The final stretch for the school year has begun and it’s the perfect time to knuckle-down in the final block of training before holidays start and then SNAG 2015 will be round the corner for Singaporean elite swimmers.  In this article I will present some useful tips for creating fearsome focus in the pool.

Working toward your long-term goal with determination involves learning the art of “fully-focusing” on your daily tasks, the uninterrupted connection between two things: You and your directed action toward reaching your goals.

When you are fully focused in your swimming training or homework assignments, you are totally connected to what you are doing; your task at hand.  In swimming terms, focusing means tuning in to your body, concentrating on your coordination and technique with a simple cue or trigger such as “fix”, “anchor”, “connect”, or “press”, whilst paying attention to your breathing and rhythm of movement in the present moment.  During and between sets, your focus must be adaptable, like the zoom lens of a camera; zooming in and zooming out.  For example, you first need a wide-angle perspective to gather critical information from your coach to determine the demands of the set and then zoom in to your space, directing your attention to your task at hand, blocking out the periphery to become absorbed in completing your mission.

A lot of focusing practice involves learning to stay connected to what you are doing; exploring the feelings that free you to perform well, not letting irrelevant or distracting thoughts interfere, trusting your body to work naturally without forcing it, and directing your mind or body with simple cues when it begins to tire or deviate from a positive focus on the task at hand.

Using these triggers, swimmers aim to achieve clarity and connection with their task in the present moment, freeing them from distracting thoughts about past mistakes or future failures, and ultimately allowing them to take control of their performance.

Here are some tips to improve your focus skills in training:

  1. When you practice your skills and drills, focus on being totally connected to your movements.
  2. When you don’t feel quite right at any point in your training – Revert your focus on the little steps, return to basics, follow your plan.
  3. If you know there is a hard main set coming up, don’t let your mind race ahead, calm down and focus on your technique in the present set. This will help you to prepare for the tough set ahead and feel in control of your body and movement.
  4. Use meaningful reminders or cue words (e.g., “connect”, “smooth”, “steady”, “be here”) that allow you to activate your best performance focus.
  5. To reduce over-thinking when you are nervous or distracted, free yourself to execute your own moves without evaluation or judgment; just let go and see what happens.  Go by feel.  Go by instinct.  Free yourself to flow naturally.

Put these strategies into action during training and you will find greater enjoyment and motivation in working through the process of training, refinement of rehearsed skills and drills, and mastery of new skills.

Dr Jay-Lee Longbottom PhD | Psychologist MAPS
Book an appointment to make your swimming goals come alive in your training with Dr Jay-Lee at the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre.