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9 Reasons Why Mental Singing Can Enhance Swim Performance

Published on SwimSwam Swimming News January 27, 2016
We know many swimmers listen to music to get motivated before hitting the water, but how many sing to themselves to enhance performance in actual training or a race?
Do you practice this?  If you don't, you might like to give it a try.  You may not even realize it but incorporating elements of music and song may do more than provide entertainment -- music can complement stroke execution and make or break your motivation.
1 Mood.
Music sets the tenor for a workout.  Depending on your goal, you may
choose your music with the aim of relaxation, energy, or happiness.   A
mood enhancer will surely correlate to positive results and also serves
as a distraction from any unpleasant dread or suffering. It can also be a
companion, a tool, and a secret weapon in a sport that necessitates,
for good or bad, a lot of time in one's own head.  Just make sure you
choose a song whose lyrics send the right message.
"At 4.5 hours into my 15-mile Kingdom Swim, I got The Smiths' 'Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now' stuck in my head. I was truly miserable for a while and realized the lyrics were not helping. I switched to an old stand-by from my John Flanagan days, Madonna's 'Burning Up,' which quickly snapped me out of my doldrums."  Susan Leupold Knight, marathon swimmer
2 Beat.
The pulse can aid in pulling together the different elements of the
stroke, e.g. the pull, the rotation, and the kick, to improve timing and
generate kinetic energy that can be channeled into the propulsive
3 Tempo.
An optimal stroke rate can be established by choosing music appropriate
for the distance and intensity at hand.  Maintaining a consistent tempo
ensures that pressure and stroke rate don't wane when fatigue, boredom,
or other obstacles set in.
"When the mind can disengage from the pain, suffering, and monotony, we are able to continue pushing the limits. The act of suffering and overcomingis purely mental and any tools that one can use to enhance the body's ability to overcome the dark places is a true key to accomplishing one's goals."  Jamie Patrick, ultra-marathon swimmer
4 Rhythm.  The key to a fluent swim stroke is a harmonious recurring sequence of elements, or rhythm.
5 Cadence.
Music uses modulation and inflection just as a swim stroke cycles
between pressure/resistance and recovery/relaxation.  The recovering arm (relaxed and moving through air) makes a subtle adjustment in timing to account for the resistance that the opposite, pulling arm is
6 Crescendo.
Certain songs lend themselves to building or descending, or just
kicking into high gear, as the music increases in loudness or
intensity.  Sometimes the transition from the bridge to the chorus can
be quite a mental boost. Often, the chorus is the only part of the song
one can confidently recall, so it is replayed again and again.
"The morning of my Catalina swim, the song 'There She Goes' by The La's justpopped into my head. I sang the chorus for about 10 min. each 30 min. segment of my swim.  The rest of the time I spent calculating what time it must be (especially during the dark) and concentrating on how fortunate I was to be able to attempt a channel swim."  Susanne
Baab-Simpson, channel swimmer & masters world record holder
7 Velocity. 
When you play music in your head, you can vary how intensely or loudly
certain notes or lyrics are played, facilitating the speed of hand
acceleration or hip torque with this psychological accompaniment.  The
Script's "Hall of Fame" carried me through the last painful push of my
3k at Worlds in Montreal, where I was hoping to medal.  Corny, yes, but
8 Dance. 
Technically this means to move rhythmically to music.  The suggestion
that swimming is a dance is not a new one.  When technique is broken
down into parts it seems quite complex, but when the parts move
harmoniously the result is a seemingly effortless and graceful activity.
9 Genre.  
This is open to interpretation. My open water buddy swears by Yes'
"Starship Trooper" (I think it's a guy thing).  I can sing Jason
Aldean's "Gonna Know We Were Here" daily on repeat -- and, more
importantly, without my family raining on my newfound country music
obsession.  But there's nothing like an old favorite or a fresh new tune
to liven up an old swim set.
And then there are those people who prefer to clear their minds when they swim:
"In the majority of my swims, I am not singing or thinking, just feeling. 
My mind is usually completely blank and I am just in a state of
awareness…it is when I am my most authentic self.  Your comfort zone may be with music. Mine is just when the music and all thought stops." 
Grace van der Byl, Catalina record holder & world-class waterwoman
What do you think?