By Kevin Nelson, Head Coach / Coach SR1
It’s easy to look at swimming and see only the outcomes: the races. In a race you’re seemingly on your own. It’s just you and an empty lane, and the outcome is determined by every miniscule movement of your muscles. In a race, that’s all you. No teammates in your lane, no coaches making you swim faster (even though they yell loudly thinking otherwise).
A race is you: that’s when you shine or fall short, that’s your result. But swimming isn’t just the race itself; it’s getting to that race, its preparation for those moments.
And preparation is all about attitude.
Read this SwimSwam article about attitude in training.
While the whole article is useful and worth a read, I want to emphasize points 1 and 3, “Be willing to try before you convince yourself you can’t do something,” and “How we think feeds into how we feel.” The first is about attitude in general. If you immediately write off a set as being too hard, you’ve already failed in your head. You’ve internally justified having a bad set by pre-emptively declaring it too hard. The second is about controlling your attitude and your words, because those affect both your performance in training and the performance of your teammates.
If you’re in my group, you may have heard me talk about attitude with the phrase, “neutral or positive.” When we train, our attitude is everything: we need to be willing to work hard, willing to push ourselves and our teammates, but even more importantly, we have to bring positive energy.
I get it. Waking up at 5:30 AM to go jump in a cold pool, work hard, and be yelled at by a coach can suck sometimes. It’s not easy to have a positive attitude 24/7. Hence the phrase “neutral or positive.” On those days when you feel ticked off, or run down, or whatever, those are the days when you have to keep your attitude at least neutral, or risk affecting the training environment for all of your teammates with your negative attitude.
Think about it like this. If each of us has a bad day every week or two, and there are 20 swimmers in a group, then on average at least one swimmer is having a bad day when they come to the pool. You’d be surprised how easily one person’s attitude can affect a whole group.
“I’m so tired.”
“Why are we doing this?”
“This set is impossible.”
These phrases have power, but not in a good way. They justify a poor effort in workout, and said aloud, they make all of your teammates justify a poor effort as well.
Swimming may be an individual sport in the moments it matters most, the races. But in getting to those performances through training, the team aspect shines through. It’s important to always lift yourself and your teammates up. Be bold, be courageous, be energetic.
And on those days you can’t – be neutral.