Hello, amazing people! I’m Sierra Schmidt, five-time National Team Member, 2015 Pan American Gold Medalist, and Zealios Athlete. One of the first things people ask when I say I’m a distance swimmer, is how do I keep myself focused when I stare at a black line for hours at a time while training?
Well, I’m here to do just that and give you some tips on maintaining that focus during a workout and getting the most out of your time in the water!
One of the first pieces of advice is to have some clearly defined goals for each practice. It is very easy to go into a workout with the sole intention of “working hard.” However, I encourage anyone who is looking to swim seriously to pick one or two specific goals that you can focus on throughout the workout. Then, when the practice becomes difficult mentally or physically, or if your concentration is slipping, you can recenter yourself before continuing. These goals can range from “I want to hit this time per 100” to “I want to get 10 yards off each wall”. In this way, you can break down the workout such that if you are doing a long session, you have a mantra keeping you grounded throughout.
One of my tricks is to think of a particular song prior to practice. I am a very musically motivated person, and so if I can get a song stuck in my head or hear music playing while I swim, I find it to be a more enjoyable experience. This trick may not work for everyone, but I find it works for me!
Another option is to let your mind wander. I know that sounds counterintuitive, but sometimes your brain needs time to relax and have some time to do what it wants before it can focus again. Again, you need to make sure your mind doesn’t wander too far from the practice, but if you know you have an easier interval, let your mind go here before refocusing on your main set.
Last but not least is to be aware of what your body is doing in the water. This is a great technique for those long swims that seem to drag on. As you are swimming, do a mental sweep of your body, and hone into each movement. Feel the resistance of the water as you pull underneath you. Feel your muscles as they slide through the water. I frequently use this method when I feel that I am not maximizing my efficiency in the water, and it is a great way to check in on your stroke technique.
I hope this helps with your swimming pursuits, and remember, exercise is inevitably demanding, but also try to find the fun in the work. So discover those motivational moments and tell yourself, “I'm going for a swim today!” You won’t regret it!