View Full Version : Psychological Pswimming

Bert Petersen
March 1st, 2002, 08:47 PM
Any thoughts out there as to the influence the mind has over the body ? Anyone getting in touch with their Chi ? Is Chi just the ability to focus ? Ever ruined a race by dwelling on it for too long or with too much intensity ? Is this what they mean by " Paralysis by Analysis " ? What are the mental keys to good performance ? Is it only about conditioning and Adrenalin ? Ever been psyched out or, conversely, psyched someone out ? What's that all about ? Ever get into a "zone" or really good space while racing ? Feeling invincible, not getting fatigued......... Remember what Obi Won told Luke Skywalker on the death star : "Luke, feel the force. Let go.....the force will be with you ."
I, for one, have been there-have experienced some of the above stuff. Am I just a head-case, or do I have company ?????:confused: Bert

March 2nd, 2002, 12:17 AM
LOL Bert! I think you have new age overload :)

I had this problem to some degree when I was competing as a child, but more recently I know what you mean from my acting and piano experiences. What you describe applies across the board to just about any sort of performance.

I do not subscribe to Chi-Tai-Kwan-Yoga-Do or any of that stuff. I think of such things like instant diet pills- you are paying someone else to tell you how to do something that common sense dictates. Or it is common sense buried in a magic potion.

Have you ever read the back of a Slim-Fast bucket? I did once out of curiousity. The "plan" included water intake, regular exercise and some other stuff. Point being, all you needed to know was in the "plan" and the $4.00 jar of shake mix was just icing on the cake- a pretty package.

Same goes for many of these "concentration" exercises I think. You get good basic stuff with a unique twist on top (maybe some strange pose or chant) that somehow is supposed to make you think the whole thing is now worth $99.99 on two VHS tapes delivered straight to your door.

In acting and other performance arts there is the notion of "having a private moment in a public place." Ie you are supposed to let your interior emotions come out. It is a form of concentration that allows you to perform to the ultimate level without distraction.

Much the same applies to swimming I think, albeit in a less dramatic sense.

The key here is to keep your mind on the task at hand. I just bought an excellent video called "Swim Smarter, Swim Faster II" and one thing that caught my attention was how one of the instructors said to avoid looking around at the audience or engaging any of your senses in a distraction right before you jump on the starting block.

Good advice indeed.

Another key is to know all the technical aspects of what you are doing. Before you inject emotion into a monologue or a piano piece, you first memorize the words or notes perfectly.

Same for swimming. Go into the race knowing exactly what your stroke, start, turn, finish should be. Understand the fundamentals as they apply to your level and then focus on the task at hand.

I once had a coach I DETESTED because he would come up to you minutes before your race and give you all sorts of last minute advice and pointers. The time to learn something new is not right before the race begins. Once you are at race day, I think it is best to stick to what you know up through yesterday and leave it at that. Trying to remember things- whether someone tells you or you keep telling yourself- can only bring bad things.

So in short, be prepared and let the technical elements come naturally to you as a result of good practice.

As for the psych-out game. Once you can spot others trying it on you, then you are too smart to engage in this.

When you get to the pool, don't talk a lot (like I am doing in this post hee hee hee...) Go off into a corner if necessary. Keep quiet and keep a poker face. Think only about the race. Think about your first stroke, the feel of the water, whatever floats your boat. Get yourself in that "private moment in a public place" where all you can think about is that swim you have coming, and do not let anything else distract you.

The key is not to force yourself to think of the race, but to let yourself forget everything else. Then the race will ovetake your mind on its own.

If you can develop that intensity of purpose before the race, YOU will psych others out without even meaning to! And because you will be focused, you will achieve the concentration needed to do your best.

"Zoning out" as you put it is exactly what can happen here. It is a good sign most of the time. And the reason you zone out is because you allow all outside distraction and rational thought to leave your mind, and you let your well trained (hopefully) instincts about how to swim and race take over. You are letting one specific skill (swimming) have complete control over all your body has to offer for optimum results.

Just my two cents :)


March 6th, 2002, 04:01 PM
Psychological preparation makes swimming easier for me.

In Age Group, we used forms of relaxation and visualization to prepare for racing. In actuality, it was nap time and a contest as to who would not burst out lauhing. Some of us used Pyschout techniques on our competitors (all I could think was the person was so worried about me, they came up with all these elaborate schemes, which only helped me psychologically) and psyche-up ourselves (for me only serves to hurt focus and inject uneccesary aderlaline into the system).

Today, I realize swimming is holistic in nature: Body - training is most important, Mind - helps a person "preprogram" the race, telling the body what it is in for (my own opinion of course).

If you ever felt tired before a race, then forget about it once you hit the water and swam well, you have experienced what I am trying to describe:

To use the psychological terminology: Most people have heard of the Pavlovian response: Ring a bell then give a dog food, eventually it will salivate when it hears the bell - a classically conditioned response.
Competitive swimming is similar in some ways: Your body realizing it's bell is about to be rung (anticipation of swimming fast), will react to that stimulus by conserving energy (the sensation of tiredness before a race): How it reacts next is how you train your body. The untrained body reacts by getting nervous, not-sure-what-to-do, etc.
The Trained body also gets tired (anticipation of the swim), but the mind has practiced its response to this.

To practice I visualize a race and also practice by telling myself how I will feel while swimming the event really slow (e.g. I am on the 3rd 50 of the 200 and I am starting to feel tired).

This way I know in advance how to pace the race, and how I will feel during each component of the race (from previous race experience). Once the swim occurs these are all known factors and all I have to focus on is breathing (which helps immesurably in longer races). Some people attribute a catch phrase to this, "being in the zone."

Of course each personality type has a different response to a stimulus. Understanding your own response will dictate what steps you need to take to pyschologically prepare.

I really feel the sensation of nervousness is the bodies preparation to release its endorphins. trying to shake this off will damage your peak performance ability. Just learn how to use it.