- Rin Iimi and Joyce Wu
The “Championship” Mindset
Oftentimes, swimming can be more of a mental sport than a physical one. Obviously, I’m not telling you that swimming is not physically hard. I’m just saying that sometimes having the mental motivation to get up at 4 am or push through a tough practice is even harder than the physical challenges.
I want to say that I am someone of determination and grit, but there are times where I’m in so much physical pain that the thought of “one more round” is enough to make me want to get out and leave. So here’s something interesting that I have noticed from my moments of mental breakdown during practice: if you go in to practice expecting the worst, hardest, most physically deteriorating set ever imaginable, you will be pleasantly surprised when it’s not as hard as you expected.
Knowing myself, I tend to get discouraged when I expect the practice to be easy and it isn’t, so this mindset works perfectly for someone who thinks like me. Obviously, there are exceptions to this mindset, when the practice is something even worse, harder, and physically deteriorating than you could ever imagine. In that case, my advice is just accept it and move on.
Now, I know this mindset is not entirely the most positive, but hey, whatever works for you right? I’ve definitely tried being positive before practice, telling myself that “it’s not going to be that bad” or “you’re going to do great!” It is always that bad. In some aspects, it’s my way of telling myself that I should always be prepared to put in 100% of my effort and be prepared for it not to be easy.
My “championship” mindset might not always look in a positive direction, but I think it’s a good way to approach challenges both in the pool and in life: always be ready for it to be hard.
When I was in elementary school, I used to skip swim practice all the time. I don’t remember why I was so inclined not to swim, but perhaps the “Papa Louie When the Pizzas Attack” and “Club Penguin” games intrigued me more than swimming did. Nevertheless, as I got older and realized my priorities, I began to appreciate and grow fond of my sport. Around that time was also when my practice attendance increased noticeably.
Personally, once I found a motivating “purpose” to why I swim, I noticed that my practice attendance has been remarkably high. For example, when I was 12 years old, I wanted to be the fastest female 12 and under ever by breaking the US National Age Group record (“NAGs”). My coach and I discussed how I needed to train, and we worked toward my goal every. single. day. I attended eight practices a week, and at every session, I’d focus on something that directly correlated to my goal. Additionally, I strived to end all my practices on a positive note, so when I looked back on the preparation I’ve done (on race day for example), I would remember all the fortitude I overcame and that confidence bode well for my races.
Perhaps you noticed that I wrote a lot of the last paragraph in the past tense. The rationale behind that decision is to emphasize that the way you prepare yourself for an event/the habits that once worked for you can change given time and that’s totally okay! Last year, I struggled a lot mentally, and I found it extremely difficult to enjoy my sport the way I used to; thus, my mental state vastly differed from the 12-year-old Joyce’s. To get back to myself, right now my priority in swimming is focused around enjoying what I do and embracing the opportunities that swimming gives me, including the time I spend with my teammates and coaches as well as the ability to eat a lot of food… :)