As winter training comes to an end and championship season gets closer, it can be difficult to find the motivation to get back in the pool and back to work in the classroom. Practices are long, and the days are short. The break from school hardly felt like a break at all. It’s during this time of year that we remember that swimming is as tough mentally as it is physically.
The physical drain of winter training can often seem like the hardest part, but when you are looking down the lane as your coach yells out the warm out, the ability to stay positive and get in the right mindset can be even harder. The choices that you make now and the way you handle the challenges you face will only make you stronger when championship season rolls around. Here are four tips from the LEAD Team to help with the January grind and to help you stay motivated.
1. Reflect on preseason goals
Look back at the goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. Remind yourself of the cuts that you want to reach and the aspirations that you have for yourself. This is also a great time to reflect on your mid-season meet. Were you able to make the changes that you wanted to improve on this season? Or even better, have you beaten some of your goal times? Now is great to be realistic about the areas that you want to improve or perhaps make new goals for yourself.
2. Act on those goals
Reflect on the advice you received from your coaches over the past few months and begin to make those changes if you haven’t already. Remember, your goals do not all have to be time-based and you can have practice goals for yourself as well. If been wanting to have better under-waters in your races, start your warm up with that goal in mind. By thinking about it throughout warm-up, it will be easier to remember in the main set. And if you work on it every day in practice, it will be easier to remember at a meet. By making something a habit and building your confidence, you’ll set yourself up to see big changes.
3. Focus on the little things (for the big picture)
Keeping your goals in mind during practice is a great way to focus on something other than how hard training can be. If you start to feel overwhelmed, try to keep yourself in the now. Break each set into pieces, and pay attention to how your body is moving through the water. Work on controlling your nerves, and focus on positive self talk. By keeping your mind on the little things - what is currently happening, what you are currently feeling in the water, and the goal that you set for yourself at the beginning of the workout - you can start to piece together everything you’ve been working on this season and feel things start to fall into place. By focusing on the now, you will be able to achieve so much more than what you think you can.
4) Never lose sight of what's most important
There is a reason why you are doing this. Your hopes and dreams have gotten you this far and it is so important not to lose sight of that. Even when it feels like things are going wrong, don’t forget that you are not alone. Your teammates are there with you, through the same sets and the same meets - lean on each other. Every time you step foot on the pool deck, you have the opportunity to be a good teammate.
Think about it: your teammates have big goals, just like you do. How cool will it be to see them achieve their dreams at the end of the season? And won’t it be awesome to celebrate with your team when you achieve yours? Or on the flip side, if you or your teammates don’t have the season you planned for, it’s just as important to offer support and keep each other motivated all the way through the meet. A team performing well and supporting each other at the end of the season is a much more powerful force than any one swim.
By encouraging the people around you and setting manageable daily goals for yourself, you can conquer the rest of the season. Taper will be here before you know it! By keeping your goals in mind, acting on them, and focusing on the little things, you can keep the big picture in mind and set yourself and your team up for a rewarding championship season.
This post was written by contributing writer Mary Motch. Mary is a sophomore at the College of William & Mary and specializes in sprint freestyle, butterfly, and backstroke.