relaying.”
“Try to find a little bit more in every practice and keep showing up no matter how hard it gets and how bad you don’t want to go. That is what separates the good from the best.”
“Pay attention to how you spend your mental energy. In sports, I think it is critically important to focus your energies and thoughts on things within your control – race plan, diet – and less on things you cannot, i.e. the clock, personal rivals, etc. You only have so much of that mental focus and energy to spend, so try to spend it wisely.”
“Stop doubting yourself and having so many negative thoughts. Whether it’s behind the blocks or during practice, the minute you surrender yourself to negative thoughts, you’ve already hindered your potential. Instead, let all of your hard work pay off by having confidence and fun. Racing is much more enjoyable that way anyway!”
My New Year's resolution is to completely cut cheese out of my diet. So, my recommendation for the New Year is to find simple, small things to make yourself better, and do your best to stick to that plan. Write down your goals, post them on your walls, find ways to remind yourself of what you’re trying to accomplish.