Every swimmer, no matter how experienced or accomplished, has bad races from time to time. Talk to any world class athlete and they’ll describe to you a time in their career when they were discouraged by an unsatisfactory performance. It’s easy to feel down on yourself and lose confidence when this happens – but the ability to bounce back from disappointments in the pool is something that sets the best swimmers apart.
If you allow your feelings of misery to endure, you are only doing a disservice to yourself by detracting from future races. Learning how to overcome disappointments is an invaluable skill that will give you confidence moving forward. Check out these 5 ways you can bounce back from a bad swim:
1. Treat it as a learning experience
No matter how terrible you think your swim was, there is always something you can learn from it. Instead of continually dwelling on the negative aspects of your performance, sit down to consider what went wrong and how it could be fixed for next time. Treating your bad race as a learning experience is a productive way to overcome disappointment.
Make sure you review your race with your coach in detail. He or she almost certainly saw things you weren’t aware of and will likely have a number of insights into the technical aspects of your race. If possible, try to get your hands on some race footage to watch yourself swim; this is another great way to identify weaknesses. If you can nail down specific ways to improve for next time, you can transform a bad swim into a springboard to your next race.
2. Return to your goals
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when you’ve had a bad race and you’re feeling down. Unsatisfactory swims can make you turn inward and question your capabilities. But rather than fixating on a single error and compromising your future performances, try to return to your goals and remember the process in its entirety.
One bad race does not undo all of the prior hard work you’ve put into training. Just because you had one “off” swim on a particular day does not mean you’re doomed to swim slow from that point forward. Remember all of your preparations and return to your goals so that you can see the big picture and look past any small setbacks. By keeping your eye on the prize and continuing to move forward, you are more likely to make your next race a great one.
3. Have dinner with friends
Some people need to step away from the pool completely in order to hit the reset button and bounce back from a bad swim. This is completely understandable and acceptable. If you’re the type of person who needs to stop thinking about swimming in order to return to it fully geared up and motivated, sometimes the best thing to do is sit down for a meal with close friends and let go of your cares.
There’s a reason they say laughter is the best medicine. Even a short time spent in good company can be the refreshment you need to improve your mood and adjust your mindset. Sit down with swimmers to laugh about funny moments from the meet, or have a meal with non-swimmers to discuss topics completely unrelated to the sport. Allowing yourself to totally forget about your race might be just what you need to give your mind a rest and return to the pool with a fully charged battery.
4. Read a good book
While laughing with friends is a great way to reset your system, not everyone wants to be in other people’s company after a bad race. Again, it is completely understandable and acceptable if you’d prefer to spend some time alone and avoid interacting with people who could upset you further. Introverts need their own space in order to gather their thoughts and bounce back from disappointment.
When you’re in the dumps, one of the best remedies is a good book. Reading other people’s words can calm you down and help you to mentally recharge. Choose a practical nonfiction book involving self-improvement to get your motivation back, or simply lose yourself in the mind of the protagonist of your favourite novel to switch up your perspective. You won’t regret curling up with a good book as a way to bounce back from a bad race.
5. Refocus on your next race
You can’t change the past. No matter how much you dwell on a bad race, you won’t make the time any faster. It seems pretty counterproductive to beat yourself up over something that can’t be helped, doesn’t it? Rather than worrying about what you should have or could have done better, it’s much more worthwhile to refocus on something that can be helped: your next race.
Just because you have one bad swim doesn’t mean your entire meet or season is over. There are plenty of examples of world class athletes bouncing back from disappointments to have hugely successful performances within the same competition, or even within the same session! One subpar swim does not have any negative impact on future races – unless your mind allows it to.
Do yourself a favour and let go of any negativity you’re feeling about past races; these thoughts are destructive and will only detract from future swims. Refocus on your next race by considering the steps you will take to make it successful. Put the past behind you and look ahead with both optimism and concentration. You’re much more likely to achieve success down the road if you learn to overcome disappointments and focus on what lies ahead.
Bad swims can get you down and make you discouraged – if you allow them to. But if you make a conscious effort to conquer your negativity, you can bounce back and make your next swim one you can be proud of.