Tips & Advice

Power up your positive thinking with tips from Steve Black

Visit to learn how positive thinking exercises can improve your fitness results, with tips from leading sports motivator, Steve Black.


Improve your mental strength with Steve Black’s positive thinking tips.

Discover the power of positive thinking and enjoy prolonged motivation and fitness results with advice from Steve Black, world-renowned motivational coach and mentor.

[Read Steve’s coach profile to learn more about his coaching background.]

Mental strength is everything

When I first started working in professional sport 40 years ago, people used to ask me about the importance of an athlete’s physical attributes versus their mental strength. Back then, I said it was about 75 percent mental/psychological and 25 percent physical. I got to admit, I got it all wrong. Because I now know that sporting success is about 95 percent mental strength and 5 percent physical ability. The physical 5 percent really matters, but to actually do it, and keep doing it, requires mental strength.

Bank positive experiences to help maintain motivation

Everyone needs a reason to do things and we back that up with habit. When you keep building up your swim training emotional bank balance, you get a greater return for it. So you’ve got to go to the pool, you’ve got to think about it and visualise it; you’ve got to feel good about that. And when you go to the pool, you’ve got to give yourself great feedback. So the result is you feel good at training, you feel good on the way to training, you feel good afterwards and you feel good just sitting in the house thinking about training – you’re fanning the flame of motivation.

How visualisation can help

Visualisation is a very strong, powerful tool which I use with my athletes, businesses and personal clients. The idea is to ask yourself, when did I have a really good session in the pool? Let’s try and relive that. What you get is a very important benefit: a positive feeling about swimming. So you keep feeling good about swimming, you see yourself in an environment where you expect to do well, you expect to be rewarded and you expect great feedback.

How to do it
Think about when you had a really good session in the pool. What was the environment like? How did the water feel? What was it like when you got in? How did you feel at the start of the session? How did you feel during the session? What was it like afterwards when you got changed and had something to eat and drink? Visualise the whole thing, visualise how good it made you feel, the effect it had on you. Visualise stepping out and seeing yourself having a good time training. Visualise somebody else doing it and having a good time, so that everything that you associate with that activity is a positive.

To be successful, visualisation needs to be part of your life, whether you’re lying in bed or walking down the street.

Don’t talk yourself out of feeling motivated

I don’t entertain negative thoughts at all. It’s not because I’m living in a fantasy world, it’s because it doesn’t do us any good! You’ve got to totally believe in yourself, and believe that what you’re trying to accomplish will be positive for you and others round you. I believe whatever you give attention to, positive or negative, you attract more of to yourself. So don’t emphasise the negative by saying, I don’t want to be unfit, I don’t want to be unmotivated. Instead, say to yourself, “I would like to improve my fitness levels”, “I see myself being fit and healthy”.

Leave negativity at the door

In life, you might have people knocking at your door, selling things you don’t need. You can let them in and waste valuable hours of your day being talked into something that won’t help you, or you can politely say, I’m not interested but thanks very much, and just leave it at the door. And that’s exactly what you’ve got to do with negative thoughts. As long as you don’t start to allow negative voices in, it’s a simple choice.

Don’t let a bad session derail you

Should you discount a bad day at the pool? Absolutely. I once worked with a football team who won 59 games. 59 games unbeaten – that’s what you call sensational. Then they lost a match and instead of totally ignoring it, they went into total meltdown. They focused on one match, rather than the 59 successful matches where they’d got it right.

If, on a particular day, it doesn’t go well, totally ignore it, pretend it never happened and continue to go and do it right next time. And if you usually review your swim but think yesterday’s performance was such a poor example of what you’re trying to accomplish, don’t review it. Because all you’re going to do is reinforce the negative that went wrong.

Start selling yourself better choices

Every day in life we act as a sales people and sell ourselves choices. When choosing a restaurant, for example, you decide to go to one over another because you’ve sold it to yourself that it’s a better choice. Equally, you can sell yourself a negative such as ‘If I show up at swimming, I’ll demonstrate how inadequate I am.’ Instead, go for the positives and sell yourself the right choice. For example: I learnt to swim when I was very young; I always swim on holiday; it’s nice to get to the pool and see people; I’ve great memories and feelings from my training and how I feel when I’m in the water. Sell swimming to yourself.

Next week… Read Steve’s advice on how keeping a mood diary can transform your motivation and confidence.

Missed last week? Read Steve’s tips for setting realistic goals here.

To read more features designed to help improve your swim, visit our News, Tips and Techniques page.


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