GREAT Articles for Swimmers!

Writer and former Candian National level Swimmer Olivier Poirier-Leroy of SwimSwam has been putting out some REALLY good stuff the past couple of weeks on the swimswam website (www.swimswam.com).  I have liked these so much I decided to share some of my favorites below... Much of this I feel can be very helpful to our Senior level athletes in many faucets of their swim careers but I believe strongly that there is a lot of great info for our younger athletes as well.... here are some tidbits from my recent favorite articles... I have provided links if anyone wishes to go to the source as well.

-Are You Creating an Environment for Success in the Pool?  (http://swimswam.com/creating-environment-success-pool/)

It was May of 1971 and the Vietnam war was celebrating it’s Sweet Sixteen.

Two American congressmen were sent over on a fact finding mission to learn more about the widespread heroin use that was taking place among servicemen. The news that they came back with was bleak and disturbing: some 35% of soldiers had tried the drug, while 15% were actively addicted.

A month later, US President Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon launched the Special Action Office of Drug Abuse Prevention, which was equal parts rehabilitation and prevention. More importantly, for the purposes of this article at least, Nixon wanted to find out what happened to the addicted soldiers once they came stateside.

As a result, once his tour was complete every soldier was screened and tested before they came back to the US.

Those results were even more horrifying. As it turned out, the number of servicemen actively addicted was actually closer to 20%.

You can imagine the panic that was surging through the American public. Not only were they locked in a costly and unpopular war, but the men who had gone to fight it were coming home addicted to what was at the time considered an inescapable addiction.

But then something curious happened.

When these addicts were back in the states, within a year only  about 5% of them had relapsed.

(To understand how extraordinary this is, consider that at the time the relapse rate for someone treated for heroin addiction in the US and released to their homes was 90%.)

So what had happened?

Put simply – the environment had changed.

DESIGNING AN ENVIRONMENT FOR SUCCESS

But what does this have to do with swimming?

Heaps, my friend.

Your environment – the people you surround yourself with, the places you go, even your food choices — all play a part in driving your behavior.

It’s not difficult to see how the servicemen, who were surrounded by the triggers that facilitated the heroin use — the stress of combat, friends who were using, ease of access, and so on – succumbed to it while overseas.

But once they were stateside, and all of those same triggers were now missing, nearly all of them were able to walk away from it.

So how do we apply these lessons towards swimming our butts off?

Here’s a few different ideas—

Surround yourself with people who have similar goals as you.

Jim Rohn quite famously, and I’d argue fairly accurately, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Whether we like it or not, the people we hang out with on a regular basis influence our attitudes, our thoughts, and as a result, our actions.

Looking at your peer group would you say that they are pushing you towards a more positive outcome, or are they loaded with naysayers, complainers and critics?

Dummy proof your success.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to create an environment where you succeed more easily is to remove the barriers between you and what you want.

Here are a couple examples:

  • If you are having a hard time not diving into that box of cookies late at night (any other fellow sleep-eaters out there?), make it easier on yourself by throwing them out. If they aren’t there you don’t need to waste precious willpower on not eating them (or trying not to eat them and then doing so anyways).
  • Have a hard time getting up in the AM? Set out all of your workout gear before you go to bed. Put your shoes with a pair of socks in them right beside your bed. Have a breakfast pre-made. Lay out your clothes on the floor beside your car keys.

In other words, remove any of the barriers that are making it more difficult for you to do what you need to do.

Disrupt the routines.

Another way to change your surroundings is to change up your current routines.

Something as basic as switching lanes when you train, or wearing a different drag suit and goggles to practice can be enough to jolt you out of past triggers (pulling on the lane rope, not completing the assigned sets properly, etc) and embrace a clean slate.

You don’t have to flip your world upside down to create an environment that promotes better habits; sometimes all it takes is a couple tweaks to give you that feeling of a fresh start.

- 6 Tips for Being the Swimmer that gets the Job Done (http://swimswam.com/6-tips-swimmer-gets-job-done/)

Swimmers at the top of the podium all share one remarkably unremarkable trait.

No, it’s not superhuman talent. Or genetics. Or even the gift of that mysterious and elusive “feel for the water.”

It’s something a little more boring, not so mythical, but perhaps just as elusive for some athletes: these top achievers simply execute better than the rest.

You can have all of the talent and physical gifts in the world, but if you can’t summon the will to put them to action they become useless.

Here are 6 tips for becoming the type of swimmer who gets it done:

1. Accept that it will be messy.

How often have you stumbled out of the gate and then thrown away the whole process because “if it doesn’t go exactly how I plan, than it’s not working”? If you set your standards or your expectations at “perfect” than you will never start.

There will be false starts. There will be stumbles. You’ll have great days and workouts, and then you’ll have not so great practices.

Once you can accept that the process is messy and even bruise-inducing at times, than you can more easily power through those not-so-great sessions.

