6 English Channel Mental Toughness Training Techniques

                            Cold Water Challenge

Next month at age 60 I will attempt a solo swim crossing of the English Channel regarded as the Mount Everest of open water swimming.  I am a below average swimmer with above average Mental Toughness. Here are six (of the more than 178) tips I have created to help you achieve ANY goal in my book Getting To Goal (available Dec. 2015)howto


  1. Manage The Minute:

It was the dead of January. I stood on the same pool deck every day for the previous three weeks. Once again staring at the empty lane in front of me, once again thinking to myself; “There is no way I can do another four- hour-freaking-swim in the pool today”.

Fortunately the words that come back to me from my subconscious mind are familiar; “then just get in the water and swim for one minute”.   I swim for the first minute, and then added another and another.  Four hours later I finish.

I remember feeling a sense of accomplishment knowing I have once again broken through a self-imposed barrier that most of us contend with on our way to goal. At times as you advance toward your goals, the process may seem daunting; you may want to give up. DON’T! Manage The Minute.  Pay strict attention to what you can manage in that minute and then let the minutes add up.

  1. Embrace The Ugly:

A friend called me just after I completed an eight hour swim and said; “As long as you are enjoying it”.  I laughed and told him that I truly enjoyed the first hour of every swim but after that it was all work.

After six hours of swimming I am in discomfort, after nine hours in great pain.  During any big training session it can get downright UGLY! I want to quit but don’t.  I have conditioned my mind to press on and Embrace the Ugly.

I consciously say to myself “okay, this sucks, let’s power through it and get to the other side.”  At times as you are advancing toward your goals you will transition to a place that may be so painful, difficult and so ugly that you will want to give up.  Remind yourself the greatest rewards lay just beyond the momentary ugly. 

  1. Accept the Limitations of Your Thinking;

At 60, my mind continually plays tricks on me, filling me with self-doubt and fear regarding my Channel swim. Taunting me with; “Doug, you are too old to swim the English Channel” or “You’re NOT even a good swimmer” or “Seriously, what could you possibly be thinking?”

I recognize each one of those thoughts for what that they are, simply Limitations of my Thinking.  Limiting thoughts and beliefs are traits common to each of us.  The question is not whether we each have limiting thoughts; the question is whether we will allow our limiting thoughts to inhibit forward movement toward our goals.

Accept the fact that harboring limiting thoughts is simply part of the human condition. Once we begin to accept the limits of our thinking we begin to render our inhibiting thoughts powerless. Accept the limits of your thinking yet let them not define you.

I know when I am swimming the Channel next month limiting thoughts will creep into my mind like; “Dude you’re a senior citizen, you shouldn’t be out here”.  When they do, I will embrace each one of them if only for a moment, chuckle a bit and keep on swimming.

  1. Nobody is Going To Do The Work For You;

April 29th my first day of open water swimming for the season. The water temperature, 45F/7.22C. I manage to stand neck deep (in a Speedo as wetsuits are not allowed in ratified Channel swims) for 45 minutes letting my body acclimatize to the frigid water after swimming the previous 5 months in 78F/25.5C.

Every bit of this painful, cold water ritual is work that I must consistently repeat to have a fighting chance of a successful Channel crossing.  In terms of distance, I have swum over 2100 miles over the last few years in preparation for the 21 miles across the Channel.

Many days I do not feel like swimming four to fifteen miles. I remind myself; “Nobody is going to do the Work for You Doug!

I remind myself that Champions are forged by doing the work when no one is watching. I remind myself the only way to accomplish anything big in life is to do the work.  I remind myself that it is not destination that defines me rather the journey.  Let your journey define you. Do the work to become the person you are intended to be.

  1. Distractions or Derailments:

I was three minutes into a six hour swim when WHAM a freaking jellyfish the size of Kentucky launches a yoga pose across my face, setting it on fire. The event repeats itself once every fifteen minutes for the rest of the day. Sometimes the stings are to my face and armpits and then at times to my neck and stomach. Each time I get stung it distracts my rhythm, takes me out of my zone and places me smack, dab in the middle of reality. I think to myself, THIS REALLY, REALLY SUCKS! (I want to quit!)

I remind myself that a Jellyfish sting is merely a distraction, a minor test if you will, to see if I am willing to embrace the pain of my process in training to swim the English Channel. Jellyfish, sharks, extreme cold water, sea lice, monotony and pain are all part of process of working toward my goal of attempting a solo English Channel in July.

Each one of them is simply a distraction on my way to goal. I will not let them derail my process. I will not quit! Often times in life we allow our distractions to become derailments.

We give up simply because we allow the distraction to take on greater power then it deserves. Don't get me wrong, the distractions of life are real and often difficult to overcome. Remind yourself however that each one of them is simply part of your process. Stay strong; you've got what it takes!

6.Mediation in Motion

For as many as 25 hours each week my body is in open water. My eyes stare straight down into total darkness. I am disconnected from outside distractions. No phone, no music, no conversations. I am left with my own thoughts.

The only sound I hear is the rhythmicity of my air bubbles leaving my mouth as they rise to the surface.  My focus is primarily centered on the quality of each stroke. I have reached a state of such efficiency in my swimming that it is more a Mediation in Motion than exhaustive exercise.

This is a place that I find my center, my balance, my purpose.  I have come to understand that each of us needs to seek a place of solace yet often deny ourselves that very gift. As you advance in the direction of your dreams, find a space that is just yours, a place to examine the path you are on VS the path you may need to be on.

Note: If this article resonates with you please like, comment and share.

Want to track my English Channel Crossing in real-time in July 2015? Sign up here; http://www.gettingtogoal.com/contacts/ I will also send you more tips and techniques to assist you in Getting To Goal

Doug "Clydesdale" Comstock is regarded as an authority on the topic of mental toughness. He is an award winning, inspirational speaker and coach on the topics of mental toughness, high performance and excellence.                  

Comstock is a former Alaska "Deadliest Catch" Commercial Fisherman, two-time finisher of the Hawaii Ironman Triathlon and Black Belt team member on the US Intersport Karate team to Russia and Poland. In July of 2015, at age 60 Comstock will attempt a solo swim crossing from Dover, England to Cape Gris-Nez, France across the famed English Channel regarded as the Mount Everest of open water swimming. 

Comstock is the founder of "Getting to Goal" seminars and coaching, delivering high performance coaching and speaking programs to aspiring individuals as well as corporations in the areas of mental toughness and sales performance excellence.   

Speaking and Media Inquiries; Dc@GettingToGoal.com

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.