The Power of Your Brain Could Be Holding You Back

Between the ages of 6 and 11 I absolutely loathed the word "sick." Don't even get me started on the words "throw up" and "vomit." Somewhere along the lines I convinced myself if I heard those words I would then become those words. So maybe loathe is the wrong descriptor. 

I was petrified of those words.

Somehow I had convinced myself that if I heard those words, said those words, or thought about those words too much, that they would come true. And for some reason during those particular childhood years being physically ill was terrifying to me. I can’t put my finger on why, but it was my biggest fear at the time, and I was thinking about NOT thinking or saying those words constantly.

And now to answer your question - yes, I did, on more than one occasion, make myself ill just by thinking about it, stressing about it, and worrying about it. Oops? How does this relate to swimming you might ask? Or have I taken up a new blog series on the childhood woes of accidental regurgitation? No, in all seriousness, I’m bringing up this example to talk about the power of your brain, and the thoughts inside it. Because throughout the time I was training and racing in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, I would constantly psych myself out before big races. 

No matter how much time or effort I put into my practices, I would show up to meets and let my fears take over my brain, and in turn, my body. In other words, I had more than enough deposits in the bank, but my brain was preventing me from making a withdrawal. 

Even though it might not seem like it, your brain has a huge affect on what your body can do physically. You might be feeling great one morning, but if you’re in a negative headspace or you’re down on yourself for one reason or another, you’re not going to be able to perform at your best physically. I struggled with this constantly in my teenage years, and still have trouble with it sometimes to this day. 

I don’t have an answer for you as how to overcome this, I wish I did. But what worked for me was a mix of deciding not to care about the end result and just wanting to have fun, at the same time as acknowledging the fact that I had put in more than enough time and effort to see progress. It’s not that I don’t care how I do in races now, but the practices and time put into training are just as important, and thinking that way has helped me take a great deal of pressure off of myself in terms of just one single performance.

You’re going to have good days and bad days, that’s inevitable. But if you can keep your thinking positive, take into account that you’ve been putting the time in the pool to get those time drops and make your stroke more efficient, you’re going to be in a better mood, and your body will be better apt to respond positively. Even if racing isn’t your favorite, you can trick yourself into falling in love with it by associating the word “racing” with an image of something positive, like a sunny day at the beach, a donut, or maybe eating a donut while on the beach...the image can be anything that makes you happy. Once you start working on this I guarantee you’ll have a better mental attitude, and your races will reflect that.

Not a crazy post today about the exact angle you need your thumb to be at when it enters the water in reference to the water temperature while taking altitude and wind gusts into account - cross your fingers I never get that technical, but never say never - just a simple thought to keep in mind when you’re going through the motions of training and racing. And everyday life for that matter as well.