2. Comparison is dangerous.

We all have our idols in the sport. We look up to them and do our best to reverse-engineer their success. “Oh, she swam 12 times per week for three years prior to her gold medal winning performance in London? I’ll do that too.”

We seek to learn how those swimmers put together their success so that we can fashion a blueprint of our own.

But it’s important to remember that the things that they are doing now might not necessarily be the same things they were doing at the beginning of their own journey.

3. Bite-sized steps will do.

The bigger a goal is, the more intimidating it becomes. And while big goals are great to inspire and guide us, the sheer size of them numbs us into inaction.

If you are finding yourself getting hung up into not acting because you simply have no idea how you will ever submit yourself to all of the work your towering goal requires, step back and look down at the very first step you need to make. A step so small, so non-threatening that it almost seems trivial.

4. Big dreams alone don’t bring success.

Planning and dreaming is easy. It’s enjoyable. And it comes with no risk. What does it cost you in terms of effort to daydream about what you’d like to achieve as a swimmer? Not much.

Goals and mega-aspirations are important, but thinking and wishing for them won’t make them so. An average goal acted on will always result in more success than a hundred exceptional dreams.

5. Earn the reps.

We yearn for progress and results, but often we get so caught up in them that we ignore the day-to-day grind. And then when we are reminded of the hard work that is going to be required, we are dismayed, put off, discouraged.

Forget the goals for a moment. They aren’t completely in your control and nor are the circumstances (i.e. other swimmers). Instead, focus your mental and physical energy on the daily reps.

The biggest payoff from banging out the reps consistently is that you are launching yourself into a feedback loop where you are learning what works, what doesn’t, and applying those lessons moving forwards. Sitting around musing on the perfect way to go about moving forward robs you of this.

6. Don’t wait for perfect conditions.

This is a crutch that I have leaned on during many an occasion; the old “I will really start training hard when I can train in a new facility/get that new suit/learn more about sprint technique…etc.”

Obsessing over what you consider to be perfect conditions or the ultimate strategy or environment to achieve your goals is one of your brain’s sneaky ways of avoiding hard work.

Just start. It might not be perfect, look pretty, or even feel all that great, but do the thing that matters and start.

- 5 Ways Swimmers Hold Themselves Back in the Pool (http://swimswam.com/5-ways-swimmers-hold-back-pool/)

It’s often been said that we can be our own worst enemies.

I know that I have been my own worst enemy on more occasions than I can count, not only in the pool but in life outside of it as well. From missed opportunities to incomplete efforts, the effect of self-inflicted defeat is endlessly infuriating.

While we all have our idiosyncratic list of ways that we choose to sabotage ourselves, here are 5 of the common methods in which we hold ourselves back in the pool:

You isolate yourself from outside help.

Self-reliance is a critical thing to have. But when you embed this quality with such depth that it means you are pushing out the good advice as well than you end up knee-capping your abilities and growth.

We love to think that we have a grip on things, that we know with absolute certainty what’s best for ourselves and our swimming, but don’t let this pride shield you from advice and expertise that can propel you further than you ever could on your own.

You hold on to the past.

When we don’t know what the future holds we tend to look backwards to make some forecasting. While this can be helpful when reviewing past performances, some swimmers lock in on the exceptionally bad performances, and allow those moments of yore to define them swimmer they are now.

Use both the good and bad from your swimming career; the good should remind you of what you are capable, while the bad should provide you with fuel and a lesson.

You have trouble committing to your decisions.

There was a time where I was very fond of this tactic. Over the course of a weekend I would decide that I was going to do XYZ to improve my swimming. When things didn’t progress as fast as I thought they should, I would spend another weekend re-writing my goal plan.

Over and over again I would repeat this procedure that left me feeling more like a yo-yo, while also leaving me with the feeling that I was constantly stuck at square one.

Make a decision, commit to it, and don’t be willing to back off at the first sight of difficulty.

You are unwilling to accept that unexpected challenges will arise.

Nobody wants to sit around and consider the idea that something will go awry with our swimming. Our goals are perfect, glossy and shimmering; why should the steps it will take to get us there be any different?

There are a multitude of things that can go wrong. We all get injured, get sick, get demotivated. While it’s a little much to ask you to muse endlessly and exhaustively on what might go wrong, it is unrealistic to think that your swimming will always go perfectly according to plan.

You act like a part time athlete and expect full time athlete results.

We all want high performance results with our swimming. No matter how ambitious our goals, we all want to kick butt in the pool and test the limits of our abilities. Living the lifestyle of a part-time athlete – going out all the time, eating poorly, shorting yourself on sleep – and expecting to secure the results of a full time athlete is unrealistic.

Having these lofty ambitions without the foundation to back them up is a free recipe to being a pouty face on the pool deck. One of the great things about competition (and not just in swimming) is that it is the great equalizer – you can fake your way through practice, fake your way through a nutrition plan, but you can’t fake your way through on race day.