It was 5.30am when I arrived at the swimming pool. It was still dark. While most people were still asleep, a number of elite swimmers were hard at training under the watchful eye of their coach.
Swimming performance is linked to time. It is all about achieving personal best times or breaking national records.
Racing against the clock in time-orientated sports such as swimming and athletics requires the athlete to connect with the concept of time in a co-operative way if one wishes to achieve a quantum leap in performance. In order to ‘connect’ with time in a meaningful way in such sports, one needs to consider the following:
- Time has a paradoxical nature to it. If you want it to speed up, it may feel as if it slows down. If you want it to stop, it may race along. Becoming obsessed and desperate to achieve a certain time during competition may cause the body to tighten, thus lessening your chances to achieve your personal best. When asked what you wish to achieve in a race, try and highlight a process goal that you will be focusing on. This helps to lessen the intensity of only having an end ‘time goal’.
- During practice you need to make sure that you know what it feels like to swim or run a certain time that your coach may have set for you. In this way, you condition your energy system to ‘connect’ to the feel of a given time. This ‘knowing’ or awareness will provide you with a valid measure to ‘gauge’ yourself during your performance when time matters.
- The experience of time is not absolute. The experience of time is subjective and depends on the interpersonal context and environment that you are in. One minute sitting quietly in a chair while looking at the second hand tick on the clock, for example, will feel very different to the one minute in a swimming pool that you are hoping to achieve in a 100 metre backstroke event.
- Subjects who have been hypnotised report that ‘time’ did not feel the same as when they were conscious. Performing in the zone can be likened to a hypnotic state in which time may feel as if it stands still. ‘Being in the zone’ is a sporting hypnosis where you may feel as if you are out of your body, having an amazing time with no worries about time. During such times, you will be able to release the analytical restrictions that you may have had about the nature of time.
- Distractions and resistances in the mind will prevent you from entering the zone. Instead of resisting ‘what is’, you should consider engaging your performance with a calm, submissive attitude; accepting whatever task lies in your path. Distractions in activity will ‘disconnect’ you from the unfolding process and fragment your energy flow. In such time, you may find that you panic, causing you to rush in your activity. Your experience of time will resonate with this rush and panic.
- ‘Being present’ or ‘living in the moment’ can be likened to riding the wave of time. In order to enter this place and connect with the flow of time, you will need to integrate and align your physical, mental and emotional (spiritual) energies at the same given time. This is most likely to occur when the body is doing an activity that challenges it, with the mind focusing on a simple goal that is related to what the body is doing, and the heart feeling joy and at peace in what is being done. In such moments, you will be able to move in time in an effortless way. In this meditative state of performance, you will give yourself the best chance of transcending your time barrier.