Finish where you started-only better.

“You follow a black line back and forth do you end up where you started…?”

Finish where you started-only better

How tracking your repetition aids peak performance.

“You follow a black line back and forth and end up in the same place you started, do you feel like you are getting anywhere?”  These were the witty words of my English professor during a college office visit where I was trying to understand what I needed to do to improve my essay writing skills and grade.

Instead of providing the advice I wanted, he began to ask me about the paradigm that was swimming.   At the time, I was caught off guard…I had never thought of my sport in that way.   What did he mean I end up in the same place I started? Maybe figuratively, but in reality this couldn’t be farther from the truth.  I was determined to finish better each day than the day before.

While competitive swimmers do train countless laps back and forthin a season, they understand that repetition is the name of the game.  Repetition builds habits.  Good habits build successful races. The key to success is that the daily repetitive action should never be mindless swimming.  Good athletes recognize how good repetitive habits take them to a far different place than where they start.

But how do you know if your repetition is better than last week, or last month, or even last year?   Besides measuring your time at the championship meet—many swimmers do not know if they are on a good repetition track or not.

Logging your goals and your efforts will steer you to a different destination.

Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have to wait until the final competition to know where you are in a season?     Instead of swimming each workout and then leaving any memory of your work in the pool as you dry off, you can capture a snippet of your previous hours long effort in a quick training log.  It can take as little as five minutes each day to record what you have done, how you felt and what change you made to be better, faster, stronger.   As thislogbuilds from week to week, you will begin to see patterns that will help you not only within the current season, but also with future seasons.

If something is important to you—you want to keep track of it.   If swimming is important to you, keep track.  Recording your repetition is the key to seeing how your efforts are paying off and how you can make  changes that will lead you towards your desired end of season finish. 

Three ways to quick record your repetition:

  1. Have a journal, notebook, spreadsheet or logbook.  Whatever you use, make sure it is substantial and can last a season and is accessible so that you use it every day.

Example—using a swim log like, The Ultimate Swim Log and Goal Planner, designed for swimmers makes it easy to have a dedicated place to record as much or as little as you feel comfortable.

  • Make record keeping/logging easy on yourself.   Start with just a note of attendance.  If something significant also happened…quickly write that down. 

For example—Tues practice—did 2k—finally was able to hold .30s on repeat 50s.   

There is no rule to how to log—except just to log something.   As you get used to making notes each day you will find it easier to write down more notes to yourself.

  • Set a short habit goal for the week, or season—and have it visible each time you record your workout.

For example—Goal: kickout past flags on all turns in practice this week.

Making this habit goal visible reinforces the intention and helps your brain re-wire to make this a habit.

Why is record keeping important?

Recording keeps you accountable.   If you don’t write something important down, you can tend to forget it or get distracted by something else.   Writing down the simplest of records regarding your training,  even if it is a check mark that you attended practice—is a way of acknowledging to yourself that you put in the effort.  You are holding yourself accountable.

Recognizing patterns of training.  Adding effort level notes to your attendance record provides even more self-evaluation.    After a few months you may see a pattern of behavior that is an easy fix for improvement.   For example, you may notice your goal for the week is toextend your underwater kickout.  If you are not seeing any improvement after a few weeks, you may need to work with your coach to re-evaluate how you can make the improvement you are looking for. 

Record keeping builds confidence in what works and what doesn’t.   By recording your efforts during the season, you have a road map to use for future seasons.   If you aren’t feeling “fast” during your taper this season, but you can look back at the same time last year—and see that you noted you did not feel fast but then went on to swim lifetime best times… you can be confident that you are on the right track in your taper.  Having a record helps you build confidence in your journey.   The more information you record about yourself, the more clues you are giving your future self on how to succeed, and the knowledge that the black line on the bottom of the pool is not leading you back to the same place you started.

Aimee Schmitt, author of The Ultimate Swim Log and Goal Planner,  is a former USA Swimming National Team member, Stanford Swimming NCAA Team champion, and avid believer in logging and goal setting.

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