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How to Set Goals Like Katie Ledecky

How to Set Goals Like Katie Ledecky

This past summer Katie Ledecky showed the world that she is better at swimming than the rest of us are at pretty much anything.

She thoroughly cleaned up in Rio, winning four gold medals—three of them individual—and a silver. Her 400 and 800m freestyle wins were devastating, with her margin of victory in the latter a staggering 11-plus seconds. She swept the 200-400-800m freestyles, something that hadn’t been done since 1968, displaying a once-in-a-generation range of speed and ability.

She’s now a two time Olympian, kicked an American Ninja Warrior’s butt at a made-up game on Ellen, and tossed a heater when she threw the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game.

And did we also mention that she’s only nineteen years old?

Here are some goal setting tips us mortals can pick up from the greatest active swimmer on the planet:

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Keep them visible.

Thinking and dreaming about our goals is easy. Everyone does that. If you are even mildly serious about crushing your goal, jotting it down and having it in sight is almost mandatory.

After all, something changes when you take literally five seconds to write down your goal. It becomes a little more real.

When Ledecky and her coach Bruce Gemmell sat down after the 2013 FINA World Championships, where she rocked the world records in the 800m and 1500m freestyles, they discussed what was possible over the next three years leading into Rio. They decided on two goal times: 3:56 for the 400m freestyle, and 8:05 for the 800m freestyle.

Even though they kept the goals to themselves as they prepared for the Olympics, the goals she had set were never far—she had written “565” to signify her two goal times on her pull buoy. Every day during her swimming workouts, during the long 8,000-9,000-yard training sessions with a nearly endless number of flip turns, those three little numbers were there waiting for her, motivating her, reminding her of the purpose of all the work.

And how did she do in Rio? She pretty much nailed her goals right over the head, swimming a 3:56.46 in the 400m freestyle, and 8:04.79 in the 800m freestyle.

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Be willing and ready to fail.

The word failure carries with it so much negative baggage that the moment we slip up, fail, or otherwise disappoint ourselves we quit. We tell ourselves, “Ah, we didn’t really want it that bad” and move on to the next thing, never giving our goals a fair and consistent effort.

Which is too bad, because without the ability to brave the initial hurdles and resistance we can never truly improve or advance towards the hard and rewarding things we want from life.

One of Ledecky’s strengths is her willingness to fail in practice, to see past the initial struggle and keep at it. In Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, her coach related just how serious Ledecky was when it came to being willing to fail:

“There are days she fails catastrophically,” he said. “She fails in practice more than anybody in her [training] group, because she’ll start out like, ‘This is the pace I need to swim in the race, so I need to replicate it in practice.’ And she’ll go six repeats like that, and the tank goes empty and she just falls off. But you know what? She’ll come back the next day and try it again. And on the third day, she’ll nail it. And she’s been doing this since the first day I walked on the deck with her.”

Nobody likes failing at something or not being good at something the first time out. Being willing to fail is not about getting comfortable losing or sucking—it’s using the rage and frustration from not nailing it the first time to get the hang of it in future attempts.

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Surround yourself with people who will bring out the best in you.

If you looked at the people you keep in your circle, would you say that they are inspiring bigger and better things out of you, or are they encouraging mediocrity and the status quo?

When you hang out with people who are doing the things you want to do it’s inevitable that their influence will help push and propel you upwards.

Ledecky, having outpaced the female swimmers on her team, trained predominantly with male swimmers in the lead up to Rio. During altitude camps at the United States Olympic Training Center, she would go head to head with male swimmers on the national team and routinely “break” them.

One of the male swimmers that Ledecky “broke” included Conor Dwyer, who is no slouch himself in the middle distance swimming events—he placed 4th in the 400m freestyle in Rio and won a bronze in the 200m freestyle.

By surrounding herself with swimmers who were faster than her she rode their wake towards faster swimming, elevating her to times and records that are so far and above the competition it’s ridiculous.

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Meet and Exceed Your Goals

Whatever your goals are—whether it be learning how to swim faster freestyle, or get that promotion at work, or get in better shape—there are lessons that the top swimmer on the planet can teach you.

Write out your goals and keep them in sight. Be ready to fight back against those first few moments of difficulty. And surround yourself with people who will push you upwards.

Featured photo credit: Flickr via flickr.com

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Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

Science Says Screaming Is Good For You

There are many reasons why people might scream – they’re angry, scared, or in pain (or maybe they’re in a metal band!). Some might say that screaming is bad, but here’s why science says it’s good for you.

