By Olivier Poirier-Leroy via USA Swimming

Mental toughness is one of those aspects to fast swimming that we know all elite swimmers possess but is ultimately hard to measure. We can track a swimmer’s efficiency, their velocity—but quantifying their mental fortitude is a little trickier.

There are a couple things we do know about mental toughness, or resiliency, or perseverance—it’s critical, and it is something we can improve and strengthen, just like a muscle.

Here are five ways that you can be a mentally tougher swimmer and reap the benefits of better training and faster swimming:

1. Embrace the challenges.
Given the option, a mentally tough athlete will welcome a challenge. They know and understand that improvement comes in the little chasm between the set they know they can do and the set they haven’t done yet.

While some swimmers will sigh, grumble and complain when the tough stuff is written up on the whiteboard, the swimmer who is mentally tough will welcome it—for they know that these are the moments where improvement springs from.

2. Learn from your mistakes.
At some point—or many points, as is the case with most of us—we stumble on our journey to swimming awesomeness. No matter how grand or modest our goal, it is inevitable that there will be points where we mess up.

Perhaps we thought it would be easier, or we were living the lifestyle of a part-time athlete while hoping for full-time results.

While some swimmers will take mistakes as proof that they aren’t worthy, or that it’s too hard, our mentally tough athlete applies the lessons of their mistake and moves forward.

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