“DON'T BRING YOUR GOALS WITH YOU WHEN YOU RACE!”
I've written on this topic before, and it is worth repeating again as some of you are preparing for your bigger meets this long-course season. If you want to swim your best under pressure, then you need to master this fundamental understanding!
Far too many swimmers, at so many levels, misuse their goals leading up to and at race time and this mental mistake robs them of an opportunity to swim their best when it counts the most.
The TRUE PURPOSE of your goals:
Your dreams in swimming, the cuts that you so desperately want, those other swimmers who you'd really like to beat serve one critical purpose in your sport: They are a motivational tool for practice only and their job is to get you to work harder right now!
You should only use these outcome goals
in those practices where you're struggling, feeling like you want to back down, feeling discouraged or de-motivated! It's at those times in the middle of these tough practices that you want to be able to ask yourself, “How is what I'm doing right now going to help me get to where I want to go?” (that cut, recruited by college coaches, qualify for that big meet, beat my arch-rival, etc.)
When you directly connect your goals with what you're actually doing in this moment in training, then you will lift the quality of your practice! You will get more out of practice and improve faster!
Your goals in swimming should never
be used in practice as a stick to beat yourself up with because you're going slow, not making the interval or getting beaten by certain teammates. Even more important, you should never bring your outcome goals with you into your races!
Bringing your time and place goals with you when it counts will only make you nervous, tighten your muscles up and kill your confidence, making it impossible for you to swim fast when it counts. Plus, bringing your goals on deck with you at those big meets will kill your fun and passion for racing, and when the fun leaves your race, it will take with it your fast times!
Keeping your goals away from your racing is one of the key basics in good mental mechanics. This is because your goals are a future focus that involves thinking, and when you race, you want your concentration in the now on the feel of what you're doing, both behind the blocks pre-race and during the race on one stroke at a time.
When you allow your focus to drift ahead to outcome, you'll stress yourself out and sabotage your race performance. However, when you keep your focus in the now, on what you are doing, you'll give yourself the biggest chance to translate all of your hard training into a great swim.
Allow yourself to entertain those big, exciting, scary goals in practice and use them to motivate you to work harder when you train, but then remind yourself to leave that outcome focus at home when it's time to race!
As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. G works with swimmers at every level from Olympians right down to age groupers. A popular presenter at coaches clinics and clubs around the country, Dr. G specializes in helping swimmers get unstuck and swimming fast when it counts the most. Dr. G. is the author of Swimming Fast When It Counts The Most, DMTS (Developing Mentally Tough Swimmers), and his newest mental toughness training program, Swimming With The Competitive Edge.
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