Swimming

How mental toughness training can make you a champion in the pool

Do you know how important your head is in your swimming? Are you aware that most races are won and lost before the start? The difference between your best and worst races is always related to what you think about and focus on right before and during your swims! This is why swimmers consistently go faster in practice than they do in big meets, or faster in their off-events than their best ones! If you have dreams of becoming a champion, you have to start today to consistently work on the mental side of your swimming!

All the physical training and stroke-technique work in the world won’t help you if you get too nervous before your races, concentrate on the wrong things, are unable to let go of past bad swims, think negatively, or lack self-confidence.

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If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most shooters go. Most serious shooters religiously work on their shot technique. They’ll even work on their strength and fitness. They’ll tirelessly work on their hold and shot plan. Is this stuff important? Absolutely! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success. Without it, you’ll never shoot to your potential.

Unfortunately, this is where shooters stop. When they go into competitions, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll score well enough to win or at least final. You’d never leave your physical technique to chance. So why would you leave the most important part of your shooting – the mental side – to chance?

Use your pre-race routine to stay calm and composed before your big races.

  1. Focus only on YOUR pre-race routine as you prepare to race.
  2. Keep your concentration on the feel of what you are doing, while you do it, (i.e. as you stretch, focus on the feel of your stretch and nothing else).
  3. When your concentration drifts to other swimmers or your times, quickly bring your focus back to the routine.
  4. Be prepared to bring your focus back as many times as you drift, both before and during the race.
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If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most shooters go. Most serious shooters religiously work on their shot technique. They’ll even work on their strength and fitness. They’ll tirelessly work on their hold and shot plan. Is this stuff important? Absolutely! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the main keys to your success. Without it, you’ll never shoot to your potential.

Unfortunately, this is where shooters stop. When they go into competitions, they hope they’ll perform well, they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today, they hope that they’ll score well enough to win or at least final. You’d never leave your physical technique to chance. So why would you leave the most important part of your shooting – the mental side – to chance?

A swimmer in the middle of a lifetime-best swim is totally focused on feel and not on their thoughts.

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Swimming fast comes as a result of you focusing on the feel of what you are doing: i.e. how much water you’re pulling, your turn-over rate, your kick, staying long, etc. Focusing on FEEL is the “gas pedal” in the pool. Focusing on what you are thinking about slows you down and is the “brake pedal!”

Why do swimmers go faster in their off-events?

In her off-events, this swimmer never put pressure on herself. She had no expectations! She just relaxed and focused on her own race. She didn’t worry about other competitors or her times. However, in her best events, she’d think about her time and how fast her opponents were, and worry about failing. This made her too nervous and physically tight to swim fast. In a short amount of time, I helped her become aware of what she was doing wrong mentally, and then taught her how to correct her mental mistakes: how to better control her pre- and in-race focus so that she was able to swim her 200s like she did her off-events!

You’d never leave your physical training to chance, so why leave the mental part of your swimming up in the air. Start today to build your mental toughness and swim like a champion.

As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. G works with swimmers at every level from Olympians right down to age groupers. A popular presenter at coaches clinics and clubs around the country, Dr. G specializes in helping swimmers get unstuck and swimming fast when it counts the most. He is a regular contributor to USA Swimming’s Splash Magazine and USA Swimming.org. Dr. G is the author of Smoke on the Water, DMTS (Developing Mentally Tough Swimmers), Swimming Fast When It Counts The Most, and his newest mental toughness training program, Swimming With The Competitive Edge.

  • Read the title! 'Swim Fast When It Counts The Most' and if you really want to do that, work with this little book. It helped me and when I gave it to my little sister, it helped her. Dr. G knows what he is talking about.

    Will Delaware
  • Last season was the first time I worked with DMTS with my entire team. I have to say that to a man, they have gotten fully on board. At the end of the season we won the League Championship.  My guys have continued to comment on the skills they learned from our sessions.

    Juan North Carolina
  • I think your Racer's Edge is AWESOME! I used to get so psyched out before my races that I'd swim tight and fall apart in the middle. I knew I spent too much energy worrying about other kids in my race, but I never knew how to stop that. NOW I know thanks to you and my times show it!

    Derek Pennsylvania
  • Two weeks before our taper meet I always have my kids working with your Racer's Edge. Since I started this my swimmers have consistently performed better under pressure. They look calmer and are having fun and as you always say, 'a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer!'

    Timothy Oregon
  • I can honestly say that Dr.G's mental toughness swim series helped me stay confident and focused and helped me believe in myself as I attempted again to make the Olympic team. I have to give Dr. G's program big credit in helping me bring home a relay Gold!

    Sheila Taormina Olympic Gold Medalist & World Class Triathlete
  • Dr. G, I have been using DMTS with my high school girls ever since you came out with it, (OMG that's a long time ago!). I can't begin to tell you how much I have improved as a coach because of it! And then there's the success my kids have enjoyed as a result! Grateful.

    Sandy New York
  • This has been a great tool for my swimmers. It's easy to understand and chock full of effective mental toughness exercises. Since we've been using it I've noticed a significant difference in my kids' confidence and how they handle big meet pressure! Thanks for all your help!

    Sue Parnes Swim San Diego
  • I bought my 14 year old daughter your Swim CDs.  She was having a hard time coming off girl's high school season back to age group swimming.  The CDs helped tremendously to motivate and focus her. She just had a big meet this weekend and swam all personal bests!

