What awesome Life Lessons can you get from Swimming!

Participating in sports is one of the best ways to learn about yourself and life in general. In most sports, you get the chance to learn about teamwork, competition, success, and failure. But, swimming provides so many more lessons that can be used later in life. Unfortunately, these lessons will not help you get into your dream college or help you find that ideal job; but, you can use these lessons to succeed in whatever college you attend and whatever job you get. You can also use them in other areas of your life whether you are in the pool or not.


Patience pays off.

Anyone who is competitive knows that patience is difficult to manage. But, as with anything valuable, patience is important to value. If you want to be good at anything, you need to take time and work hard. The only way to do this is to be patient and move step-by-step through the process. Time can be frustrating, but there is nothing that can be done about it. Not every day will be perfect. Not every lap will be perfect. But, with patience, you can overlook those imperfections, because it is the long term success that matters.


Crawling before you can walk.

Babies do not walk before they roll over or crawl. The same goes for swimmers. You have to learn to maneuver in the pool before you can be a successful competitors. So, if you think you can win big races without taking the necessary steps to be a good swimmer first, you will not succeed. You have to practice paddling, kicking, breathing, turning, finishing, and so much more before you can even get into that first race. Otherwise, without the right practice steps, you cannot expect to do very well. If you are not willing to put in the effort, you will not get the rewards. So, if a baby does not want to learn to walk, he doesn’t have to practice.


Learn how it feels to lose.

This may not sound like a thing that anyone wants to do, but it can be liberating. Many people are afraid to lose and they do not know how to handle losses. But, if you learn how it feels to lose, you know what you never want to do again. There are some outstanding swimmers out there and they might practice more than you do, but once you feel the loss, you can make the decision about the rest of your practices and your effort. You can also learn how to stay calm in situations that hurt. It is so much better to be calm and thoughtful after a lose than to become violent and frustrated. In real life outside of the pool, you might not win everything, so learning to respond calmly to a loss will help you in many ways.


Perfection is impossible.

As humans, we might strive for perfection. But, as humans, we cannot achieve it. We have flaws and they will show up when we least want them – like during an important race. Remember than things will not always go perfectly and in the same way that you have to learn to lose, you have to learn to be imperfect. Because of this, you cannot base your reality on whether you are 100% awesomely perfect. Your self-esteem has to be based on your work ethic, rather than being perfect. Your self-esteem should be based on your goals, rather than the perfection of achieving them.


Being mentally tough is important.

Recovery from set backs, patience during hard work, and staying calm is mental toughness. Having this fortitude will help you succeed in the pool and out of the pool. While the physical fitness that comes with swimming is a fabulous reason to keep swimming, it is the mental toughness that really shows how much you have learned in those hundreds and thousands of hours and laps.


Do you know what the 5th stroke is?

Swimmers tend to think of their sport in simple terms: There are four different strokes, and each of those strokes is a combination of different kicks and pulls. We train the kicks, practice the pulls, and when we race we do them as fast as we can. There is, however, a common thread between the four strokes that is often overlooked: underwater fly kick.


Every push from the wall and every race start is followed by underwater fly kick. Even in breaststroke, swimmers get one underwater fly kick to help maintain speed through to their breakout. Why, then, is this crucial component of swimming left by the wayside? Why are we not spending the same amount of time on underwater fly kick that we are on the other four strokes, considering how often we use it?


Expectation vs. Reality

We fall into habits pretty easily. We snooze our alarms a particular number of times in the morning, we tie our shoes a certain way, and we swim the same way every practice. Habits can be great, but they can also be troublesome, especially if they’ come from a place of laziness. A lazy swimmer may do one or two underwater fly kicks off each wall, if any. They do them because they know they’re supposed to, but they don’t put much thought into it.


This is a problem because it separates expectation from reality. Coaches expect their athletes to perform a particular way in practice. At the beginning of each season, coaches try to get swimmers into good habits, like keeping their water bottle at the side of the pool and leaving their goggles on between sets. Coaches also expect athletes to be doing underwater fly kick off of each wall, but for some reason don’t spend much time teaching them how to do it well.


The reality is that swimmers don’t see underwater fly kick as an equally important part of their training compared to metres spent executing what’s written on the board. When coaches ask for freestyle, swimmers do freestyle. When coaches ask for 10 underwater fly kicks off each wall during a freestyle set, guess what happens? Coaches need to set clearer expectations for swimmers so that they can change the reality of their training.


