3 Ways To Maintain Mental Toughness Through Demanding Sets


3 Ways To Maintain Mental Toughness Through Demanding Sets

Whether you’re a club swimmer trying to qualify for Olympic Trials or a high school swimmer trying to capture your first state cut, every swimmer has endured their share of hard practices. Tough sets make swimmers some of the strongest athletes around, as successfully completing these workouts require large amounts of physical and mental toughness. The best swimmers in the world have figured out how to utilize mental toughness to the best of their ability, but how does one get through a hard set?

Eliminate the What-Ifs

Everyone knows the nerves flowing through your head during warmup when your coach announces the practice of the day. However, that moment when your coach reveals a tough set, your first reaction should not be, “I can’t do this.” That mentality immediately sets you up to fail, even if your body is physically prepared.

Our sport is more mental than people realize, and we need to train this aspect just like we train our bodies. Even if the set seems impossible, get excited! Be ready to challenge yourself. Forget the “what if I hit a wall in the middle of the set” or “what if I don’t make the interval” thoughts. This negativity takes more energy out of you, leaving less to complete the workout. Focus and be mentally strong. Take it one swim at a time and keep a consistent goal for each part of the set. Doing this will help you from falling into the I can’t do this mentality.

Know Why You Are Here

Everyone has goals. Depending on how far along you are in your swimming career, your goals may be different from those around you. Sometimes we lose sight of these goals. When it’s cold and dark outside, the last thing anyone wants to do is jump in a cold pool and swim for two hours. I know, personally, I have fallen into this type of thinking and it does no one any good.

I heard a teammate once say, “I did the hard part by getting out of bed and coming to the pool. I gave up sleep for this and I’m not going to waste it.” This comment really stuck with me because she is exactly right. You chose to come to the pool and do the workout. Why wouldn’t you give it your all? Shifting your mindset and remembering your end goals make completing tough sets just another stepping stone in your journey to swimming success.

Have Fun!

You shouldn’t be miserable at practice, even if the set is hard. Those around you, from coaches to teammates, are a huge support network dedicated to helping you get better as a swimmer. During these tough sets, have a game in your head or a tradition you do for how you are going to tackle it. In our distance group, my teammate introduced me to a countdown method she made up at her club team back home. Whenever we get to the last round of a set or have 10 more swims left, we start our countdown. Each number has a different hand signal that we do on the wall, which makes it really fun to finish the set strong.

These tricks can hopefully help all swimmers become mentally tough, get through the hard workouts to accomplish their goals, and be passed on to teammates and friends to make the sport of swimming more enjoyable.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Dr Bruce Lawrie
Dr Bruce Lawrie
1 year ago

Solid advice, great read!

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