Conquering Self Doubt

by Carl O’Donnell: Former New Zealand Swimming Champion and 2012 London Olympian

Whether an Olympian or a beginner, we all go through periods of self doubt. Can I make the distance? Can I beat my rival? This happens because we don’t know what the outcome of an event is going to be, and that worries us. When your mind begins to question your ability, it can be difficult to enjoy the lead-up to your event. Doubt can swallow your motivation and pressure you out of positivity. Take action to alleviate your doubts with the following tips.

The best way to conquer self doubt is to give yourself no reason to doubt in the first place. It is very common for new ocean swimmers to worry that they can’t swim the distance. If this is you, then (I’m sorry but), what you need to do is get in the pool or the ocean and test yourself! Try swimming the distance. Then you can either be worry free or you’ll know how much more work you need to do.

Doubt can hit more experienced ocean swimmers too, “I’m not fast enough to get a good start… I’m no good at navigating in the ocean.” Practice and preparation will help to eliminate these doubts and put your mind at ease. Get down to the beach or the pool and practice your weaknesses. Doing this with friends will help you push yourself harder, and you’ll probably be able to keep up better than you think! Preparing with a bit of study of the course maps on the Banana Boat Ocean Swim Series website pre-event will give you the best chance of navigating well, and will ease the unknown factor in your mind.

What if you are aiming for a top place or to win your age group? Race results will always be an unknown outcome so it can be very difficult to conquer your doubts around these. I have raced in swimming for many years and I’ve always had my best races when I focused on racing myself and not worrying about other people. I avoid narrowing my focus on the win because it causes me to doubt whether I can win or not. Instead, I focus on getting through each process of the race as best I can and then the outcome will take care of itself.

Still feeling doubtful? Then try asking yourself; what is the absolute worst case scenario? Chances are this scenario is not at all bad. “Will I make the distance?” Worst case scenario, put your hand up and get a ride to the finish. “Can I win my age group?” Worst case scenario, you get last in your age group – oh well I better train harder then!

Competing in an ocean swim is more fun when you can mute the doubts in your head. Take action on these and enjoy a confident Banana Boat New Zealand Ocean Swim Series.



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About Carl:
Carl was a competitive swimmer for 20 years. He was number one in New Zealand in the 100m freestyle for 3 consecutive years and represented New Zealand at the London Olympic Games in 2012. After a break from swimming, Carl was challenged to an ocean swimming race by a friend. He has been hooked ever since and now competes in the Banana Boat New Zealand Ocean Swim Series each year. Carl’s passion for swimming has lead him to start his own swim coaching business, SWIM360. SWIM360 offers swim coaching and squads to swimmers of any level looking to improve their swimming.