    Chris S Indiana
  • I used to choke real bad at my taper meets. I would get so freaked that I would end up in tears behind the blocks.  The Racer's Edge helped me  learn where my nervousness was coming from and how to stay calm before my swims. Best of all, I've been swimming the way I know how!

    Stephanie Maryland
  • I coach a girls' high school swim team and I started using Smoke as a guide for doing mental training with my kids. The difference has been profound. My kids have a great attitude even when we swim against some of the best teams in the State!

    Mike Wisconsin
  • The best news is that I introduced The Racer's Edge to my most troubled senior girls with remarkable results. Alan, you have a great voice and delivery and you speak to the swimmers on their own terms in the rhythm of their own language. Thanks for your help!! It's really made a difference!

    John Bittner Homer Maritime Swimming, Massachusetts
  • Once again you have added another important training tool to my swim coaching arsenal! I have all of your Cds and books and especially love your new edition of Smoke! Like all your stuff, it is simple yet powerful. My kids love your exercises at the end of our practices! Many thanks

    John California
  • Our 13 year swimmer  recently achieved a team record. He credited you. More importantly than his time, were his words, which echoed much of what you have taught him....."It felt so great, like I was just cutting through the water in the moment." I recommend your series to everyone!

    Jean California
  • This book really helped me go faster. I used to get pretty nervous before my races, swim tight and then die in the middle. Now I know what to think about and how to focus and my times have dropped. And my back half of my races is always strong! Thanks Dr. G. This is good stuff!

    Elaine S. Baltimore Maryland
  • I got your Swim CDs for my daughter several weeks ago. At the Ohio State championships she placed 8th in breast. She had a lifetime best in prelims. Her senior year looked like it was going to be awful but I think your program deserves a lot of credit for turning things around.

    Sherry F Ohio
  • My 12 yr. old son was getting physically sick before his races. You recommended your CDs and the transformation in his mental approach has been incredible. Nick has just qualified for next year's Nationals in the 200M backstroke. Thank you so much.

    Hilary United Kingdom
  • I started my team on your DMTS book and have been working with it all season. We just had the best meet of the entire season! It's funny that as coaches we never really think to train the brain as well as the body. Thanks for your book to help us do that!

    Adam S New York
  • On behalf of our sons, we want to thank you for your swim CD's. The boys  start one of your tracks on the way to and from the pool. They do their workbooks at home each night. Our youngest achieved a team record at 2:12 flat and credits you!. "I was just into the moment like Dr. G said!"

    The King Family Maryland
  • I look at DMTS as my competitive edge. I have been using it regularly for 5 years now and it has helped me feel confident teaching mental toughness to my swimmers and getting them to buy in. And the payoff is watching them during the taper meets! My kids are focused and their results back it up!

    William Michigan
  • What a great tool! My kids love this pre-meet program and all have it on their ipods. As a group, I've noticed a consistent improvement in their ability to swim fast under pressure.

    Mike P New Hampshire
  • Dr. G, Bought your Best Mental Toughness package and love it. Reserved a classroom every Monday night through our season for our team. Felt that it made a huge impact on our season.  The potential was there and your program helped them to believe it and achieve it. Thank you!

    Sandy New York
  • We got your swim CD's and Grant can't stop is listening to them. Despite how much he struggled this season, his attitude seems to have completely flipped!  He really feels like you GET IT...and.. is able to relate to his swimming." Thank you

    Linda Rhode Island
  • I have my old kid back! With your help, and that wonderful little book, (Smoke) his confidence is up. He has always been in his head too much, often to his detriment….but you and your training tools have taught him to do things differently. I don't know how to thank you!

    Jennifer Minnesota
  • I have read your books and listened to your CDs my entire life. I was a competitive swimmer when I was younger. I have just completed my first Ironman and am now training for my pro license. I just wanted to thank you for all of your help. I've gotten so much from your books and CDs!

    Ashley North Carolina
  • Alan Goldberg is one of the leading sports performance consultants in swimming today. His knowledge and effectiveness is based on years of experience working with novice to elite swimmers. DMTS is yet another one of his fine contributions and will really help you train your swimmers!

    David Marsh Olympic Coach
  • A great little workbook that will help you get a handle on what goes on between your ears. Goldberg always talks about 'RACES ARE WON AND LOST BEFORE THE START' and in Swim Fast he shows you why, and how to get your head working for you! Should be part of EVERY swimmer's dryland training.

    Paul Coach, North Carolina
  • Your workbook, (SWIM FAST) and MP3's have helped John be calmer at meets. No longer does he work himself up before his big events and fall apart the way he used to. The difference in his swims is amazing. He looks so much more relaxed during his races and the results show it!

    Carla Oregon
  • Smoke on the Water has been a great tool for my swimmers. It's easy to understand and chock full of effective mental toughness exercises. Since we've been using it, I've noticed a significant difference in my kids' confidence and how they handle big meet pressure! Thanks for all your help!

    Sue Parnes NCA, California
  • I would always swim great in practice and then add time in meets. I never knew why and it was killing my confidence. I read Swim Fast and my pre-race nerves are now gone.  After High School Champs, where I got all Life Time Bests my coach called me "Ms. Mental Toughness!' I love it.

    Jen Illinois
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