We’re all excited to get back into the pool and smash our training sessions! However, starting swimming again may also bring some worries or doubts. It’s natural to feel this way. So here are our top tips for returning to the pool, developed with Helen Davis, a chartered Sport Psychologist who works with athletes, coaches, and teams to enhance performance, including Team GB.
Don’t be hard on yourself
All swimmers will be experiencing fears and doubts after being out of the water for so long- even the best athletes in the world! For example, it’s normal to worry that your fitness levels or times may not be the same as pre-lockdown. Both can return. Focus on the expression ‘Been there, done that?’ This expression is a belief and it sends a powerful message to our brains to reassure ourselves that we have experience of something. Experience is a big source of confidence. Try focusing on this belief- if you’ve achieved it before you can achieve it again.
Keep communicating and connecting with those around you who care- your friends, teammates, parents and coaches. This might be by listening, sharing experiences, or managing expectations around returning to swimming. Share with people how you feel and give others the opportunity to share. It’s okay to feel frustrated, have doubts, or to feel anxious. Telling people how you feel will help, and you might be surprised at how many people you talk to are feeling the same. It’s also ok to feel different things to others. Everyone’s experience is individual.
Look after yourself and others
Helping yourself and others with self-care can be challenging, but what does self-care really mean and what can you do? Self-care is about checking in with yourself physically and mentally to make sure everything is okay – and taking the necessary steps when it isn’t. It’s about keeping yourself happy and healthy. One thing you can do each day is to check in with yourself. Do this by noticing how you are feeling in body and mind when you wake up. Then actually listen to the answer! The important part, and sometimes the hardest part, is taking action. Think about who in your family or wider community could help you to take action. By being healthy about self-care, you will feel better equipped to help yourself and others as you return to the pool.
Don’t compare yourself to other swimmers
If you swim competitively, you may be nervous about how much training time your rivals or teammates have had in comparison to you. Spending time comparing will just make you worry more and is taking the focus away from the person that matters – you! Avoid wasting precious energy on focusing on others as everyone will have their own journey to returning to swimming, and it will be different to yours. If you find yourself worrying about it, remind yourself that it is stealing time and energy away from your goals, your focus, and your swimming.
Channel your inner champion
Just as you have an inner critic, you also have an inner champion which might be harder to connect with at this time. Remember to give yourself credit for your successes, even if they feel small as you return to the pool. Channel your inner champion by focusing on what you are doing well, what you are making progress with and what you are grateful for. Small successes can be building blocks to great things!
It’s ok to feel frustrated
Trying to ‘be positive’ is difficult when you are frustrated! Instead, try to be an ‘effective thinker’ rather than trying to ‘be positive’. Recognise you have frustration but choose to reflect and think about your situation in the best way possible for you. This will enable you to move you forwards and take action to give yourself the best possible chance of swimming the way that you want next time. Applying an effective self-talk strategy can help with this. Try putting the word ‘yet’ at the end of a sentence, for example ‘I haven’t got to the times that I want to yet.’ It is a small, simple word but can help us in times of challenge. ‘Yet’ reminds us that things take time, ‘yet’ gives us the time and opportunity to develop, ’yet’ can encourage us when things feel hard and ‘yet’ can give us hope.
Find out more about Helen Davis and her work as Director of think.believe.perform. https://www.thinkbelieveperform.co.uk/