Switching Off The Negative Voice Inside Your Head

Have you ever noticed that voice inside your head? That internal dialogue you have with yourself when you're nervous or doubting yourself? Thoughts like: "Oh god, I'm not looking forward to this", "What if I go home now and forget this" or "Oh no, I'm really so bad at swimming, why am I doing this?"

Contrast that feeling with when you are happy and confident doing something you love. In that situation you calmly and confidently go about the activity and the voice in your head is quiet.

This negative internal dialogue is really just your fight-or-flight mechanism telling you not to do something and run instead. By listening to it you are giving it a voice, which amplifies your feelings, giving you an even greater surge of anxiety. It's like a feedback loop running round and round your head creating more self doubt and heightened anxiety.

The next time you hear the voice, take control and tell it "I know what you are, be quiet!". Do this any time you are feeling nervous: when you are thinking about tomorrow's squad session, getting in your wetsuit on the beach or half way down a lap of swimming. Realising what that voice really is - and that it is only a small part of you, not all of you - is very empowering indeed.

Switch off the voice, walk onto the pool deck tall and proud and your confidence will build and build. Soon you won't hear that voice any more.

Swim Smooth!


Mystery Swimmer said...

This was so me on Wednesday morning. I had to swim up a lane because it was crowded. That voice in my head was going "These intervals are going to kill you". And it won. Thanks for reminding me it's only a voice. I can make those intervals!!

Psyko (on the Forum) said...

Great advice! I usually have these thoughts just as I come off the bike and start running in Tri: "Note to self: don't do this again". Tell myself it's rubbish and get on with it.

BTW, tried your fist swimming technique for the first time today - what a revelation about how much the forearms can do on their own. Class! Have your DVD on order for Christmas.

Fran├žoisfromFrance said...

Yes indeed, we all know this voice.
My personnal solution to make it lower is to look for the other one which says:
"breathe-out, pay attention, feel, enjoy!"
It really works on me.
I noticed that usually, hearing this other voice makes me swim better, at a lower frequency but not necessarilly slower...

See you guys and thanks for this blog.


Callie said...

Nice timing having this post. I'm back to swimming and water-running after breaking my ankle 9 weeks ago. The little voice in my head is squawking like a chicken reminding me to be careful be careful be careful... I have learned to tell my ankle voice "shut up and swim".

I was focusing too much on how off my stroke felt with the poor ankle flexibility, by how out of shape I was etc., etc., but someone said I should "only look back to see how far I've come"

Anonymous said...

You guys are the best. Not just for swimming but for life.

BarefootLou said...

Thanks for this. All too familiar. Love Psyko's note to self!

I think though that listening to (though not giving in to) the negative voice a bit can sometimes give you information - on where it's coming from, where you might be sabotaging yourself. Denying it's there - which you aren't suggesting, I hasten to add - makes it stronger.

As a late starter with no prior history of competitive sport, I'll always be in deficit compared with many and confidence is hard to find. But it's good to see this. Sensible advice, thank you.

Anonymous said...

For a number of years I have listened to hypnosis CDs on sports performance by Dr Jack Singer. They are fantatsic for overcoming those negative thoughts. You can get them at www.hypnosisnetwork.com
I use these CDs with the swimming club I volunteer coach at. Most of the kids love them.

Anonymous said...

I started swimming lessons in June, I could just manage to do half a length at a struggle. Last Monday I did 10 lengths backstroke and 3 lengths front crawl. My instructor says my technique is pretty good. I do have problems with kicking in front crawl. Then again I seem to be managing bi-lateral breathing. I never feel negative. I just wish I had started younger. I'm 54 now. Just to add, I did a width of butterfly which seemed to give everyone a good laugh.

Rudolf said...

Sure we could all apply good old "think positive" techniques to get over a moment or period of nag - but it's more efficient to listen to it and ask yourself where it comes from!
You (at least I) usually find out that this happens to me when i did not get enough sleep the night before and was already dead tired as i walked on to the deck, or i had some problems to solve - rather than swimming at the time.

Whatever it is, it may better be addressed than "positively washed under the carpet" because it will - in the long run - help to improve your time in the water.

I swim in a pool that is daily packed with so called high performance athletes, guess how frustrating and slow i feel swimming besides them like i am asleep in the middle of a lane - but, instead i keep on telling myself "i need to look for new ideas, answers so i can improve my swimming", it's inspiring as much as frustrating.
Last but not least, there's always a swim club or master coach than one can hook up with, i think that's the best cure for the common swimming blues...

Paulo Neves said...

After 2 years of training in a masters squad I, now, feel pretty confident at the pool. I must say I am an enthusiastic 45 year old triathlete and never been a swimmer in my youth as most of my fellow swimmers were. This is to say that I still am one of the slowest swimmers among them all but, with hard work and following your excellent advices, I have been able to overcome most of my "handicaps". The problem remains though on triathlon races! After struggling in the "washing-machine" for 200m I am always thinking "What exactly am I doing here? I'll never be prepared for this". Only after almost everybody has overtaken me, can I start to relax, concentrate on technique and be able to recover confidence. I guess I am not sufficiently aggressive or strong enough to dispute a race start! I'll keep trying though, and, once again, thank you for advice!

Now, if you allow me an off-topic, I would like to ask if it is common not being able to float. Most of my fellow swimmers can easily float on their backs. I have been trying it myself, only my mouth and nose out of the water, but my legs keep sinking no matter what I do, or don't do. I can easily float with a pullbuoy and actually swim slightly faster with a pullbuoy rather than kicking normally. Having been a "kicktastic", before I met swimsmooth, this recent fact comes as a complete surprise. I am 1.78m tall, weight 63Kg and a recent (quite reliable) BMI test stated a 5% fat figure! Does this mean my legs are too dense? Shall I just ignore the fact that I just don't float or shall I keep trying? Let me say I have tried everything I could just think of, I even tried yoga in the water. I can feel completely relaxed in the water almost to the point of falling asleep but my legs keep sinking all the same...

Pawl said...

I've noticed the negative feelings almost always occur at certain points in the session. Three very different things which help me are:

(a) focus on each stroke element as I'm doing it, knowing that lack of focus is what keeps me from getting better over the long run (it's hard to pay attention to the negative voice and your stroke at the same time);

(b) know how my body feels throughout my workout, that I expect to get a bit tired at certain points but as long as it's about the right amount tired I can look forward to feeling more comfortable as my body kicks into gear again;

(c) accept that once in a while I will have a regression -- but other times I'll have an advance.

Just a follow-up on (b): it's incredible how huge the gulf can be between how I feel at one moment and how I'll feel about the overall workout.

And a big thanks to Swim Smooth, whose site has benefited me enormously!

Anonymous said...

'Tell it to stop'...

Oh boy .. if only it were that simple.

Unknown said...

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