Deep in the recesses of the human mind, there is a spot where people go – and can learn to go — to grab super-human energy. Now, I ain’t no expert in this (hence the language), but I know this to be true. I’ve witnessed it, I’ve experienced it, and I’ve read about it. In fact, I recently watched an entire movie about it, The Hulk.
We all know the story of The Hulk. This guy turns into an incredible green monster when he gets really mad. Probably almost all of us at some point have wished we could do that on demand as well. Many athletes can.
Watch the biggest sporting events you can imagine. Think of the football players prior to the Super Bowl, smacking each other on the shoulder pads, screaming into each other’s faces. Watch many swimmers prior to their biggest races, and you will see the look on their face. It’s a look of serious anger, called the Game Face.
While many people think that just LOOKING mean, will MAKE you mean, it’s so much more than that. You have to feel this in your soul to really begin to harness your anger. In order to tap into it, sometimes you have to study it. Usually when we’re the angriest, or in a fit of rage, we’re not thinking at all, we’re reacting. We act on instinct and the mind takes a back seat. This is when you need to begin to step back, and immediately realize what’s just happened, and FEEL what’s happening with your body.
At the moment of your ultimate anger, you feel LIKE the Hulk, like you could lift a building. You feel as if there is NOTHING on the planet that could harm you, or hurt you. No pain would be enough pain to stop you from feeling what you’re feeling at that moment. Now imagine how you want to feel in a race. Invincible.
While certainly not everyone would agree on this, and there are many ways to harness the stored and secret energy in your body, to me, anger brings with it a sort of awareness that isn’t present in other emotions. The entire body is on FIRE and alive.
To begin to play with this in your next practice, imagine a time when you were the angriest. Did you have an argument with a friend? Did you have a fight with your coach? Did a drunk driver total your graduation present from college — a 1978 Anniversary Edition Corvette (sorry…getting a bit caught up here)? What was it that set you off? Did you finally get so fed up with something that you felt like you could take on the world?
Close your eyes, and remember that place. Feel the energy and emotion welling up in your body, and try to convince your body that it’s all happening again. The athletes that continually perform the best are the ones who can simulate race-type situations in practice, over and over again. The can get the adrenaline flowing, the emotion stoked, muscles and mind feeling like they could do anything possible to finish that set FIRST, ahead of all teammates. The athletes who think Shucks…this is just practice, I’ll be fine when it’s time…will end up – well – angry.
Those of you who know how I feel about this sort of thing also know that I believe this can all be done without impacting, or affecting the people, competitors, and teammates around you. Anger can be built up inside, and the more you store it up prior to a race, the more explosive the release can be. While I don’t like trash talking, screaming, hitting things, or expending ANY energy prior to a race, try to start looking into your emotions just by being a normal person. Which emotions are the ones that can help you become a better athlete? It doesn’t necessarily have to be anger that gets you going.
Like it or not, however, anger can be a key instinct and emotion for becoming a much better competitor. It’s especially useful in our sport, since you can’t really take out your anger on someone else, so the energy is usually expended in a very positive way — toward success. Then, once you succeed, you’re not angry anymore, and nobody will know what you’ve just put yourself through. It’s all happy face at that point. THAT’S the game face I wanna see…the WINNING game face of a smiling swimmer.
Now get out there and get to work you lazy, good for nothing…oh…sorry…just trying to get you a bit charged up.