10 Things You Will Learn About Yourself from Swimming

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

1. You are much more capable of yourself than you ever thought imaginable. Looking back on your competitive days you will be amazed at the things you were able to do. All those hard swim workouts you at one time thought impossible. The 5k’s for time. The New Years Day 100 x 100’s. Two-a-days over Christmas break. Swimming teaches us that we are much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for, and that when challenged we will rise to the occasion.

2. The shared struggle. Swimming – or rather – the shared experience of endless laps and the shared glory of triumph – will create and forge bonds that will last a lifetime. Regardless of how you may feel about some of your teammates outside of the pool, you cannot help but respect them for being right beside you during every early morning practice.

3. That your new favorite song is only one workout away. The shortest distance between a song being a casual favorite to being on steady, unending repeat for hours is one single swim practice. How many times have you gone into a practice with a song in your head, only to sprint home afterwards to download it? If you’re like me, too many times to count. Nothing guarantees a song’s place on your “most played” playlist than singing it over and over in your head for two hours.

4. How to make a plan to achieve cool stuff. No matter where we fall on the scale of swimming ability, from age grouper to national champion, we each have things we’d like to do with our swimming. In order to do so, we pick a goal, make a plan, and get after it. Swimming is a perfect proving ground for learning how goal setting works best for each of us. There are fewer things more satisfying than having a dream, putting together a strategy, and then achieving it from start to end. On the way you will make working out a habit, and grow confidence in your ability to crush the things you set out to do.

5. Learning how to bounce back from failure. Setbacks and failure come in every size and shape. Injury. Illness. False start. Suit rip. Whatever the case, swimming shows us that not everything will go smoothly all of the time, no matter how well we plan. Via swimming we learn how to cope with the tough stuff, rejecting “rejection,” and ultimately making us more successful in the long term.

6. You learn exactly what type of temper you have by the number of times that someone steals your kickboard. Or tickles your feet. Or smacks you across the top of the head with a swim paddle. Learning how to control the impromptu rage that overcomes us when a swimmer pushes off right before we are going to turn comes in handy in real life.

7. It’ll prepare you for tough times ahead. Swimming will teach you how to struggle through something, even when it is the last thing on Earth you want to be doing at that moment. It will show you how just how satisfying it can be to turn an “I can’t” into an “I did.”

8. How to spend time with your own thoughts. Our sport is a mix of team and individual effort. On the one hand we train in a team environment, represent a team, but yet compete in individual races, and spend an overwhelming amount of time with only our thoughts and the black line. This isn’t such a bad thing. In a world that is desperate to distract us from sunrise to sunset, from our phones to social media, it’s great to have some distraction-free time to swim around in your own thoughts.

9. How to be grateful for the simple things. Gratitude for people who can pass you without clawing your legs and abdomen, backstrokers who can swim without Wolverining from across the lane-line, and the butterflier with 9 foot arms who bends his arms when he swims past you. Swimming teaches you to be grateful for the little victories, the small wins that help keep you motivated and grateful. For swimmers, it’s the simple things.

10. How to win, and how to lose. You can learn a lot about someone when watching them be defeated. The way they react both in the immediate aftermath, in the hours afterwards, and in the days and weeks that follow. Swimming (and sport in general) provide the opportunity to learn how to win and lose with grace.

About YourSwimBook

YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.

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7 years ago

Especially no7 and no10

8 years ago

The last 3, i simply adore!

8 years ago

It’s funny how when you hear songs now, even years later, you associate them with practices, and it takes you right back there.

“Closer” by Nine Inch Nails will always belong to a nasty 2000m LC backstroke for time. It’s the song I used to keep pace. I couldn’t lift my arms the next day.

“Whipsmart” by Liz Phair will always be the song that got me through a 5000 free.

Reply to  Josh
8 years ago

Unfortunately, the way I hear ‘Closer’ has forever been altered by Santino Rice’s recitation of the lyrics as Tim Gunn.


If I heard it now for an entire 200, I’d either go nuts or choke on water laughing.

Shubham Joshi
8 years ago

What you’ve written is so true! I could relate to every point you’ve written. This is very well thought and executed, just like a swimmer! 😉

8 years ago

I think I would get dizzy, if I swam about myself…

8 years ago

number 1 and number 2 are the best ones. I never swam club, left highschool with a 52 100 fly, went off to a college without swimming for a year, transferred to swim again, ended up second year swimming going a 50.9, and my coach was 75, she didn’t believe in dry land, just repeat everything. I qualified for nationals, d3, broke the school record, and I was so emotional because I never though I was that good, but I exceeded what I thought I could do. same thing in my last 200 fly race ever, new PB by 4 seconds was huge.

and the shared struggle. its such a blessing, but when your done swimming, it was a… Read more »

8 years ago

Even if the Interwebs and ITunes had been around in my age-group days, I’m pretty sure I would not have gone home from practice and downloaded ‘Girl You Know It’s True” by Milli Vanilli. There was one very tortuous practice around 1989 where I had that [email protected]#%! song in my head the whole time. It was also full of 200 fly repeats. Henceforth, that song has been my Guantanamo. Would tell you anything to make it stop.

Olivier Poirier-Leroy
Reply to  Evilwatersprite
8 years ago

Ouch. Lou Bega’s Mambo #5 was my Gitmo. Over and over as I swam a 50 x 100 punishment set for missing an AM workout.

Reply to  Olivier Poirier-Leroy
8 years ago

BTW, I may have found an anti-Gitmo song. I forgot to bring my Shuffle/waterproof case in with me last night when I did a quick recovery workout and had the theme to ‘Game of Thrones’ in my head the whole time. Certified not to drive you crazy, at least not for 40 minutes.

Reply to  Evilwatersprite
8 years ago

hahaha the pure truth behind a song being like gitmo is the best

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

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