The Zone

One of the most powerful terms used in world sport for decades, but least-known amongst most swimmers, is the mental state called 'the zone'.

This is the mental state which produces super-human performances, amazing times and winning streaks.

Any swimmer or athlete who is in this state is virtually unbeatable at their respective level of competition - and at the elite level, you witness world records well and truly smashed.

A swimmer who is in the zone experiences an unusual feeling of effortless power, allowing the swimmer to feel as if their body is powered by a turbo-charged engine, and they find their body gliding and cutting through the water with minimum effort and awesome power.

The strange part about this is - this powerful performance does not feel as if it is being controlled by the actual swimmer! In fact, they often report feeling as if they weren't responsible for the swim at all - as if their body was being guided and directed by a more powerful force (and this is exactly what is happening).

Almost every swimmer at some stage in their career has experienced this feeling to some extent, and then wondered afterwards "how did I do that?" This is the mystery that surrounds the zone - why does it appear so fleetingly, and then disappear just as quickly as it came? And most of all - why can't we access it all the time?

What is the powerful force which is guiding the body during this period? The answer is the sleeping giant that resides inside all human beings - the subconscious mind, the source of all bodily movement which also stores all past swimming memories and experience.

When a swimmer is 'zoning', their conscious mind becomes quiet (the normally busy, chattering mind we use all the time), and this allows their more powerful subconscious to run their performance on 'automatic pilot', in the way a computer runs software.

This allows their strokes to flow much easier, effortlessly increasing speed and power in a way that could never be matched by conscious thought.

This means that when you are in the zone, you have virtually no thought going through your mind whatsoever, your body is just swimming on automatic-pilot, powered directly by your subconscious mind.

This is not to say that your body is swimming without instruction, on the contrary, it is simply getting its instructions from a more powerful and reliable source.

So how do we get into the zone? Everyone must find the method that best suits their needs, but here is an excellent description sent to me by a swimmer about how he manages to enter this state before a race:

"In some of the best races I have ever swum, I do some very odd things and I was wondering if you have heard of this. First I just try to clear my mind of everything. Then I get this weird feeling of being almost inside my brain. It feels kind of like when you try to take a nap in the middle of the day, when you close your eyes and you just lay there in a mode of thoughtlessness.

I get into that mode, and then I begin to get cold and tired before my swim. Then right before my swim I just go into a total focused mode where I pay absolutely no attention to anything around me except the blocks and my race. I seem to snap out of it 30 seconds before my swim.

When I get up on the block I mentally slow everything down. Like in the movie the 'Matrices'.I start to feel like I can do anything, things that I would not normally be able to do. Then I take my mark slowly and go. It feels so weird. When I saw the movie the 'Matrices' it was amazing because it seemed like that was exactly what I had been doing for the past two years before a swim.

It took me a while to master the mental thing. When I started I had to do it for at least 30 minutes before my swim but know I do it for about 2 minutes before I swim".

This was his method, and I suggest you experiment with this technique in training, and try to master the best method for you to use in your future races.

The zone is a very powerful state, and can help you reach beyond your limitations to achievements you may have never realized were possible. Try it, explore it, master it, and then show the world what you can do!

The best of success,
Craig Townsend