Swimming is a mind game, and if you don’t think about it you won’t make it to the top. In my six-ish years of swimming I have used more brainpower and learned more than any board game or intense math test could teach. Part of this process is keeping your mind in a state capable of such on the spot thinking and repetitive knowledge base access.
Meditation centers your mind and can calm your nerves. I have never been able to meditate, so I can’t give you any personal help but here is what I do know of certain meditation techniques:
1) Focused Attention Meditation
Throughout the whole meditation session focus your thoughts on one single object. The object may be many items, a breath, visualization, a mantra, part of the body, object separate from yourself (ex. broom, brick, dog, carpet). the ability to control the flow of your thought around the one object will get stronger as you advance and distractions become short-lived or non-existent. Steadiness and depth of attention are developed.
examples: Samatha(Buddhist Meditation), some forms of Zazen, Loving Kindness Meditation, Chakra Meditation, Kundalini Meditation, Sound Meditation, Mantra Meditation, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, this is not an exhaustive list by any means.
2) Effortless Presence
Attention in this state is not focused on anything particular, instead reposes on itself-quiet, steady, empty, and introverted. Other names include “Choiceless Awareness” or “Pure Being”. Meditation quotes you will read tend to be about this state. This isn’t necessarily a type of meditation in itself but the all high purpose of all kinds of meditation. Every kind of meditation realizes that the mantra or object of focus is just a pathway to train the mind, so as to allow you to discover effortless inner peace. In some techniques this is the only focus from the get go: Self-Inquiry(I am meditation) of Ramana Maharishi, Mahamudra, some forms of Taoist meditation, Dzochen, and some more advanced forms of Raja Yoga.
3) Open Monitoring Meditation
When meditating instead of finding one object you focus on everything in your experience, without attachment or judgement. All percievings, whether internal or external are seen for what they are. This is the process of non-reactive monitoring of the matter of experience without delving into any of them specifically. Examples: Mindfulness Meditation, Vipassana, as well as some types of Taoist meditation.
Those are just some examples of meditation that can help you center before a race. Enjoy your day and get your mind focused!