3 Common Training Roadblocks and How to Swim Through Them

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join 9,000+ swimmers and coaches who read his motivational newsletter last week by clicking here.


Swimmers are at their peak when both brain and body are working in sync to part the water.

Here are 3 typical training hangups that many swimmers go through, as well how to get through them so that they can emerge on the other side swimming faster than ever and more confidently than ever before:

1. You’re coming back off a break, and are not stoked about how slowly things are going.

Feeling like you have to start over from square one with your training is frustrating.

It is especially sucky if you were on a roll beforehand, and the break was caused by something out of your control like an injury or illness.

Whether the break was years or weeks it can be challenging for a swimmer to jump back into the pool and not be where they were at.

The fix: Suspend expectations.

When we are getting back into the swim of things (pun intended!) it is natural to get frustrated when we aren’t back to where we were fast enough, or aren’t swimming at a level we want.

Instead of going to practice and expect to be swimming at a specific level, remind yourself to enjoy the whole process of getting back into it.

Think of it as a fresh start for your swimming, and instead of focusing on swimming at a specific speed or having a certain level of fitness, go back to the basics and work on your technique.

(For those hyper-competitive swimmers that judge everything they do by the pace clock a helpful way to suspend expectations is to turn the clocks off. Set rest intervals with breaths instead of seconds. A :10 sec rest turns into 3 deep breaths rest.)

2. You are beating yourself up mentally when you aren’t swimming as fast as you’d like in practice.

The moment I see a swimmer shake his or head in the water I know that the practice is going to be a long one. You don’t need to be a mind reader to know that the self-talk going through the athlete’s head isn’t positive.

With subsequent reps that aren’t up to expectations the swimmer gets more and more frustrated, until they give up and swim through the rest of the workout, counting down the minutes until they can storm out of the pool.

The fix: Turn it around with small wins.

If you just can’t seem to get things going in the water that day—stroke is slipping, your gassing out faster than usual—use the time you have in the water to work on something else.

Dedicate the rest of the set or workout to executing perfect turns. To breathing less per 25 than you normally would. To emphasizing the upkick in your flutter kick.

Doing these things may seem like tiny wins, so small that they are nearly inconsequential, but that is exactly the point. They have a very low barrier for entry.

The odd effect of doing little things super well is that it gets you mentally focused on doing things well again, and most noticeably, before long it will seep into other parts of your swimming.

3. You find that your desire and motivation to go to practice is fading.

You remember it well. The buzz and energy of a brand new season. The initial excitement was so much that you couldn’t wait to get to practice, and found yourself giving every practice, every yard and meter, your full and undivided attention.

But now, a few months later, your focus is starting to wane. Your motivation is tapering off to the point that stringing together a couple awesome practices in a row is becoming more and more of a struggle.

You don’t need me to tell you that the swim season is a hilariously long haul. With such a breath-taking amount of time between the beginning of the season and the main reward (swimming like a complete demon), it is easy to see how our motivation and focus will dip.

After all, it begins to feel like we are doing all of this hard work for nothing more than a huge grocery bill and a perpetual sense of being sore and soggy.

The fix: Reward yourself more often.

Stagger rewards for yourself over the course of the season.

For each week you complete an excellent set of workouts allow yourself a binge watching session of your favorite TV show.

Each time you nail a 10 out of 10 practice compensate yourself with______.

(I shouldn’t have to remind you not to be like the guy who goes to the gym, has a good workout and then rewards himself with a large, stuffed-crust pizza afterwards.)

The simple act of logging a good workout can be its own reward. So can giving yourself a congratulatory pep talk after a great set.

Look for ways to make your time spent in the pool rewarding (outside of the whole “getting faster and fitter” part), and you will find your motivation stretching to cover the duration of your season.

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Holly Merritt

Thanks for the insite . Have a child coming off a severe case of mono. Competitive and sick of being sick. Needs to make short goals. Then the longer goals will not be impossible. AT this point in time, so hard to watch as a parent. But the good thing. One day this will make her so much stronger when facing adversity in her life. Coming back after injury is hard But rewarding to come back faster than before. Focusing on dryland and technique is so important when climbing back up the later of time Any more suggestions are much appreciated

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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