By Dr. Alan Goldberg//Competitivedge.com | Monday, May 11, 2020
As you're all too painfully aware, we're continuing to go through an incredibly challenging, unprecedented time in our country and world right now.
Nothing is as it used to be! Everything has changed!
As a swimmer, you probably haven't been in the pool for a month or more. Your schooling has been moved to online. You can't easily hang out with your friends. You have to get creative to keep some semblance of physical conditioning going, and most likely, you have to do that all on your own. Swimming by yourself would be hard enough if you could actually do it. But now, you have to try to stay in shape outside of the pool and without the support and motivation you'd naturally get from being surrounded by your teammates.
To make matters worse, none of us knows how long this pandemic-generated, social isolation will continue. If you're one of the lucky ones, your state may have already, or soon will be clearing you to be able to do activities outdoors again. This may mean that a few of you will actually be able to get back in the water. Until that happens, what's critically important is that you're able to stay motivated enough to keep yourself active on a consistent basis.
This is especially key for all of us during these trying times. In the face of the fear, confusion and uncertainty generated by the Covid-19 virus, it is very easy to become overwhelmed and immobilized. In fact, right now, that is your biggest challenge: To avoid being so bored and/or anxious that you totally shut down and go into a state of freeze.
Many of the swimmers I've been working with have been struggling with this exact issue. With all of the losses they've sustained, (their social life, school, identity as a swimmer, short course and now long course seasons, goals, etc.) they're fighting against a strong gravitational pull to be swallowed up by their couch or computer and do nothing.
So the key question right now is how do you stay motivated when you're all alone and can't get in a pool with your coach or teammates? How do you stay active when a good part of you wants no part of that?
The answer I'd like to offer up to you is contained in a very simple, yet powerful principle: DON'T WAIT UNTIL YOU GET MOTIVATED BEFORE YOU DO SOMETHING! DO SOMETHING FIRST, AND THEN YOU'LL GET MOTIVATED!
Far too many athletes are sitting around their houses, waiting for some form of powerful inspiration to suddenly strike them that will somehow magically propel them into action. Back in the day, you might have easily gotten this motivational boost from another teammate or two who pushed your motivational buttons and fired you up. Or you were able to get it from your coach who could excite you by his/her words or actions. Unfortunately, most of us are now stuck in these training vacuums where the only other swimmer you can see is the one that is looking back at you from the reflection in your mirror!
What to do?
You have to get off your butt and start utilizing the TA strategy. The TA strategy is what I usually talk about at the end of my team workshops. It is the most powerful success strategy I know of. I introduce it to the team by saying, “everything you have learned from your coaches, and everything that you might have learned from me today, can only be useful to you and help you grow as a swimmer if you use the correct TA strategy! And what's the correct TA strategy?” I then hold up one of my books that I've written for swimmers and say, “This book, which is a mental toughness training guide for swimmers belongs to the one person in this room who uses the correct TA strategy!”
I then hold the book up in front of the group and stop talking. After a moment or two of confused silence, few swimmers call out various answers while some others raise their hands. I then explain, “talking is not the correct TA strategy, nor is raising your hand!” Eventually, someone finally figures it out. They stand up, walk to the front of the room and then take the book out of my hand.
The TA strategy means that you have to TAKE ACTION! Having the best coaching in the world will only help you if you use it, if you take action and do the work to make it become part of your muscle memory! Same thing applies to mental training. I can provide you with the mental success strategies of world champions, but they won't help you at all unless you take action and spend the time necessary to learn and practice them.
The bottom line here is that during this incredibly challenging time we're all in, you need to get in the habit of taking action first. You need to start moving and doing things, and then you'll find that you start feeling more and more motivated.