FINIS Training Tip of the Week: Developing Mindfulness

Welcome to the “Training Tip of the Week.” Swimming World will be bringing you a topic that we’ll explore every month with drills and concepts for you to implement with your team on a regular basis. While certain weeks may be more appropriate for specific levels of swimming (club, high school, college, or masters), Training Tips of the Month are meant to be flexible for your needs and inclusive for all levels of swimming.

This month’s training tip of the week series is centered around Mental Training. The mind is an incredibly powerful force in any part of your life, and more and more swimmers and coaches are realizing the huge benefit that working on the mental approach to practices and competitions can have.

This week will focus on one of the key components of any mental training program: mindfulness. Understanding and being able to practice mindfulness is important to have success in many different types of mental training including visualization, positive self-talk, and many others!

What Is Mindfulness…

Mindfulness is best described as a state of being where you have full awareness and acceptance of your thoughts while also having the ability to focus on what is relevant to the task at hand. This is useful in high stress situations as it allows you to acknowledge everything that may be going on around you (i.e. – your competitors, noise from fans, how fast someone in the heat before you swam) while choosing to focus only on what is relevant to you (i.e. – your own race).

Implementing With A Team…

While it sounds like a simple concept, in practice mindfulness can be difficult for a lot of athletes. Introducing the topic during practice is a great place to get started, with something as simple as a 5 minute mindfulness session before practice as a way for your swimmers to practice clearing their minds and working on controlling their thoughts.

From there you can continue to get creative with the ways you bring it into practice, including in-water meditation and getting feedback after team mindfulness practice (don’t be surprised to hear some resistance!). Also encourage your athletes to practice it outside of the pool. There are plenty of resources available to practice mindfulness, including free phone apps such as Headspace or Calm. These guided practices make it easy and accessible for your swimmers to practice their mindful thinking any time of day.

The End Goal…

Learning how to relax and focus on what thoughts are relevant will go a long way in helping your swimmers learn how to control their focus of attention in high stress situations. Achieving a relaxed mental state is also crucial for many other forms of mental training that Swimming World will continue to bring you this month!

All swimming and dryland training and instruction should be performed under the supervision of a qualified coach or instructor, and in circumstances that ensure the safety of participants.

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Author: James Sica

James Sica is the Men and Women's Assistant Coach at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has been an assistant coach at CMU in Pittsburgh, PA (2015-2017), a volunteer assistant coach with the Harvard women’s program (2014-2015) and an assistant with the Ithaca College men's program (2012-2014).

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