The habits of professional swimmers06/16/2021 | Written by Nikos Kaskaras in Fitness & Nutrition Tips
Perfect planning prevents pathetic performance, says a well-known proverb. It's as true as inspiring and usually is the decisive factor between success and failure in all aspects of life. Quite certainly, it's a principle that all professional swimmers apply. It's also one that sets the foundation stone for what makes the real difference: the habits of professional swimmers.
First things first: It's not easy being a professional swimmer. It's not easy being a professional athlete in any kind of sports though swimming is rather more demanding in many aspects. The first rule for trying to become a professional swimmer is quite straightforward: Fully committing to it. This is a principal prerequisite. No matter how talented one may be, if there is not absolute focus, there can't be any real progression. The meaning of full commitment could be summarised in some strict rules:
- Never missing a training
- Always looking for ways of improving
- Gradually building a strong mentality
- Not letting other people affect confidence
- Constantly focusing on the goal
- Procrastination is not accepted
Fully committing is the number one priority for passing to the professional level. It requires a real passion for swimming, you have to love it. All greatness in life, after all, comes from passion.
Aim for consistency
This is the second most essential habit. Aiming for consistency is important if any success is to come. This is a mental attribute that all swimmers of the top-level acquire. Their daily training is constantly targeting towards achieving specific targets. Either it's perfecting a technique or reaching a milestone, they always try to keep a minimum level of performance. Their full attention is concentrated on training, they don't just show up because they have to. It's a ritual that demands high levels of concentration and determination.
Aiming for consistency is a multidimensional principle that consists of numerous parameters:
- Sticking to the schedule
- Taking one step at a time
- The continuous setting of goals
- Constant effort for improvement
It's worth taking a closer look at each one of them.
Stick to schedule
The only way of becoming better at anything is to spend time practising it. Practice, practice and practice again. There's a thin distinction though that separate professional from amateurs: Sticking to the schedule no matter what. Is the weather bad, is the mood low, is there a feeling of boredom? It doesn't matter. No training is ever missed unless it is for injury reasons of course. Naturally, not all days are the same in terms of energy levels or mental clarity. Still, professional swimmers will never use a cheap excuse for missing a training session.
One step at a time
One of History's greatest lessons is that no great task became reality in a short period. Rome wasn't built in a day, the apartheid regime took decades to abolish and so on. This notion could not be truer than in our case. All top-level swimmers reached that stage after following a step by step approach. Instead of trying to reach their target as quickly as possible, they dedicate their effort to perfecting their swimming technique and reaching predetermined milestones. They don't proceed to the next milestone before they have excelled in their performance at the previous one.
“The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score,” said Bill Copeland an American awarded poet, writer and historian. This phrase summarises the whole mindset of professional swimmers on that issue. There's no ambiguity at all: Failing to set goals is not an option. There's no point declaring to be a professional if you show up in the training just trying to do the best you can. There have to be specific goals as well as tangible steps towards making these goals a reality.
All success in life is heavily dependent on mentality. When talking about elite athletes, their state of mind is stable at all times. They never stop putting in the maximum effort for reaching their goals. Never. Another famous motto applies there: No pain, no gain. Progress is the result of continuous effort. What is equally significant is the 100% factor. There's not a swimming champion who does not put all of his efforts into every single training. There's no point trying your best only when you feel well or for a short period before competitive games. Constant effort means giving your best all the time.
Nutrition and sleep
This is such an important habit of elite swimmers. In reality, there can't be any serious consideration for being a professional swimmer, if nutritional and sleeping habits are not fully developed. Swimming is a highly demanding sport. Swimming legend Michael Phelps ate foods that provided him 12.000 calories per day for his training needs. Olympic gold medalist Nahan Adrian was getting twelve hours of sleep during the games period. These are big numbers that show in clarity the magnitude of influence that nutrition and sleep have on the daily routines of professional swimmers. Since they are both, great sources of energy for the human body there is much volume of effort put on their best use. This is why top-class swimmers have their nutritionists and always try to get as much sleep as possible. Regaining strength and keeping high energy levels are indispensable conditions for competing successfully at the top level.
The mental aspect of success is crucial. The majority of people perhaps thinks that physical strength and natural talent matter most in professional swimming. Nonetheless, they are not the sole success criteria. Effective mental preparation is a key habit of great swimmers. This involves not just the healthy sleeping habits or the scouting of their opponent's style but even more advanced techniques. Michael Phelps, for example, used visualisation before every important game he had to give. He spent a great deal of time before the games, projecting on his mind the sequence of the swim race and where he wanted to be. Similarly, Ian Thorpe used visualisation for empowering his progression.
“When I was a kid I used to imagine within my body there were all those mini people and the people in my goggles were the control room. They were kind of like lemmings and they used to power everything in my body. I was always whipping them to make them work harder. That was my form of visualisation”, Thorpe said in an interview.
This is a habit that is easier said than done. All people have emotions and we know very well that emotions are not stable. So how do professional swimmers develop such a trait? There are several “tricks” they widely use for this habit that can help them taking precedence over their opponents:
- Appreciating previous successes
- Never allow other people to influence the scope of their ambitions
- Having positive, like-minded people around them
- Being open to constructive criticism
- Never complaining or finding excuses
- Refusing to lose
The whole process of building self-confidence is indeed fascinating. It takes great levels of energy, resilience and self-belief to reach the point where no person on Earth can bring you down. Its results though are fruitful. There's not a single swimming champion on earth who is not highly self-confident. Promoting such a philosophy of thinking is a great boost for all activities in life and can lead to a fulfilling life.
We are our habits
Overall, the route to success is the outcome of the habits we develop. It's not about taking rid of those, it's about developing and nurturing meaningful habits that can help us reach our goals and become better people. This is the lesson that all of us can take. And who knows? Maybe a future champion will be born.