Switching Things Up: The Best Cure for an Event Funk

Photo Courtesy: Azaria Basile

By Mark McCluskey, Swimming World College Intern.

In life, you might feel stuck in the daily grind and are searching for a way out. In swimming, you can also feel stuck in your training with little insight on how to progress and improve. One of the hardest things for a swimmer to figure out is when they seem to be stuck in a specific event. No matter how hard they work, how focused they are with technique, and how much time they spend out of practice visualizing their race, nothing seems to work. Sometimes, we are just in a funk for no reason at all. The best thing you can do when this happens is switch things up.

generic-freestyle-finish

Photo Courtesy: Kayla Simon

Sometimes what is needed most is a change of environment. In the case of swimming, this would mean trying out events in which you do not specialize. Everybody in the sport has a specialty. Once they have discovered this specialty stroke or distance, it is what they choose to focus on for their swimming career. Who wouldn’t want to focus on what they are best at? However, sometimes focusing heavily on an event or two can become the reason why swimmers struggle to make progress in their main events. They spend so much time focused on these races that the event becomes too important in their minds, psyching themselves out once race time comes around.

If you can, it’s a great idea to throw yourself into a new event. If you are normally a sprinter, try out the 500. If you have been struggling in the 100 backstroke, take a shot at the 50 freestyle. A complete change of pace can get you out of your head and give you a new perspective on racing. If you continue to race the same race over and over again the same way, you are going to be stuck indefinitely. By trying a new event, you can break that cycle. You get to learn to be comfortable being uncomfortable. When Michael Phelps began his comeback for the 2016 Olympics, he signed up for the 100 breaststroke at a few meets – an event that is far from his best.

michael-phelps-breaststroke-mesa-2016

Photo Courtesy: Maddie Kyler

While this is pretty easy to do in club swimming where you are given more of a choice on your lineup, this can be a challenging strategy on a college team. Once you hit college, most coaches recruit their swimmers with the plan of having them focus on a specific few events in their time on the team. While club swimming is for learning about yourself, college swimming is for taking what you’ve learned and focusing on perfecting your best strokes. Because of this, most coaches won’t allow their swimmers to jump into an event in which they won’t be able to score points. However, this doesn’t mean you cannot switch things up in different ways.

While you may not be able to swim different events in meets, you probably will have more freedom in practice. If the event that you are struggling in is a distance event, try asking your coach if you can do a sprint practice when your team splits off into groups. During stroke day, take some time off of the stroke you are struggling in and try one you don’t normally get the chance to. Even throwing off the repetition of practices can change your mentality.

warm-up-freestyle-practice-swim

Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins – UVM Athletics

This strategy may not be the greatest at getting you on track for your race physically, but it does wonders for a swimmer’s mentality. By breaking the cycle and trying something new, your mindset can be renewed. Often, a swimmer’s issues in a race is completely mental. While they are training well and are physically ready for the pool, something in the back of their mind is holding them back. What are you willing to try to switch things up?

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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Author: Mark McCluskey

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Mark McCluskey is a senior captain on the Howard University swimming and diving team where he specializes in sprint freestyle. He has been swimming competitively since he was four years old, growing up swimming for the Penobscot Bay Sailfish in Rockport, Maine.

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