Mental Skills for Athletes: Wins

Write down all your past wins, accomplishments, successes.


They can be minor, or massive.

Victory Pt. 2 by Anthony DeLorenzo on Flickr

Your list will be long.

Read this list often.

Remember the thrill you got in each win (big or small). All the effort became worth it and the struggles inconsequential.

Remember your skills, your commitment, the effort you put in and the sacrifices you made.


And remember the next win is just around the corner.

Mental Skills for Athletes: Confusion

We’ve all had those days when we get caught up in conflicting options.

On the one hand, we want one option.

But then, on the other hand, the opposite choice looks better.

Unsure by Jason on Flickr
Unsure by Jason on Flickr


If this is a regular struggle, you should look to structure your life to eliminate the confusion and lack of clarity.

Make a plan. Plan your week. Know when you swim, run, bike, do yoga, eat, nap, have a day off. Make decisions in advance and avoid decision paralysis, or the temptation to skip workouts.

Don’t chase too many options. Keep things simple.

Doing this will increase your focus, reduce confusion and mixed signals, and allow you to maximize what you get out of each day – be it work, training, family, hobbies or life in general.

Mental Skills for Athletes: Onwards and upwards

Many athletes assume that the road towards their goals begins at the very bottom and moves gradually upward.

This is not the case!

The path towards your goals will never be smooth. There will be setbacks, disappointments, ruts and frustrations along the way.

Ups and downs. You will feel you are going backwards at times.

The key is to never get stuck, keep pushing forward.

Check in regularly and evaluate your progress towards your goals. Setbacks like a bad race, or a poor swim, are easy to spot and fix, but longer periods of stagnation are harder to tackle.

Keeping a training diary will help identify when you are stuck. Revisit your good days to give you a confidence boost, and always focus on moving upwards – even through the down periods.

Mental Skills for Athletes: Success

Success can sometimes breed complacency.

After a successful race, it can be easy to enjoy the glow of achievement a little too long.

You might allow yourself an extra few days off training or enjoy a few too many treats.

But remember: an easy goal does not exist.

Complacency tends to creep in across other activities, potentially delaying your success. No matter how good the last race was, stick to your plan and keep pushing towards your long-term goals.

Mental Skills for Athletes: Time

The things we want most in life tend to take time.

If you want to achieve your goals badly enough, much persistence might be needed and you may require several attempts to make it.

Be patient and don’t give up. Don’t push for too much, too soon. Build your base, which takes time. Refine your technique. Enjoy your progress, even in those dark winter days when you’re tired and everything is a hard slog.

Don’t let impatience or frustration get in the way of your goals. They may take time, but the effort you put in makes it all worthwhile.

Mental Skills for Athletes: Relationships

Swimming and triathlon can be two very lonely sports.

As athletes we should not forget that we remain reliant on our relationships with other people.

For some it is possible to proceed alone, to operate within a silo, but the most successful athletes succeed by leveraging their relationships. They rely on partners, children, Moms and Dads, friends, training partners and more.

Don’t focus on the “I”, consider the “we” and the “us” – the payoff is exponential.

We don’t have to be lone wolves. Not only do we have our friends and families but countless connections across social media networks who can help and inspire.

Use your relationships to maximize the benefits across all elements of your life.

Swimming Workout: Quality not quantity

Steady pace throughout for the main set please. Work on being consistent. Warm down consists of high quality drill work with plenty of rest. Quality not quantity is key in a swim workout, so if you run out of time just do fewer 50s.

Warm up:
4 x 100 as 25 Kick, 25 Drill, 50 Free


Main Set:
4 x 200 30 secs rest. Steady pace throughout. Build #4 to fast effort.
2 x 300 breathe every 3-5 Strokes by 50

Swim down: 8 x 50 as 25 drill, 25 easy swim

Total: 2,200 meters

What drill did you choose?

Mental Skills for Athletes: Visualization

A less than ideal situation can easily be turned around using your imagination and the powers of visualization.

When you’re facing a situation you generally dread, stop and analyze the things you feel and say to yourself.  Then immediately counter your negative thoughts with positive alternatives.

Examples I hear often:

  1. I hate morning swimming practice; counter with > BUT, I’m so alive afterwards
  2. Sprint work on the track hurts so bad; counter with > BUT, it boosts my speed so much
  3. A long solo bike ride is boring, counter with > BUT, I boost my aerobic base and get time to think
  4. Do I really have to stretch post-workout? counter with > BUT, I recover fast for my next workout and perform better

Visualize positive states and with the powers of your imagination, you can overcome any doubts.

Two Quick Tips for a Perfect Freestyle

Keeping it simple, here’s two quick tips that will help your freestyle technique, and thus your swimming.

  • Head Position

Position your head correctly and your body will follow. Streamlined form means efficient swimming. Lift your head and your feet will drop. Leave your head too low and you create resistance with the heaviest part of your body.

Relax your head and neck. The water should break on your forehead. Look forward and down~45 degrees.

If you look too far forward it will put strain on your neck and cause your legs to drag.

  • Finish your stroke

When swimmers fatigue, the tendency is to shorten your stroke, finishing the pull by your hips rather than down your thigh. Each time you do that, you miss out on a significant portion of each stroke.

More strokes per length means more work. Don’t shorten your stroke, keep it long – both in front (by reaching) and behind by finishing the pull down your thigh.

You should feel the burn in your triceps as you work on this!