Rushall, B. S., & Shewchuk, M. L. (1989). Effects of thought content instructions on swimming performance. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 29, 327-334.

The effects of using three types of thought instructions on training performances of age-group swimmers were assessed. Each swimmer completed two 400 m effort swims and one set of 8 x 100 m swims. Each thought condition was balanced with "normal" thinking, that is, the type of thinking that had resulted from the habitual swimming experience. Experiments using an alternating treatments design were conducted one week apart.

All swimmers improved their workout performance in at least two of the three thought conditions. All improved using positive thoughts (2.13%) and mood words (2.30%) during the 100 m repeat task. Five of six improved in the task-relevant thinking condition (2.50%). In the higher intensity 400 m swims, four of six improved in the positive thinking condition (1.39%), and all improved in the mood words (3.09%) and task-relevant conditions (3.09%).

Implication. This study suggests that swimmers can swim faster without any increase in effort purely because of the mental activity of specific types of directed thinking. The use of controlled thought content is advocated as an area that will improve swimming performances.

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