For many athletes, this time of year is when we begin to crawl back out of hibernation. Last season is far behind us, and a well-deserved break has been taken. Now the thoughts of all the potential that this year could bring is catching up. New PRs, beating old rivals, and maybe some new gear you’ve acquired over the holidays are all part of the driving force to get back out there and start training again. Although it can feel great to finally start up again, your body is definitely not the same body you had at the peak of your race season a few months ago. However, your mind may have a hard time grasping this concept. So, for this early/pre-season part of the year, one of the most important things you can do as an athlete is to let go of your ego.
Don’t let your ego get you down
Your ego can be a great motivator in your athletic endeavors. It can drive your competitive spirit, get you to finish one more rep and get you out of bed just a little earlier so that you can be the first one in the pool. But your ego can also be a very detrimental force. Your ego remembers how fast you were last August and will instantly draw comparisons between you in peak fitness and you after a little time off and some well-deserved ice cream. It can be demotivating to feel sluggish, unresponsive, and just plain slow at the same intensities that you used to be able to hold no problem.
Let your ego go
So for right now, you simply have to take the ego out of it. Allow yourself to gradual build back into fitness. Don’t worry about the clock and just enjoy getting back into the swing of things. In time the speed will come back to you, but for now, just enjoy the process. Don’t try and hold the same paces that you were in August. Not only will it just further demoralize you, but it can also be a huge injury risk. If it’s been a while since you’ve been in the pool, use this time to really work on your stroke technique. Everything will feel very new to you, but you are smarter than you were last year, so reinforce good technique habits before old bad habits have a chance to take hold. Realize, you are not the voice inside your head that keeps telling you how slow you are compared to last year. You are above that voice and can choose how to respond or listen to it.
Flex your mental muscles
Few athletes spend any time doing mental training. This early season period can be a great time to practice your mental strength. By distancing yourself from the voice inside your head you can better focus on the task at hand. How often are you thinking about the past or future while in the middle of workout? Stay mindful of the present and the process you are completing in the now. Control the ego voice inside your head -either through opening up a dialogue and engaging with the voice or by labeling it as a distraction and moving on from it. And come race time later in the year, when the going gets tough and that little voice tells you to stop or slow down, you can better disconnect yourself from your ego, allow your body to take over, and just be a spectator of the whole process.
by Coach Alex Libin