Self-talk is what you say to yourself internally during a set or a race, even during a test in school. If you negatively speak to yourself, you will have a negative reaction to what you are doing. Students that “don’t test well” are too nervous and doubt themselves inside their heads during the actual test. The same thing goes for swimming. If you are doing a set of 20x200s best average and you want to quit after the 5th one because it hurts too much, and you give into the easy choice, then you are succumbing to negative self-talk. If you are in the middle of a race and you are saying to yourself “Man, I can’t feel the water, I feel like crap, this hurts so bad.” Blah, blah, blah. You have to be able to control those negative thoughts and turn them around. It does not matter how you feel when you jump in, it only matters how bad you want it.
There are ways to help turn around negative self-talk. One way is called parking your thoughts. When you cannot sleep because you are thinking too much about everything that is going on in your life, you need to roll over in your bed and write down everything you are thinking about. You park those thoughts so you can stop thinking about them. Try to leave any thoughts of negativity outside of practice and certainly the competition pool. Being able to swim fast after a bad race is a good example of someone not bringing in bad thoughts from the last race. Let it go and do not bring it back into the pool.
Thought stopping is another popular way to promote positive self-talk. When you internally speak negatively during practice, a meet, or any time, stop it. Think, nope, this is not happening. You can also add a trigger word that helps you think about stopping. For example: Let’s say you are sick with the flu and you can’t keep any food down. Instead of throwing up, perhaps you try to hold it back and you say to yourself “Flowers and frosting, flowers and frosting!!” You think about beautiful, delicious things instead of the flu and your vomit and how disgusting you are. Thinking positively and using that trigger word(s) can help you from stop throwing up. The same can be done for stopping other negative thoughts regarding swimming…especially in the middle of a race. You can switch those negative thoughts with positive ones instead. The trigger word(s) are for you to choose (again, what works best for you!).