3 Mental Loopholes Swimmers Use to Get Out of Working Hard

This originally appeared in Olivier’s weekly motivational newsletter. Join 16,000 other swimmers and coaches who receive it (for free) by clicking here. Posted 8/31/16

The Big Mo.

Surely you’ve experienced it at one time or another.

You put together a couple awesome swim practices in the pool, and you can’t help but feel a growing surge of power and momentum at your back, as though the accumulated positivity and accomplishment in recent days is pushing you forward and onward.

But then what happens?

We slacken off. We miss a day. The day turns into a couple days. Into a week. Or even longer.

And then we have to start back at square one, picking up the pieces, trying to get back to that place we just were.

It’s kind of infuriating, no?


Sometimes the reasons that we take both our feetsies off of the accelerator are out of our control.

Injury. Illness. House of Cards season 3 comes out.

But a lot of the time, it is because of the mental wizardry that we use against ourselves.

Here are 3 of the goofy loopholes that we ply ourselves with that arrest the Big Mo dead in its tracks…

1. I did good yesterday, so I can take it easy today.

This is something I prefer to call the cupcake fallacy (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I will fully admit to being uncontrollable around cupcakes), and it is something that makes us feel good about the poor decisions we are about to make.

Here are a couple examples…

  • I swam super duper awesome yesterday, so that means I can totally slack off today.
  • I ate really well over the weekend, so I can dive head first into this box of cupcakes guilt-free.

We feel deserving of an off day or easy day because at some point in the very recent past we were at the top of our game.

Using a reward is a powerful way to keep yourself motivated, but if the “reward” is arresting forward progress or acting wholly against what you are trying to achieve, than is it really a reward?

2. I am planning on doing really good tomorrow, so I can totally do whatever today.

This is the previous lie’s ugly step-sister. Just in the future. (All of the step-sisters and step-brothers are ugly. Smooth talkers, though.)

We justify not giving a full effort, or giving the practice at hand our full attention by promising that in the future we will do so much better.

But rarely, if ever, does this happen. (Tomorrow you’ll say the same thing, or come up with a different excuse.)

Here is how this loophole generally manifests itself…

  • I am not feeling totally up to it, but I am sure I will be tomorrow.
  • My stroke doesn’t feel as good as I want it to today, but tomorrow—no matter what!—I will give a killer effort at practice.

3. It’s just one workout.

Is it, though?

How many times have you caught yourself saying that?

Just once, right?

Nope. That is incorrect.

It might only seem like once, but I promise you that the “just one time’s!” have accumulated to being something rather sizable.

Ultimately, just “one workout” probably won’t make much of a difference. But the routine of showing up every day is massive.

What are the goofy loopholes you have found yourself using to avoid maintaining the big ‘mo in the pool?

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.

Note: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.

Join the YourSwimBook weekly newsletter group and get motivational tips and more straight to your inbox. Sign up for free here.


Leave a Reply

5 Comment threads
0 Thread replies
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
5 Comment authors
newest oldest most voted

Did you have to put Holly’s picture as the one for this article? Shes one of the hardest workers I know for sure and wouldn’t use any of those “loopholes”. Just sayin.


I don’t think Holly really cares…


hilarious that they chose a VT photo for an article about not working hard….

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 …

Read More »

Want to take your swimfandom to the next level?

Subscribe to SwimSwam Magazine!