Swim Bits – The Dumbo Effect


“Dumbo” was a 1941 Disney animated movie that featured a baby elephant with very large ears. In the film Dumbo is picked on because of his ears, but with them he can do something no elephant could ever do – fly.

Dumbo needs confidence, though. His only friend, Timothy Q. Mouse, figures out that Dumbo can fly and finally persuades Dumbo that all he needs is a magic feather to soar with his ears as wings.

I have run into many swimmers who use “magic feathers” for events and practice. Sometimes the feather has been a ritual before the event, splashing water on their face, stretching, or arm swings, like Michael Phelps used.

Or there is a special pair of goggles only used for open water, or a suit for State only. Ryan Murphy, Olympic champion backstroker, has a full set of “feathers” that he uses for races.

“At swim meets I get super superstitious,” he says, laughing. “I’ll wear USA socks every time. I’ll have a Greek yogurt, banana, and peanut butter and jelly before every race. I always do a pretty similar warm-up.”

Do you have a set warmup, one you have confidence in, for both practice and meets? Coaches will often provide workout warmups. Meet warmups are different and should prepare you for your events.

What are your “feathers,” the little quirks that allow you to focus on the up-coming race? I splash water in my face before a pool race. It helps settle goggles firmly, but it is also a ritual that lets me know I’m ready to race.

Having routines before practice and meets is a good idea for all athletes. What are yours?

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