By Matt Swanston on 28/01/18 10:46 AM
Have you ever looked at a top-ranked swimmer and asked yourself, “What are they doing better than me?”
It’s easy to forget that the best swimmers in the world aren’t an advanced species with superior aquatic abilities; they’re humans just like you and I. So what sets them apart?
The truth is, the differences aren’t huge. Fast swimmers train in similar pools under similar conditions. But it’s the small differences, added up over a long period of time, that amount to massive time drops. Grains of sand might seem insignificant but without them, you can’t build a beach.
Achieving your swimming goals will take a lot of commitment, both inside and outside the pool. You can’t just mindlessly cruise up and down the pool for a few months and then expect a heroic drop in time at the end of the season. You have to add focus and purpose to everything you do.
Take a few minutes to seriously ask yourself if you’re willing to make the following changes to achieve your goals in the pool.
Have you made swimming a lifestyle?
The best swimmers in the world aren’t just swimmers when they show up at the pool – they live and breathe the sport in all aspects. They eat, sleep, and conduct themselves like an elite swimmer every minute of the day. They make sacrifices in order to maintain their commitment to a high-performance lifestyle.
If you want to take your swimming career to the next level, you’re going to have to make some tough decisions. Instead of going to a party on Friday night, opt for your pillow and a few extra hours of sleep to prepare for Saturday morning practice. Instead of settling for a greasy burger and fries after a tough workout, choose a lean protein with healthy carbs and fresh vegetables to give your body the fuel it needs for recovery.
The best swimmers know that to achieve their goals, they need to behave like elite athletes 24 hours per day.
Are you paying attention to every detail?
The habits you form in practice will be the same habits you fall back on when you’re in the middle of a tough race. If you only do two lazy dolphin kicks off every wall in practice thousands of times over the course of a season, how can you expect to hammer eight propulsive kicks off the last wall of a race when your body is on fire and your legs are failing? It’s not going to happen. What you’ve practiced is what you will execute when it’s time to perform.
Knowing this, you need to pay attention to every detail of your practices and form habits that are in line with your goals. Practice the skills you want to use at the end of the season; remember, you’re training to race! If your technique falls apart and you get sloppy in the middle of a test set, the same will almost certainly happen when you get tired in a race.
Your stroke rates, kicks off the wall, breathing patterns, and turn speeds are all crucial. The best swimmers in the world know that it’s these small details that will make or break their success.
Are you staying consistent year-round?
Malcolm Gladwell famously argued it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert in any discipline. That’s a big time commitment. But it’s not just the time itself that you have to consider – it’s the level of focus that must be maintained during all of those hours of practice.
When you’re stepping onto the blocks for your biggest race of the season, you don’t want any doubts to cross your mind. You want to be able to trust in the process and know that you’ve paid attention to the details day in and day out. When you hit the water, you want your body to be on autopilot, executing the skills that it has learned over months of consistent practice.
You can’t expect greatness if you’re only going to pay attention to the details on days you feel good. Elite swimmers know that consistent focus, every day of the year, is the key to success.
Have you taken ownership of your swimming?
It’s easy to just show up at the pool and follow your coach’s instructions without putting any thought into it. But how can you expect anything but mediocrity if you’re only willing to do the bare minimum?
The best swimmers in the world don’t just go through the motions. They take ownership of their swimming. They become students of their sport, studying technique and race strategy, learning about new developments in the sport and applying it to their own training and racing. The internet is packed full of useful information – you just have to make the effort to find it and utilize it.
Most importantly, the best swimmers in the world study their own swimming. They watch videos of themselves racing, record their performance metrics, track improvements, and reflect on their own progress.
The best swimmers in the world are willing to do what it takes to achieve their goals in the pool. Are you?