Breathing

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In 2003, I watched one of my athletes struggle with finishing her races as she prepared for the Sydney Olympic Games. Regardless of how much effort she put in or how hard she trained, she was consistently getting beat during the final lap of her races.

While at the Short Course World Championships, I watched her race from an underwater camera. Based on what I saw, my perspective on the importance of breathing completely changed. The harder she tried and the more tired she became, the more she clenched her teeth and held her breath while pushing herself to unbelievable levels.

I realized that when we exert ourselves and try hard to do well, our natural tendency is to hold our breath and go for it. For example, think about the first thing you do before you lift something heavy… you take a deep breath and hold it.

When I spoke with her about what I saw, she began to tear up as she replayed the story of how she almost drowned in a backyard pool when she was a toddler. Her natural tendency to hold her breath and try harder was heightened by the fact that when she was stressed in water, she regressed to holding her breath for survival.

Throughout the next month, we focused on relaxing in water and simply breathing. The results were amazing; her performance was better, she swam the final lap of her races faster, and her overall swimming experience became more relaxed and enjoyable.

What does deep, relaxed breathing do for us in our daily life and before races? It allows us to relax, focus better, think more clearly, and increase oxygen in the blood.

Simply breathe with intent, breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. While swimming, breath in through the mouth and out through both the nose and the mouth.

Sounds simple, right? However, don’t let the simplicity devalue the concept. Here are steps to take to get your breathing back on track.

1.  While you are lying in bed, slow your breathing down… in through the nose and out through the mouth.

2.  Once you get better at doing this in the quiet of your own home, try slowing your breathing down while doing a basic activity, such as driving.

3.  Take a few minutes to focus on breathing before attempting a more stressful activity.

4.  Repeat these steps again and again. Within a matter of minutes, you should feel anxiety decrease, relaxation increase, and performance improve.

Better breathing is necessary for a higher-quality life and for faster, higher-quality swimming. Air is the fuel of your swimming car… breathe deep and race on.

See you around the pool!

Yours in swimming,

Mike Walker

Why High Performance Athletes Use Singular Focus and You Should Too!

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Our culture values getting more and more things done, as fast as possible. However, quality can often get overlooked and undervalued in the process.

I would like to talk about what I believe is the cornerstone of high performance: NOT multitasking. This concept is all about getting a fewer number of things done but doing them MUCH BETTER!!!

Here are three reasons we should help our children commit to doing a GREAT job on less things:

1.  Build Self-Confidence

Confidence is like a muscle – it is developed through successful experiences. Doing a great job on a fewer number of things is the BEST way children can build self-confidence.

2.  Increase Excitement for New Challenges

When children feel they are successful and their self-confidence is growing, they have far more ENERGY and excitement to WANT to stretch and try new and challenging activities. After your child does a great job on a task, watch how excited they are to try the next task!

3.  Execute Peak Performance in High-Pressure Situations

Simple expectations executed at an extremely high level equals peak performance. In every pressure moment I have had with athletes – the crowd is going wild and the athletes are feeling nervous – I have ALWAYS helped them focus on doing one thing AWESOME. Keep things simple and watch quality SOAR in even the most pressure-filled moments.

As our children participate in swimming, we can help them utilize this concept before they start a practice, a race, etc. Ask your child to select one thing they want to accomplish and remind them to keep their focus on that one thing. THEN, when they execute that ONE THING…Reward them!!!

The concept of NOT multitasking is all about creating habits of excellence. Self-confidence goes up, energy and excitement go up, and performance quality goes up.

See you around the pool!

Yours in Swimming,

Mike Walker

3 Tips on How to Achieve Your Olympic Dreams Starting Today

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The Olympic Games have a way of making us all DREAM BIG. The excitement, energy, and emotion that comes with competing and representing your nation in front of a global audience is contagious.

Although the 2016 Olympic Games have come to a close, I am still hearing the buzz around the swim school. Swimmers of all ages are dreaming about making an Olympic team and winning Olympic medals one day.

As a parent, I understand the challenge of trying to support my children’s dreams and simultaneously protect them from disappointment. I believe there are three steps to help our children identify, navigate, and realize these dreams successfully:

1.  Understand the Difference

It is important to understand the difference between DREAMS and GOALS.

Dreams are the BIG THINGS that make you say, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if this happened someday?”

Goals, on the other hand, are the STEPS of the staircase that leads to your dream.

Differentiating dreams from goals helps us communicate to our children that we acknowledge and support their dreams and are invested in helping them determine the realistic steps they must take to reach their dreams.

2.  Identify Dreams and Set Goals

Help your child identify and write down their dream using words, doodles, drawings, pictures, etc.

Once their dream is established, assist them in determining the steps of the staircase, the goals. Remember, how we help our children set goals looks different from how we set goals for ourselves as adults.

To help your child set goals, first ask them to think of one thing they will need to do to reach their dream. This task must be SPECIFIC, CLEAR, and SIMPLE.

Second, ask your child to come up with an immediate short-term goal. This goal should only span a matter of hours or a number of days.

Third, help your child construct a short-term goal they can accomplish in a week. Short-term goals make dreams much more manageable.

3.  Follow the Process

You would be amazed by how many athletes, just a few years away from the Olympic Games, would say CONFIDENCE when I would ask them, “What is the one thing you have to have in order to make the Olympic team?”

Helping our children set SPECIFIC, CLEAR, and SIMPLE goals helps them build a habit of success. Success, in turn, builds the confidence muscle. Accomplishing a goal is a successful activity that builds confidence.

When your child accomplishes a goal, make sure to CELEBRATE! This is the final step of the process (and possibly the most important) as it helps the feeling of success stick with your child, setting them up for a lifetime of reaching their dreams.

Yours in Swimming,

Mike Walker

Going for the Gold

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With the 2016 Olympic Games and summer coming to a close, I’ve been inspired to share with you how we “go for gold” every day here at Gold Medal Swim School.

When students begin new activities it’s easy to point out what they are doing wrong. At Gold Medal Swim School, we believe it is more effective to spotlight golden moments in our students’ swimming, or, as we like to say, “Catching students doing it right”.

What I mean by this is instead of correcting the wrong, we celebrate the “RIGHT”…..Let me say it again; catch the “right” moment forget about everything else.

World class athletes rely on self-confidence to do their very best in the most difficult situations. We believe that confidence is just like a muscle. This concept of confidence being a “muscle that is strengthened through successful experiences” is key to Olympic athletes and children being the best they can become.

I have found that self-confidence is one of the major key components to swimming and peak performance in the pool and out. Our teachers help build confidence through this approach in every class.

As parents, you can help and build your child’s self-confidence when you see your child doing it right. Sometimes these moments are small but let’s build swimming from success, not corrections and failures. Students love doing things they are good at and love to show everyone how super they are! Here at Gold Medal Swim School we build on this and the results are awesome!

Yours in Swimming,

Mike Walker