Today’s blog post has been inspired by my own training for a marathon. If you would have asked me Dec 31, 2013 when I registered to run the Edge to Edge marathon, if I thought running for more than an hour would be “easy”, I’d probably have said no. I would have imagined much pain, blisters, and boredom.
Well, I imagined wrong. In fact, I have had 2 long slow runs now of 16km that took just under 2 hours without any of the negatives images coming to fruition. (and yes that is my training watch-I won it from the Krush Performance Show). I was a little stiff, but not enough to really notice it, no blisters, and I listened to an audiobook. It was great. Only the last 3 km’s got a little hard, but at that point your almost finished so what’s another couple of km’s.
My point for today’s post is that more often than not the challenge appears more difficult in our mind. The first full swim through is never as hard as the swimmer imagines and it usually goes by quicker than they think. And it doesn’t really ever feel super hard until the end, but then it’s the end so you can do it. Think about the end of a sprint, 400m, unders, figures, . .
As a coach, you need to make a plan that helps your swimmers to a point that they can physically accomplish their goals even when their thoughts may say otherwise. When they are about to do that “thing” that is beyond what they think they can, you need to assure them and remind them that are prepared for this.
The body is capable of many amazing things, but it is our mind that convinces us otherwise. Besides brilliant planning you need to build up the confidence of the swimmers. You do this by:
1. Planning small challenges that swimmers can be successful at. Then you must celebrate. These small wins will lead to the big win.
2. Find examples of people who have accomplished the goal your swimmer is trying to attain. Search the internet, read books, bring in guest speakers. Sometimes it is your own athlete that has accomplished the goal. Every year the swimmers do a first swim through of their program and every year many say “that was easier than I thought it would be”. Remind them about that.
3. Do something impossible. Now do not do something literally impossible or unsafe. Perhaps your swimmers think they could never run 10km’s. This summer with a proper training plan in the off-season have your team prepare to run a 10km race and compete it just before the season starts up. These impossible things do not need to be synchro specific. It could be jumping off the 5m diving board, swim from the opposite end of the pool, swim a solo this year, . . . Be creative.
4. Most importantly, it needs to be about the individual. To get the feeling of empowerment you always need to compare your efforts and goals back to oneself. If I compared my running pace to some folks I have seen on the track I would have quit after my first run. It’s not about them, it’s all about individuals. An individual in a team setting could mean the team, but not your team compared to any other team.
Building up confidence in any area of your life spills over to other areas. I can attest that my training for the marathon has made me feel stronger, fitter, and empowered. I first thought completing a marathon would be amazing enough, but it turns out it is the journey towards the marathon has been very empowering. Each new challenge or distance in my case builds my inner strength just a bit more.
People have been doing amazing things for centuries. There is no reason to let anything stand in the way of the amazing feats one wants to accomplish. Coaches do what you do best and guide your swimmers do the unthinkable.
What’s the biggest mental challenge you have with your swimmers? Comment below or on my Facebook page.
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