5 Habits of Mentally Tough Swimmers

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.

Internal fortitude. The will to win. The rage to master and persevere.

These words usually get tossed around when coaches discuss elite swimmers. Those at the top of the podium all come from different backgrounds in terms of genetics and ability, but the one thing they all have in common is the will to do what is required.

The will to overcome feelings of lethargy, doubt or tiredness to complete the task and set at hand. This is what it is to be mentally tough.

Here are 5 habits of mentally tough swimmers:

1. They welcome the hard stuff. They won’t shy away from a tough set, nor will they sigh and complain when that challenging workout gets scrawled up on the board. The reason why is simple – they know that those are precisely the sets which separate those that max out their ability with the swimmer that depends on genetics or talent to squeak by.

2. They learn the right lessons from their mistakes. George Santayana’s quote of “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” can be applied to many a swimmer. Every athlete that straps on a Speedo and a pair of racing swim goggles and chased an outrageous goal has stumbled along their respective path. Whether it was setting unrealistic goals, ignoring areas of their training, or simply living the lifestyle of a part-time, casual athlete, we’ve all had moments where we fall dramatically short from our goals. While some will take their setbacks and failures as proof that they are unworthy, the mentally tough swimmer learns what went wrong, adapts, and plods on, undaunted.

3. They don’t get lost in what others are doing. Dumping mental energy into what your competition is doing is pointless. Not only will not effect any change, but comparing immeasurables will only serve to discourage and demoralize. Mentally tough swimmers focus on the things you can control. Not genetics, luck, or how other swimmers in your peer group are doing. Drive all of your energy and focus into the things you can control, and you’ll find you’ll be able to avoid the needless comparisons and demoralizing nature of measuring yourself up against others.

4. They keep their cool. Being able to keep your emotions in check in moments of struggle is a huge asset. This objectivity allows you to see setbacks and delays with the proper amount of perspective. Keeping a cool head typically comes from being able to place things into a longer view, and as a result they don’t ride a wild roller coaster of emotion that sees them out-of-their-mind pleased when things go well, and terminally in the dumps when they don’t. They understand that both success and failure are fleeting, and should be treated as such.

5. They don’t wait. The mentally tough swimmer knows that there is no time like the present. They know what they want, what they have to do to get it, and that they cannot wait another moment to begin pursuing it. As a result they don’t wait for conditions to be perfectly arranged, they don’t wait on others to dictate their pursuit of success, and they don’t make plans for “someday.”

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.

NEW: It now also comes with a 76-page mental training skills eBook called “Dominate the Pool.” It is free with your purchase of YourSwimBook and is emailed to you within 24 hours of your order.

Click here to learn more about YourSwimBook and get your mental training on track!

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Art Winters
9 years ago

Here is a coach that is so dedicated to improve his swimmers that he NEVER has them do the same workout, because they are at a different stage of their conditioning every day. If there is a swim meet on Sunday, he has a short Sunday School Class and Prayer before warmups. He changes the direction of their lap swimming from clockwise to countercolckwise every other day so they will not get used to swimming the extra few inches at the turns that they all seem to do in a race. That is all I am going to tell you about this coach, but look for a book from him about how to swim better and faster next year.

9 years ago

Well said

9 years ago

This is an excellent article. I think everyone knows or has heard this, but on a day to day basis it gets lost. Most of these points can be said about a being a great coach as well. These are choices that successful athletes have to make on their own, it comes from within. They can’t be doing it for someone else. They need motivation, direction and support and it doesn’t hurt to have a cheerleader. The goal is a means to an end but it is the process that is the most rewarding. Achieving one goal leads to another and on goes the journey.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, swim coach, and best-selling author. His writing has been featured on USA Swimming, US Masters Swimming, NBC Sports Universal, the Olympic Channel, and much more. He has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 …

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