Attacking The Main Set

No matter how committed we say we are with our goals, one of the big difference-makers between elite swimmers and average swimmers is how they tackle main sets.

Some swimmers just naturally don’t fear the hard sets.

They are willing to dive into the water and go full-tilt. No Sammy Save-Up. No playing it conservative. Straight-up swimming like their hair is on fire.

Here are a few skills that you can use to dial up the fearlessness when those big, gnarly main sets come ripping around the corner.

<Ê Take it one rep at a time.


The moment you start thinking about the next round, the next set, the next rep, your body immediately starts to go into energy-conserve mode.

Focus on this rep, this lap if necessary and nothing else.

This kind of focus—boxing out distractions, both internal and external—is a hugely valuable skill.

Sharpen it at practice.

<Ê Use performance cues.

Performance cues (“Charge into the wall! Hulk smash! Finish strong! Push, push, push!”) are simple, a little bit vague (“Go exactly :15.6 seconds for this repeat while breathing every 3 strokes!” doesn’t have the same punch), and keep you in the moment.

Write out 2-3 of them that you will lean on during those workouts and sets that test your will.

<ÊTalk positive (or at least, productively).

The way you talk about pain has physiological effects.

If you are telling yourself that it hurts, guess what, it’s going to hurt even more (check out this article if you want more on how this happens).

Instead of self-talk like this: “This main set is impossible, I am going to die an agonizing death” try something like: “This looks hard, but I’m gonna feel like a boss when it’s over.”

The way you talk about pain impacts how much pain you actually experience.

Choose positive self-talk that is believable, unique to you, and will help you push when things get tough in practice.

When you head down to the pool today…

Give these suggestions a rip.

Crank up the fearlessness a little bit.

And get more from your swim practices.