1/3/2013 – From USA Swimming!
A friend of
mine does not make New Year’s Resolutions. “Studies say that
most New Year’s Resolutions are broken after a few weeks,” she
told me. “So, instead, I make New Year’s Goals.”
The New Year is a perfect opportunity to better yourself or
accomplish something you’d like to do, no matter if you label
these “Resolutions” or “Goals” or “Happy Fun 2013
Opportunities.” If you’re a swimmer who practices one-handed
breaststroke turns, doesn’t listen to your coach, frowns,
complains, or cuts yardage during warm-ups and warm-downs, you
might still get best times at the end of the season, but imagine
if you did the little things right? How fast would you be then?
How much more enjoyable would the entire swimming season be? The
commencement of a new year is a great excuse to change some of
these things, focus on self-improvement, and become a better
Here are some New Year’s Resolutions/Goals/Happy Fun 2013
Opportunities for swimmers:
10. Embrace cold water.
"Ahhhh." That’s the trick. Instead
of staring 10 minutes at the cold, deep puddle of blue,
anguishing how cold the water will be when you dive in, instead,
audibly sigh, like you’re entering a nice warm hot tub, “Ahhhhhhhh.”
Then leap in, and do it again. “Ohhhh
that’s the good stuff.” Embrace that cold water. You’ll be
shocked how your practices improve with this simple trick.
During the first 100 of warm-ups, I imagine I’m somewhere on the
Equator and jumping into this 75-degree-pool is the only way to
cool off. Once this becomes habit, you’ll soon be leaping into
freezing pools with a smile, and confused onlookers will be
standing there, ogling at you, “That guy is so weird, he’s a
cold water fiend.”
9. Listen to your coach, especially during taper.
Swimming is largely an individualistic sport. Swimmers take
pride in their bodies, training, and tapers. This
individualistic pride can sometimes backfire. Swimmers don’t
know everything about swimming. There’s a reason you have a swim
coach: Most likely, he or she knows more about the nuances of
the sport than you. Listen to them. Especially during taper.
Once, I thought my coach was leading me astray during taper. We
were practicing harder than I thought we should have been. I had
a few terrible practices, and then complained in the showers. An
older, wiser teammate sternly approached me, “You don’t know
what you’re talking about. You think you do, but you don’t. You
have to trust our coach. This taper will work for the season and
training we just did.” I took his advice, embraced our coach’s
practices, and had a great taper and dropped lifetime bests. I
never imagined such an aggressive taper would work, because that
was not what I was used to – but it did. Listen to your coach.
Simple to do, but some swimmers don’t.
8. Understand every practice.
In the above point, I advocated listening to your coach.
However, you must also ask your coach questions if you don’t
understand something. There’s nothing wrong with asking
questions if you ask to acquire knowledge (and not to complain,
or be sarcastically indignant.) Every set -- and every yard --
should have a point. Swimming is like nutrition. There is no
room for junk food. So if you don’t understand why you’re doing
a particular set, ask your coach. He or she should explain to
you the exact purpose of the particular set or drill or
exercise. (And that explanation should be beyond, “Because I
said so.”) Coaches: swimming is a two-way street. If you want a
team of robots who do exactly what you say, you’re not helping
your swimmers grow. Swimmers need to understand exactly why
they’re doing certain things. If they do, they’ll embrace your
coaching more, and you’ll see better practices.
7. Stop comparing yourself to others.
My father used to tell me, “Only worry about what you can
control.” Easy to say, hard to do. Stop worrying about so-and-so
from across the state who is a 13-year-old prodigy breaking
every record. Don’t stress about the person in the lane next to
you standing 6’8’’ and taking out a 400 IM under world-record
pace. Swim your own race. Practice to better yourself. Unless
you’re Michael Phelps, there will always, always, be someone
faster than you. Once you stop looking around at others, you’ll
focus squarely on yourself, and that’s when true
6. Work on your weakest part.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link. Work on the weakest
aspect of your swimming. If you have terrible turns, spend extra
time after practice to work on them. If you are a terrible
kicker, tell your coach you’d really like to spend time kicking.
Identify a weak part of your stroke or event, and improve on
that. Sounds simple, but I can’t tell you how many swimmers
blindly train with no identification of the weakest part of
their swimming. When I swam, I always died in the last 100 of my
400 IM. So my coach spent an entire summer giving me long,
painful, difficult distance freestyle sets. But it worked. The
next season, the last 100 – which was once my weakness – became
my strongest ally in my 400 IM. Improving a weakness takes work,
but the payoff is worth it.
5. Jump into the pool with enthusiasm.
The more enthusiastically you (safely) jump into the pool, the
better your practice will be. This is another one of those
tricks that, with time and practice, becomes habit. If you’re
the type of swimmer who is last in the water, who spends 10
minutes “fixing” your goggles before practice, adjusting your
cap, jogging back to the bathroom, missing warm-ups, worrying
about the next two hours, instead try just jumping into the pool
with enthusiasm. Be first in the water. It’ll do wonders for
your mentality and workout.
4. Stop the before-bed iPhone/Facebook/Twitter/Email
Swimmers are constantly sleep-deprived. Early mornings, long
workouts, and huge time commitments mean that swimmers’
schedules are packed. Don’t waste your time checking your phone
before bed, playing Words With Friends for an hour every night.
A coach once told me your body rests best between 10pm and 2am.
Make it a goal to be in bed by 10pm and not check your phone or
email or computer before bedtime. You’ll sleep sooner, rest
better, and wake up more refreshed.
3. Compliment yourself.
Michael Jordan used to positively self-talk himself to success.
Do the same. Tell yourself, “That was a great set” or “You’re a
phenomenal swimmer, Mike!” These little internal comments, added
up over time, are like a piggy bank of confidence. Make small
little deposits throughout your day, and you’ll see your
confidence skyrocket. It might sound silly, but it works.
Conversely, using the confidence piggy bank theory, if you say
negative things to yourself, you deplete your “confidence bank.”
Comments like, “You’re going to lose, you’re not very fast,
you’re just not a good swimmer” will hurt you. So if you catch
yourself saying things like this, tell yourself something
positive. With practice, you’ll start to believe it.
Studies have been released that even if you force yourself to
smile, you become happier. There’s just something to smiling.
And if you watched Missy Franklin and the rest of the “Smiley
Club” this summer, you know happy swimmers are fast swimmers.
Even simply forcing yourself to smile, scientifically, improves
your mood. When you’re having fun, smiling, and enjoying
yourself, you’ll enjoy the process, and likely, you’ll swim
1. Make one small goal a day.
Running a marathon can be daunting. 26.2 miles? Yikes. But if
you just concentrate on the first step, then the step after that
first step, than the next step after that, eventually, you’ll
get there. Make small, easy-to-accomplish daily goals. Actively
choose one small thing to work on every practice, like a
specific turn, pullout, or stroke technique. This especially
works if you are having a bad practice. Don’t give up on the
whole practice if you’re not swimming well. Don’t quit if you’re
just not mentally into it. Instead, pick one thing – one
specific thing – to focus on. You’ll feel more accomplished and
you’ll improve, step-by-step. Remember swimmers: the sport of
swimming is like a marathon. It’s a long, arduous journey. You
might focus on the end-of-season best times and crossing that
finish line, but the real magic is in the journey itself. What
difference does finishing a marathon make if you took a shortcut
to get there? Make one small goal every day. Focus on the
journey. Small, little improvements, over 26.2 miles (or an
entire swim season), will make all the difference.