Elite swimming starts long before you strap on the competition suit. Long before entering the ready room, or hearing the whistle of the referee. It grows organically from the day-to-day grind, the hours spent before and after practice when you do that little bit of extra work.
But most critically, it originates from the mental approach you take to the sport.
Being excellent is more than a set of results, a time, or a medal. It’s a state of mind. It’s a way of thinking. To get elite, the first step is to think like an elite swimmer.
Here are 7 ways to adopt the mindset of a championship swimmer
- The process of chasing big goals excites you.
Sure, it is easy to get jazzed up about a big goal. Everyone does that. After all, who doesn’t get the warm stomach fuzzies from picturing themselves winning Olympic gold?
The titans of the sport recognize that having the big goal is critical, but embracing the journey is even more important. The initial wave of enthusiasm comes when you sit down and write out that big greasy goal on paper. The next jolt of forward momentum shows up when you write out the plan to get you there.
- Ability to reload after failure.
Everyone feels the sting of defeat, what separates those that bounce back to greater heights and those that allow defeat and failure to define them is the speed with which they retask and reload.
When you under-perform, take the time necessary to figure out where you came up short, and how to make sure it never happens again. Make the necessary adjustments, and retask your efforts.
- Pivot roadblocks into opportunities.
When you get elite you see the silver linings, the opportunities for improvement where others see only strife and difficulty. Injured shoulder? The championship swimmer will use the time out of the water develop incredible leg endurance to improve their kick. Sick? The elite athlete is sitting at home watching tape.
There will always be things that happen that are out of our control; this is just the nature of life. As much as we plan, as much as we like to think we have complete control, we only have a fragile grip on our plans. Things you never could have anticipated will pop up and try to knock you off your butt. Illness, injury, or any number of things.
These things will happen– what matters at this point is how you respond.
- Make realistic, achievable goals.
Make no mistake here, I am not saying to create goals that are boring or easy. Reach for the stars. But make sure that you have it within you to make that journey, otherwise you are creating a terrible habit of creating goals you never accomplish. Do this enough times and you begin to doubt the goal setting process altogether.
If you’ve had difficulty holding on to your goals in the past, it’s possible that it is because they haven’t been realistic enough. Goal setting is a skill – don’t swing for the fences every time.
Make short term and medium term goals, knock those down like bowling pins, build that confidence, and build your goals upwards and onwards from there.
- Use anger and frustration to propel, not destroy or immobilize.
The easiest thing to do when things aren’t going your way is to get choked, throw your arms up in frustration and find blame and excuses.
Anger is only a wasted emotion if it isn’t used productively.
Use that rage as fuel to get you back in the water, to get you refocused on solutions and ways to get better.
- Understand that excellence is a product of paying attention to the details.
Being an elite swimmer doesn’t happen overnight, and it doesn’t occur from one fell swoop. Ryan Lochte didn’t wake up one day and have a world-leading IM. That speed and endurance was built up over time, by paying attention to the little things on a daily basis.
By showing up.
By making being elite habitual.
Aristotle nailed it when he said— “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
- Champions seek to raise the tide.
Excellence in the pool isn’t limited to your individual results. It’s also reflected within the impact you have on the sport and those that come behind you.
No matter how far along you are in your swimming journey, there are those who look up to you, who seek to emulate you.
Sharing your knowledge of the sport with youngsters, or helping others in the community discover the sport will remind you of the blank enthusiasm you had for the sport when you first started.
Author: Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He is also the publisher of YourSwimBook, a goal setting guide and log book made specifically for competitive swimmers. Learn more about YourSwimBook by clicking here. Need a healthy dose of motivation? He also publishes a series of motivational swimming posters. Check out the posters exclusive to YourSwimBook.com by clicking here