by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join 10,000 other swimmers and coaches who receive his weekly motivational newsletter (for free) by clicking here.
Swimming fast in the pool is fun. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it is downright awesome.
For the swimmer struggling to break through, to reach that qualifying standard, to break that record, to make that team, where do they start? What is the best way to advance? To level up?
For many swimmers, it lies in the mental approach they take to the sport.
Here are 5 of the things that fast swimmers and swammers understand:
1. The power of routine.
Great swimmers get the fact that “greatness” is something that has to happen on a daily basis. It means achieving a steady clip, of being consistent in their application of excellence in the pool. It’s easy to get psyched up for the occasional workout, to throw down the occasional barn-burner in practice, but for the fast swimmer, they understand that this has to be the norm, not the exception.
While flash-in-the-pan swimmers lean on the occasional flare up of motivation, and the dependence on willpower, fast swimmers rely on making the high octane parts of their swimming as habitual and as routine as possible.
2. The need for purpose.
It is one thing to think of what you need to do to swim fast in the pool—show up every day, focus on your technique, eat well, sleep like a champ—but elite swimmers have a powerful reason for doing so. An overriding purpose that acts as the charcoal to the embers of their swimming.
Michael Phelps swam with a heap of purpose—not only did he want to re-write history by becoming the first athlete to win 8 golds at a single Olympic Games, but early in his career he talked about how his ultimate goal was to grow the sport of swimming and bring it to the masses.
Training at a high level in swimming—and anything, for that matter—is tough.
Having a strong sense of mission and purpose can do wonders to lend extra meaning to your pursuit of awesomeness in the pool, whatever that may entail for you.
3. The need for patience.
Fast swimmers play the long game. While they understand that they need to work hard in the pool today, they also get that the results they’ll earn as a result won’t necessarily manifest themselves tomorrow.
Too often I have watched swimmers, all full of hope and motivation, blast out a couple amazing workouts, and then get discouraged when they don’t suddenly drop a a whole bunch of time.
It would be great if success was fast, and overnight, but it isn’t. It’s slow. It requires endurance, humility, and perseverance. And that is okay—it’s what will separate you from the rest.
4. The formula for success is simple. (But not easy.)
Shortcuts and hacks are fun, and they provide hope for an easier way to attain success, but they don’t replace the simple formula that truly generates results. Fast swimmers know that all of the tricks and hacks are a great addition to the meat and potatoes of hilariously quick swimming—consistently hard and deliberate effort over time.
Daily I get emails from swimmers looking to drop time from their PB’s, and to do it quickly. The answer is always a variation of the same. Swim with great technique, do it quickly, and do it consistently.
Fast swimmers—some more grudgingly than others—get that dues need to be paid.
“Success isn’t owned. It’s leased, and rent is due every day.”
5. The necessity of failure.
Success in the pool is never a straight line. It would be great if things always worked out in the way we hope when we sit down and plot out our goals, but in reality things are very rarely this smooth.
Those stumbles, the DQ’s, the bad swims, the injuries, the bad workouts, they all help keep us on track by reminding us—sometimes quite jarringly—what is working to drive us towards success and what isn’t.
Failure not only helps to act as lane lines for when we are drifting from side to side, but can also be a grudgingly powerful motivating factor—for some swimmers nothing gets a fire burning under their butt faster than having a terrible swim or meet.
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Note: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.
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