Creating value for underwater fly kick

There’s no denying the science behind underwater fly kick. In streamline position with both legs kicking small and fast, it’s the quickest way to move through the water. We see this fact evidenced again and again when swimmers like Ryan Lochte and Ryan Hoffer use the skill to their advantage in major competitions like Speedo Junior Championships and the Olympics.


If that’s not enough evidence to get swimmers valuing underwater fly kick, consider that FINA allows 15 metres of underwater swimming in fly, back, and free. In a standard short course training pool, that means swimmers could potentially be underwater fly kicking more than “actually swimming.” If laziness is a component of habit development, this seems like a good way to incorporate it into training habits. Why swim more than you have to?


Finally, swimmers use it all the time! Swimming experts have been calling underwater fly kick “the fifth stroke” for years now because it’s such an important element of the sport. Consider the time and effort toddlers put into learning to walk; they fall, they cry, they get back up and keep going. After a while, walking becomes second nature to them, and they use that newfound skill for the rest of their lives. Underwater fly kick is like walking; swimmers use it to help get from point A to point B even if there’s something else used in the middle (much like walking to your car, driving to work, and walking to your destination from the parking lot).
In short, underwater fly kick is important. Swimmers need to understand its importance so that they appreciate how much it can help them in their training and racing, and coaches need to set clear expectations about how to use it. Athletes: be inspired to use this skill to your advantage, but know that you must train it just as you train your four strokes. Coaches: know that what you ask for is what you get, and ask your athletes to perform the way you want them to.

You need to Journal Your Way To Success

A question often posed to coaches is “what do I need to do to improve my swimming?” Although we could launch into bio mechanical analyses and break down all the components of the strokes until they’re reduced to minutiae, the main theme is mindfulness. Pay attention to what you’re doing, focus on doing it well, and you’ll see improvement. The body is controlled by the mind, so training your mind to be a better swimmer is a reasonable course of action.


Mental skills are actually really simple to train. Thinking about what you want to do has been proven to be as effective as actually doing it; Marc Jeannerod and Jean Decety’s 1995 article “Mental motor imagery: a window into the representational stages of action” tested the th  eory by having individuals train a five-finger piano pattern either mentally or physically,and found that results were largely similar between groups. A similar study by Ranganathan et. al. in 2003 yielded similar results, indicating a 35% success rate in “mental training” candidates versus 53% in “physical training” candidates performing voluntary muscle contractions in their little fingers, while the “no training” control group showed no significant changes.


To journal your way to success, you need to harness your mental capacity for learning motor skills. All you need to get started is a blank journal, a writing implement, and the motivation to spend ten minutes after practice writing about it.


Step 1: Log your workout


Even if you can’t remember the entire workout, write down what you do recall. This gives you the chance to reflect on your effort and organize your thoughts about it.


Step 2: Rate your sets


Once you’ve written out the workout, go back and rate each set. You can assign a numerical value to them or simply place a checkmark or an X next to them, but make sure to rate based on your perception of how the sets went. It’s natural to rate based on what you liked and didn’t like, but that’s not the goal. You want to record whether or not your effort was valuable to your training.


Step 3: Record your feelings


Look over your ratings and write down a few words about the sets that jump out at you. If you had a set that rated a 0 or had a heavy-handed X next to it, ignore it. It’s best not to focus on the negative sets too much. Instead, make an effort to write more about the positive sets, making sure to focus on feeling: “felt strong” and “breathing pattern felt easy”are examples of how to record positive training feelings.


Step 4: Record your thoughts


This step is crucial because it provides a road map for mental imagery. Once you’ve finished recording feelings, think back to the thoughts running through your head during the positive sets. If you were singing a song in your head, write down the title. If you were focused on your stroke count, write down what it was. If your mind was blank and you were focused on the feeling of every stroke, write it down! Regardless of what the thoughts were, they contributed to a good performance and are worth remembering.


Step 5: Relive the good performances


Look through your swimming journal before practices or meets to remind yourself of the thoughts and feelings you had during your best moments in the pool. Better yet, use those cues to make a mental image of your upcoming workout; picture yourself in the water, swimming your best, nailing every set, and feeling good about it afterwards.


The best thing about journalling is that it’s personal. No one else has the same thoughts or feelings as you, so your journal is a perfect reflection of your own swimming. You can even use the same five steps to journal about your performances at a swim meet so you can create mental images of your races to run through before you get onto the blocks. Play that song in your head, shut your eyes, and see yourself swimming your best. Chances are you’ll have yet another good performance to write about when the race is over.


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