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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Swim Smart not hard – be a lazy swimmer

Yes, this headline is a big misleading. No swimmer is lazy, otherwise they wouldn’t be swimmers. But, many swimmers work extremely hard and that excessively hard work does not payoff in expected gains. Instead of working harder to small gains, why not think about working smarter. With a smart swimming program, your should be able to see more improvements. Many times, young and old swimmers get burned out with excessive training sessions. With smarter swimming sessions, you will be more likely to enjoy your training and get more out of it.

Adjust Your Pool Time

The first thing to do is consider how much time clockyou need to spend at the pool. For most swimmers, working out everyday is the best option. Instead of spending several hours just a few times each week, it is smarter to spend a shorter amount of time in the pool, but to visit the pool more often. These shorter workouts are more beneficial for swimmers because they do not have as many days off in between. Muscles do not need to recover from swimming like they do from weightlifting, so it is perfectly ok to swim every day. Swimming for shorter sessions more frequently will help you see improvements in your body and your strokes. It is one sure way to work smarter.

Swim with Mindfulness

Another smart way to swim better is to swim mindfully. Too many people will swim fast, but not pay attention to the quality of their strokes. If you are swimming for exercise, it is a good idea to pay attention to every stroke, so your body can get the fullest benefits. If you are not using your body the right way, you will not better your strokes, your strength, and your flexibility. You might get a good cardio workout, but you don’t get the other benefits. It is better (read that as smarter) to swim slower while paying close attention to the technique of your strokes. Are you pulling the water with power? Are you kicking with more than just your calf muscles? Are you breathing on both sides? Make smart adjustments to get the most out of your swimming.

Drill During Your Workouts

No matter how often you swim and no matter how long you swim, it is a good idea to add some swimming drills. These can be sets of laps that should be completed in a certain amount of time, or it can be something as simple as using kickboards or paddles. It is always a good idea to try to do something intentional while you spend time in the pool. Drills can help you focus on strength, speed, stroke, or breathing. Make your workout smarter by actually swimming with a purpose.

Swim with a Purpose

Another helpful way to intelligently build up your swimming sessions is to have an occasional challenge. Runners often do this by training for a race. Swimmers can do the same. This doesn’t mean that you have to race against anyone, but you race against yourself. Every so often (once per week, twice per month, whatever works for you), you should challenge yourself in the pool. This could be timing yourself going all-out and keeping track of your speed. It could be pushing yourself to breathe on the other side. It could even be swimming a little longer than usual on occasion. Whatever you do to challenge yourself, be sure that you push as hard as you can so you can really see what you are capable of doing.

Occasionally, Take it Easy

relaxFinally, give yourself some time to recover. Even though swimming is an exercise that can be done every day, there will be times when you should give yourself some easy workouts or even a day off here and there. It is always helpful to give yourself a short cool down at the end of each swimming session. You should also know that you do not have to push yourself to the edge in every single workout. There might be a workout where you just feel like kicking – so do it.

Should you question your coach?

The relationship between a coach and an athlete is certainly unique. In the best situations, the coach and athlete are not related, but their relationship is often like that of a parent and child. But yet, the relationship is still different than that. The goal of the coach is to prepare the athlete for success, both physically and mentally. Especially in swimming. In the best-case scenario, the coach understands the game from several perspectives and can steer the swimmer in the direction that is best suited for his or her ability in the water. When this is the case, the swimmer rarely has to question the coach. But, there are moments when questioning the coach is in the best interest of both parties.

Walking a Fine Line

When it comes to questioning the coach,coach there is a fine line that the athlete should walk. Coaches feel like they know what is best for the athlete and they trust that the athlete sees this. But, there are times when it is acceptable for a swimmer or any other athlete to question a coach’s decision. Swimmers should know that there is a right and wrong way to go about questioning a coach. And an athlete should take time to consider whether or not questioning the coach is the right thing to do in any situation.

The 24-Hour Rule

A swimmer should wait to question a coach for a few reasons. The first is that many athletes get caught up in the moment and they might say something to the coach that will be regretted later. By waiting, the swimmer can also reflect on the situation to see if it is necessary to discuss it with the coach. Many coaches appreciate when their athletes wait 24 hours before questioning a situation. This 24-hour rule has helped maintain many relationships.

Talk about Goals

One of the most important questions to ask your coach is what your coach’s goals for you are. If the goals are different, then it is time to have a heart-to-heart talk. coach3The goals should be realistic and reachable through hard work and dedication. If you feel like the goals are too far-fetched, then the relationship will suffer and your swimming will, too. If the goal is too easy, then what is the point of having the coach in the first place?

Talk about Listening

Another reason to question a coach is when the coach does not listen to you. Coaching not a one-way street for the coach to deliver and you to accept. The coaching relationship needs to have good communication where the coach listens to you, too. If you feel like the coach is not doing this, then you need to speak up. Your coach needs to understand your value as an athlete who knows his own body.

Work with the Coach

You should not question your coach when he is trying to get you to swim hard or to fix an aspect of your stroke. It is never appropriate to talk back to your coach or to give your coach attitude. Unlike your parents, you coach can easily stop working with you and find someone else who is willing to work hard and get to the next level. It is never appropriate to disobey your coach during practice or at a meet. The best attitude to take with a coach during practice or a competition is to do what the coach says and work hard to be the fastest.

How to Ask as a Parent

If you are a parent of a swimmer and you noticecoach2 that your swimmer is not progressing, the best thing to do is to talk to the coach without blaming the coach. The best way to question the coach is to ask what the swimmer can do to improve or what can you do to help your child swim faster. The coach will be more than willing to offer suggestions and it might even get the coach to spend more time with your child.