“For the first time in the history of psychology there is a way to access feelings, hidden away, in a safe way and thus to reduce human suffering. It is, in essence, the first science of psychotherapy.” — Dr. Arthur Janov

Primal Therapy

Dr. Arthur Janov invented Primal Therapy in the late 1960’s. It is a practice that allows the patient to face their repressed emotions from past trauma head on and let those emotions go. This treatment is intended to cure any mental illness the patient may have that surfaced from this past trauma. In most cases, Primal Therapy has lead Dr. Janov’s patients to scream towards the end of their session, though it was not part of the original procedure. During a group therapy session that was at a standstill, Dr. Janov says that one of his patients, a student he called Danny, told a story that inspired him to implement a technique that he never would have thought of on his own.

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How it Started

“During a lull in our group therapy session, he told us a story about a man named Ortiz who was currently doing an act on the London stage in which he paraded around in diapers drinking bottles of milk. Throughout his number, Ortiz is shouting, ‘Mommy! Daddy! Mommy! Daddy!’ at the top of his lungs. At the end of his act he vomits. Plastic bags are passed out, and the audience is requested to follow suit.”

It doesn’t end there, though. Dr. Janov said that his patient was quite fascinated with that story, and that alone moved him to suggest something even he believed to be a little elementary.

“I asked him to call out, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ Danny refused, saying that he couldn’t see the sense in such a childish act, and frankly, neither could I. But I persisted, and finally, he gave in. As he began, he became noticeably upset. Suddenly he was writhing on the floor in agony. His breathing was rapid, spasmodic. ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ came out of his mouth almost involuntarily in loud screeches. He appeared to be in a coma or hypnotic state. The writhing gave way to small convulsions, and finally, he released a piercing, deathlike scream that rattled the walls of my office. The entire episode lasted only a few minutes, and neither Danny nor I had any idea what had happened. All he could say afterward was: ‘I made it! I don’t know what, but I can feel.’”

Delving deeper

Dr. Janov says he was baffled for months, but then he decided to experiment with another patient with the same method, which lead to a similar result as before. The patient started out calling “Mommy! Daddy!” then experienced convulsions, heavy breathing, and then eventually screamed. After the session, Dr. Janov says his patient was transformed and became “virtually another human being. He became alert… he seemed to understand himself.”

Although the initial intention of this particular practice wasn’t to get the patient to scream, more than once did his Primal Therapy sessions end with the patient screaming and feeling lighter, revived, and relieved of stresses that were holding them down in life.

Some Methods To Practice Screaming

If you want to try it out for yourself, keep reading!

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  • Step 1: Be Alone — Be alone. If you live in a place that you can’t be alone, it might be a good idea to talk to your family or roommates and explain to them what you’re about to do and make sure they’re okay with it. If you’re good to go, move on to step 2.
  • Step 2: Lie Down — Lie down on a yoga mat on your back and place a pillow underneath your head. If you don’t own a yoga mat, you can use a rug or even a soft blanket.
  • Step 3: Think — Think of things that have hurt you or made you angry. It can be anything from your childhood or even something that happened recently to make yourself cry, if you’re not already crying or upset. You could even scream “Mommy! Daddy!” just like Dr. Janov’s patients did to get yourself started.
  • Step 4: Scream — Don’t hold anything back; cry and scream as loud as you can. You can also pound your fists on the ground, or just lie there and scream at the top of your lungs.

After this, you should return your breathing to a normal and steady pace. You should feel lighter, like a weight has been lifted off of you. If not, you can also try these other methods.

Scream Sing

Scream singing” is referring to what a lot of lead singers in metal or screamo bands will do. I’ve tried it and although I wasn’t very good at it, it was fun and definitely relieved me of any stress I was feeling from before. It usually ends up sounding like a really loud grunt, but nonetheless, it’s considered screaming.

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  • Step 1 — Bear down and make a grunting sound.
  • Step 2 — Hiss like a snake and make sure to do this from your diaphragm (your stomach) for as long as you can.
  • Step 3 — Breathe and push your stomach out for more air when you are belting notes, kind of like you would if you were singing.
  • Step 4 — Try different ways to let out air to control how long the note will last, just make sure not to let out too much air.
  • Step 5 — Distort your voice by pushing air out from your throat, just be careful not to strain yourself.
  • Step 6 — Play around with the pitch of your screams and how wide your mouth is open – the wider your mouth is open, the higher the screams will sound. The narrower or rounder your mouth is (and most likely shaped like an “o”), the lower the screams will sound.
  • Step 7 — Start screaming to metal music. If you’re not a huge metal fan, it’s okay. You don’t have to use this method if you don’t want to.

If you want a more thorough walkthrough of how to scream sing, here’s a good video tutorial. If this method is too strenuous on your vocal chords, stop. Also, make sure to stay hydrated when scream singing and drink lots of water.

Scream into a pillow

Grab a pillow and scream into it. This method is probably the fastest and easiest way to practice screaming. Just make sure to come up for air.

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Always remember to make sure that you’re not going to disturb anyone while practicing any of these methods of screaming. And with that, happy screaming!

Featured photo credit: Sharon Mollerus via flickr.com

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