Mental strength

Training & Technique
Written by: arena coaches at 12 March '15 0
You are reading: Mental strength

It takes the right mind set to train and compete hard. Technical sessions also call for a meticulous and diligent approach. The strength to tackle all this lies in your mind.

The main problem is that it is hard to measure this kind of exertion. Take the heart, for example. Your heart rate is an instantaneous response to the exertion you are making. But the mind does not work the same way. You really need to know yourself to understand how you will react in certain situations.

This means you must leave your “comfort zone” and stretch yourself, taking on situations you perceive as cognitively dissonant.

Here are three suggestions for doing this that might help you overcome tricky moments:

Study your training plan.

Do you sometimes begin training in the wrong frame of mind? Are you aware that you have a negative approach to races? Try and come up with some mental key to overcoming all this. Try and overcome this state of mind by taking “baby steps”, setting yourself short-term goals that are more realistically achievable.

Take a good look at yourself.

Talk to, ask questions and interact with the people you are training with and your trainer. Being on the defensive during tricky moments will not help you overcome obstacles. On the contrary, understanding where and how you can improve will give you just the right emotional drive.

Put yourself to the test.

Leaving your “comfort zone” is the only way you can test how effective your training is. Plan a race, time trial or test that will show the progress you have made or any weaknesses you need to work on.

Making yourself mentally tougher will help you adapt your approach to different situations, allowing you, for example, to improve your stroke (if necessary) or find more strength just when you need it.

Did you know your brain plays a fundamental role in how you perceive exertion during physical exercise?

According to “Central Governor Theory”* your brain draws on a combination of conscious, subconscious and physiological input to control your muscles and stop them before they reach exhaustion. In other words, your brain acts like a “safety switch” just in case your body goes beyond its own limits.

So how can we teach your brain to recognise your limits?

  • Try doing regular interval training sessions. They will help your brain realise just how useful high intensity is for your body and allow you handle exertion more effectively during less difficult sessions.
  • Before a race, remind yourself about all the really hard sessions you have successfully completed. The feedback reaching your brain will reduce pre-race tension and perceived exertion during the race itself.
  • Use training aids (like music) to send positive input to your brain, thereby reducing perceived exertion and associating it with “positive” feelings.

Finally, remember the most important thing of all: the secret to success is already there inside you, in your mind. So what are you waiting for?


For more about “Central Governor Theory”:   

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arena coaches

Swim coaches, trainers and experts will give you all kinds of tips for performing at your best in both training and races.