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Thread: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

  1. #1

    Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Hi everyone,

    Well the title above is kind of the gist of what this post will be about. I am starting my fourth season as master swimmer and am a bit sad about my attitude and feelings towards swimming competitions. I get very nervous before competitions. Vomiting or gagging frequently accompany me on days where I have competitions. I have been doing competitions now for the past two years and unfortunatly I don't feel as if it is getting any better. I understand that some nervouseness is normal, and in fact functional, but my anxiety feels like it is far from it. It is struggle to actually go to the competition and by the time I get there, I already feel mentally tired. I swim, but I don't feel like I can really give my all.

    I have tried getting myself to enjoy competitions but lately I have started playing with the idea that maybe these competitions are simply not worth it for me. And that is fine.

    Can anyone relate?

    QuitarQueen

  2. #2
    Very Active Member pwb's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Quote Originally Posted by GuitarQueen View Post
    I have tried getting myself to enjoy competitions but lately I have started playing with the idea that maybe these competitions are simply not worth it for me. And that is fine.
    Yes, it is fine.

    But, given that you have tried for a number of years and your questions here, it appears you do want to figure out a way to make them less anxiety producing.

    What issues drive your anxiety? For example:
    • For many athletes (of any age), anxiety around a competition is driven by performance concerns - will I achieve my goal? will I get beaten and feel embarassed or like I didn't measure up? ... and more
    • For people who have not swum and competed for a long time, I have heard there's a lot of anxiety just getting up on the blocks. It's a very self-conscious place to be, relatively alone in only a swimsuit ... will I fall? will people stare at me?
    • No doubt, there are probably other fears


    Some of the many things I love about Masters swimming and competitions ... this may or may not help, if I'm on the right track or not ...
    • I believe that everyone gets some level of nerves ... I've been racing since I was 5 years old, am now 52, and I still get some 'edginess' before I race ... but I choose to look at that as excitement, not anxiety ... I know reframing doesn't work for all people, but this helps. What also helps is just joking around, idle chit chat with my fellow swimmers behind the blocks. Even if I don't know them, I can usually find someone to take my mind off the race while waiting for the race!
    • The vast majority of people (like nearing 100%) of the people at a competition don't pay any attention to how the vast majority of other swimmers perform. Yes, there are those who, over the years have developed friendly rivalries with certain other swimmers and they do watch and care ... but almost no one is paying attention to what you do in the pool
    • If others do pay attention, odds are, they are supporting you (friends, family, teammates) or trying to help you get better (coaches, teammates, even your fellow competitors)


    ... but, again, if competition is not for you, that is fine.

    Patrick

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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    There are a variety of relaxation exercises, perhaps you could find one - or several - that you find useful. Some are pretty fluffy "be at one with all life" and some down-to-earth " As you exhale, relax your jaw muscles."

    I like Eric Harrison's "Three sighs" (about halfway down the page in this link)

    https://spiritualityhealth.com/artic...iraculous-sigh

    It sound to me like that could be helpful to you, but that you also need something more.

    When I was working in stressful operating rooms, and going to graduate school, a psychologist made me a relaxation tape that helped me sleep. It systematically focused on muscle groups and relaxing them (which might not be exactly what you want before a meet.)

    I guessing that there might be commercially available recording designed to help relax and prep for an athletic event. I think you could probably get a coach or sports psychologist to make one specially for you. Maybe to listen to the morning of the event or perhaps in your car before entering the venue. And then use the "three sighs" a bunch of times throughout the event.

    Also do you have a swim buddy that also does events? For some people just being with a friend who knows about this can be helpful.

    I've heard it said that "anxiety is excitement without enough oxygen." Sometimes reminding yourself that you are excited and taking a deep breath can help.

    And as Patrick suggests, you might find that some other kind of event - maybe the more meditative practice of open water swimming -is more for you

    Good luck and please let us know what you do.

  4. #4
    Very Active Member Sumorunner's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Yeah, anxiety is normal when doing something new. At 71 I'm no stranger to competition. I did road and track races for 40 years. I did shot put for 25 years. I can do very little of that any longer because of arthritis. I can only walk, no running, jumping or twisting. So I got into masters swimming since there is no impact on the joints or spine. I entered my first swim meet in 2016, have done 3 pool meets, one open water race, and 3 indoor triathlons. I'm a bundle of nerves, not because I fear competition, but because I'm untested at these events and don't know what to expect. Don't know how my body will respond. The solution is to do more of them and learn.

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Do you experience these symptoms during relays too? What about events you donít really care about?

