May 19, 2020
Like many of you, I am bursting at the seams to get back in the water.
Each morning, afternoon, and twice in the evening I scroll through the local news, like a prospector panning for flecks of gold, scanning for the keyword “pools reopening.”
And while I try my utmost to be patient—that first day back I am going to straight-up swim until my arms spin off my shoulders—I am also working at being positive and productive.
And not let the things I cannot do detract from having an outlook that is helpful to myself and to others.
Sinking into despair and frustration and succumbing to our worst impulses in times of adversity and uncertainty is understandable.
If we can’t train like we used to, what’s the point, right? Might as well dive head-first into a stack of poor life decisions.
And while there are glimpses of some sort of normal returning to parts of the world, with positive news on a few different fronts, including some pools being reopened in limited fashion, there is still a great deal of uncertainty ahead.
Here is a checklist for how you can keep a CONQUER mindset to stay positive during the uncertainty of Covid-apalooza.
C = CONNECT.
You can maintain physical distance while closing social distance.
Call your friends, teammates, and family members. Have Zoom meetings. FaceTime. Talk on the phone. Chat while playing video games. Fax ‘em.
You can physically distance yourself while maintaining a high degree of social connection.
With most of us cooped up at home, there has never been more time available to us to maintain and develop the relationships with the people we care about the most.
O = OWN EACH OPPORTUNITY TO GET BETTER.
Own each day. You might not be able to train in a pool, but you can own the opportunity you have today to get better.
Attack each day as the opportunity that it is.
This crisis won’t last forever, and when it does eventually end, make sure you can look back and feel like you took advantage of the opportunities you did have.
Maybe you have to start open water swimming to get the strokes in, or hit the StretchCordz for your “swimming,” or maybe you are fully locked up at home with nothing but air squats and push-ups at your disposal.
Whatever you have, own the opportunity to get better.
N = NUMBER 1 – AS IN, BE THE NUMBER ONE STRONGEST PERSON IN YOUR GROUP.
Be a source of strength for others and for yourself. Check in. Listen.
Looking after those around you doesn’t come at the expense of taking care of yourself. They are one and the same.
When you help others through a crisis, you are helping yourself also.
You are giving yourself perspective by being able to empathize with others, equipping you with strength and perspective, instead of dwelling on how adversity is impacting you.
Q = QUESTION YOURSELF TO BUILD SELF-AWARENESS.
Use this chance to get serious about performing at a higher level, more consistently. And that starts with asking yourself the right questions.
What does it take for me to perform my best? What kind of mental and emotional state do I require to perform at a high level? What do I need to be mentally prepared to dominate my practices?
This is a great time to develop self-awareness and question yourself and what it takes for you to perform your best. Peek under the hood of your best and worst performances and see what drove them.
Elite swimmers ask the right questions. How can I be better? How did I trip up? What is the next step?
When you can find patterns in your performance you can start leveraging the stuff that works and limiting those that don’t.
Having the answers, or at least a sense of the answers, will give you serious momentum and things to focus on in the weeks and months ahead.
U = UPGRADE YOUR MENTAL SKILLS.
You know how important the mental aspect of the sport can be, and now is the time you can start building those mental skills!
Visualization is your friend while pools are closed. The brain has a hard time differentiating imagined from real experiences.
Each day spend ten minutes visualizing your ideal race. Or yourself conquering a brutal main set. Or overcoming the pain and discomfort on that third 50 of your 200.
The options are endless—earmark time each day, close your eyes, breathe deeply, and rehearse the performances you want.
Write out your visualization reps the same way you would a swim practice. (i.e. 10x reps of experiencing the pre-race nerves before a massive race @:30 rest to reset between reps)
Getting started on your mental skills now will give you a massive head-start for when things get back to “normal.”
E = EXCEL.
Excellence is a full-time mindset. Not just when you feel like it, or when pools are open, or when you feel motivated.
Do your best all the time. When things aren’t going our way, or when pools are closed and practices on indeterminate hiatus, it can be tempting to drop our standards.
But excellence isn’t something you do when things are going your way, or when conditions are perfect—it’s a 24/7 mindset.
Whether that means you eat like a champion, help your sister with her homework, or bang out that sweaty dryland workout, do it all like a champion.
Excellence is something you should relentlessly strive to be, not something you flirt with or do only when conditions are good, ideal, or perfect.
R = ROUTINES ARE YOUR FRIEND.
One of the hardest things about uncertain times is the disruption of our routines. It can leave us feeling adrift, lost, like we don’t know what to do or how to prepare ourselves moment to moment.
That’s just how powerful of an anchor our usual routine can be.
I’m right there with you.
It makes me crazy driving by the pool each day… the lot empty… knowing all those unused lanes are sitting there.
The problem is that often when we lose the structure and dependability of our routines and habits, our worst impulses begin to take over. Our nutrition dives. We stay up way later than we would. Working out regularly becomes less of a priority.
And yes, this means having to start over from scratch, with all the typical struggeliness that comes with building a new routine.
Building those fancy new routines means starting small, scheduling start times, back-packing new habits on current behaviors, and making consistency over performance the priority.
It can be infuriating and frustrating trying to build brand new routines, especially when our pre-Covid ones were so good, but build those new routines with the same care, attention, and patience you used to build your previous ones.