A common problem that a lot of swimmers struggle with is finding
themselves getting psyched out or intimidated by the competition.
You know the drill – you have to race against Larry
Lightening Fast or Linda Lifetime Bests and you get yourself
totally freaked out by them. Your heart starts pounding, your
breathing gets faster and shallower, your muscles tighten and
before you know it, you don't want to race against them. You just
want to get their autograph. They are sooo good! How can you
possibly stay with them? What if they lap you? How embarrassing
will that be?
Here's the interesting thing about psych-outs: No one can psych you out or intimidate
you! I repeat, NO ONE! How good an
opponent is, or how strong, fast or tall they are can't intimidate
you. The times that they've achieved can't intimidate you. The only
way you can get intimidated is if you allow it to happen.
What do I really mean by this?
Swimmers who get psyched out by the competition do so because of
where they put their focus of concentration both before and during
their races. When you concentrate
on whoyou're swimming
against and how fast they are, then you will start to get nervous,
physically tighten up and, as a result, swim poorly. Intimidation can only happen if you allow
your focus to leave “your lane” and what you're doing
and go to your opponent's. When you waste your
precious energy thinking about who you're racing and how great they
are, then your nervous system will jack up into the red zone and
you'll shut down performance-wise.
However, if you stay focused on your race
plan, your pre-race ritual and
the feel of yourswim, then you will find
it much easier to stay calm, composed and confident before and
during your races. And when you do, you'll swim the way you're
capable of swimming.
The good news here is that NO ONE can psych you out unless you make
the mental mistake of concentrating on them either before or during
your race. The rule of thumb is always to stay aware of where you
put your focus, and the instant it starts to drift to another
racer, quickly bring your concentration back to what you are doing.
If this happens when you're behind the blocks, then bring your
focus back to your pre-race ritual, whatever it is. Focus on your
stretching, jumping up and down, slapping yourself, etc. If it
happens during your race, then immediately return your focus to
this stroke or this wall and the feel of what you are doing in your
With a little awareness and some practice, you can strengthen your
concentration muscles to the point where you can swim against
anyone without letting them get to you. Remember, YOU are in control