    I call it block anxiety and I am very familiar with it. It is most intense leading up to the first important heat. I get dizzy, stomach aches, chest pounding and I feel I would rather be in the comfy jacuzzi than diving in a cold, heartless pool. Once I hit the water though, it is mostly gone, but my focus is crap. Surprisingly, relays, no matter what the pressure, donít bother me as much.

    One thing I have recently had success with is to ďbreathe upĒ (a breathing technique used by free divers) leading up to the block. It also helps me take my 50 out better.

    Hope you figure something out to help you enjoy meets.

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    Very Active Member Swimspire's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Do you have a coach or teammates to accompany you at meets? They can play an important role during competitions! Also, this article might help give you some ideas as to how to control your nerves: https://www.swimspire.com/reign-nerv...-race-routine/

    Good luck!

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    Very Active Member orca1946's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    If it's not fun then don't! If relays are still not fun then just swim laps and enjoy life!

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    Very Active Member __steve__'s Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Quote Originally Posted by orca1946 View Post
    If it's not fun then don't!
    wish I could say this about my job

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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    I didn't gag or vomit, but my anxiety leading up to the meet and during the meet was pretty wild. I had to register for the meets last minute because my anxiety starts right after I register. I don't sleep and eventually starts affecting my work. During the meets, I would be so nervous that I won't talk to anyone. I just freeze. I get on the blocks with shaky legs. I think relays make it worse, knowing that if I mess up, I affect everybody else. Last year, I couldn't go to any meets because I broke my foot and I had to work on weekends. I felt so free. I've already decided that I won't be attending any meets this year, just because I really don't want to deal with my anxiety.

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    Very Active Member aztimm's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    After 4 years (I'm assuming years/seasons are the same?), it certainly sounds like you've given it a fair try. Perhaps you should sit out some meets? Or if you swim with a team, just go and support others on your team, perhaps swim in a relay (or 2), and see how that goes?

    I had a bad experience at a meet a long time ago that I'll never forget. I didn't swim in any meets for about 7-8 years after it. I took off a few weeks from swimming entirely. But I got back in the water--and I tried a few open water swims. Those seemed (and still do seem) a bit different--there are no blocks, it is generally a mass start (or sometimes a few seconds staggered), and there aren't tons of spectators who could potentially be watching you. If it is a looped course, most people probably wouldn't even know the difference if you dropped out early (you can discreetly let the course director or someone know).

    I still do meets every now and then, and have mostly gotten over what happened to me. Heck this year I swam at 2 meets, one was the spring USMS nationals. I hit some really great times, and 2 out of 3 were PR's, since I had never swum those events in meets before!
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    Very Active Member Celestial's Avatar
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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Quote Originally Posted by ssumargo View Post
    I didn't gag or vomit, but my anxiety leading up to the meet and during the meet was pretty wild. I had to register for the meets last minute because my anxiety starts right after I register. I don't sleep and eventually starts affecting my work. During the meets, I would be so nervous that I won't talk to anyone. I just freeze. I get on the blocks with shaky legs. I think relays make it worse, knowing that if I mess up, I affect everybody else. Last year, I couldn't go to any meets because I broke my foot and I had to work on weekends. I felt so free. I've already decided that I won't be attending any meets this year, just because I really don't want to deal with my anxiety.
    I think youíve made the right choice. Why torture yourself, and then have to pay an entry fee for the privilege? That doesnítít mean you arenít a great swimmer, you just have performance anxiety. I think we all do at some level, anyway, some people just channel it differently.

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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    Perhaps your approach to swim meets need to change. I will add that I suffer from PTSD and I have missed my fair share of swim meets that I have entered. My biggest problem is the anxiety that has prevented me from getting to the swim meet especially if it is a local one that is less than a 90 minute drive. The other problem is for the multi-day swim meets is that instead of vomiting, I spend a lot of time in the men's room.

    The key for me is to get to the pool. The approach that I take is to go to farther swim meets where I need to arrive a day or two before the meet. I am more relaxed beforehand as I treat it like a vacation with a swim meet as one of the activities. If I travel without any teammates, then I try to meet people and make new friendships. I also go without any expectations other than to harvest some endorphins for my PTSD. I just try to relax and have fun and that seems to work for me.
    Last edited by smiley92407; October 18th, 2019 at 08:58 PM.
    Every Day Spent Above Ground Is A Good Day!

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    Re: Swimming competitions make me anxious and sad

    I just registered for my first meet since high school (I'm 44 now). Already feeling a little anxious, but will try and follow some of the tips on this thread and make it an enjoyable experience.

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