Originally Posted by pmuni
...I realize that I also have to work on the psychological aspects of racing, as I get extremely nervous before the start, feeling out of breath while on the blocks. It is odd that I only get this feeling in freestyle events, while in breastroke, for example, I jump in full of confidence and don't even think about the fatigue aspect until it actually hits me.
Madvet made a good point earlier about how it sometimes takes more experienced swimmers longer for TI to "kick in" because they have more bad habits to unlearn than new swimmers. I believe experienced swimmers may also find the endless hours of TI drill practice tedious, remedial, even humbling. Drill practice to imprint "best practices" may be your key, however.
When you stated what I've quoted above, I was reminded of something I read on another website about the psychology of training. It is so in line with the philosophy behind TI swimming methodology, that I would like to share it here. Perhaps it will lend insight as to how you might ramp up your training so that you will soon look forward to freestyle racing with as much confidence as you do the other events.
From http://stadion.com/column_stretch48.html , in a discussion about an able fighter who fell apart in sparring tournaments, Thomas Kurz writes:
You are wrong also about sparring “as much as possible” as “the only way” to overcome the fear. It is not very effective and in the long run leads to inferior results.
The correct way is to be taught (and learn) systematically and gradually. This applies to all sports in which anxiety may occur—combat sports, gymnastics, or whatever sport in which there is a risk of injury.
Here is what coach Obrebski, who teaches acrobatics said about fear:
“The correct, methodical learning lets you perform each technique surely, with full understanding of the mechanics of each technique. This, to a large extent, eliminates fear. If you choose, however, to begin to practice, for example, a somersault, without mastering the easier lead-up exercises, then you will not fully get to know that somersault.
“Not fully knowing the skill, you will not have a true command of it and eventually you will begin to doubt yourself and feel anxiety when about to perform it. This is why techniques learned without following the correct teaching method begin to go bad, diverge from the mechanically sound form and as a result the fear appears. Then you will have to go back to basics, go through each lead-up exercise. It will give you confidence and the technique learned by following the correct teaching method will not deteriorate, it will be performed solidly and without fear.
“Remember, that attempting to perform a technique without progressing gradually from its easiest lead-up exercises to its final form, you may lose confidence in executing this technique. [...] But if you do the lead-up exercises step-by-step, gradually progressing from the easiest, you will learn how to behave in the air and will not fear to perform even the most difficult acrobatic techniques.”
Now, he talks about single acrobatic techniques but the method applies to learning techniques and tactics of combat sports too.
In a rationally conducted training, the trainee does not have to experience anxiety or fear. It does not matter if it is acrobatics or taekwondo. If the trainee's techniques are solid, automatic habits, that are applied instinctively when needed, and tactics are fully assimilated, then no anxiety, freezing, or overexcitation takes place. Both the techniques and tactics are to be taught through a systematic succession of appropriate drills, which gradually instill the correct habits and mindset.
(Dariusz Obrebski is the author of Acrobatic Tumbling: From Rolls to Handsprings and Somersaults
. He is the head coach at the acrobatic club DKS Targówek in Warsaw, Poland.)