5 Things You’ll Never Hear a Successful Swimmer Say

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.

How often have you pulled yourself aside and actually listened to the things you tell yourself over the course of the day? Or the self-talk you unleash during a challenging workout? How much of it is supportive, and how much of it is dismissive or flat out harsh?

Those thoughts might seem harmless, but whether they are positive or negative, the matching emotions quickly follow suit, and as we have seen, these emotions than generate physical responses that line up with your thoughts.

In other words, if you tell yourself that you can’t do something, this feeds into negative emotions about the task at hand, which makes it hard for your body to get up to perform. On the other hand, if you tell yourself that you can and will do something, this creates feelings of anticipation and confidance, which primes your body to kick some butt.

In the spirit of developing some positive self-talk in order to perform better in the pool, here are 5 things that successful swimmers do not tell themselves:

1. “It’s too late.”

No matter what mistakes or failures have led you to this point, it is not too late. It’s comfortable and easy to wallow in a pool of self-pity, telling yourself that it is too late to accomplish the things you want in your swimming career.

You’ll never be able to go back in time and fix mistakes, but you have the opportunity to shape today and influence tomorrow. Remember this very moment, because a year from now you will either be grateful that you started, or you’ll be telling yourself again that it is too late.

2. “I’m just not feeling it today.”

Wouldn’t it be great if you woke up every day after a complete night of rest, to a delightful, healthy meal, and then zipped through every light on the way to the pool, where upon sliding in the water you felt greater than you ever had?

It might – but thinking about it is pointless, because we both know those days are far and few between. We won’t always feel like heading back to the pool for another 2 hours in the water, but then again if we only ever did the things we felt like doing most of us would be half-comatose on the couch watching Netflix with a half-eaten pizza sitting on our lap.

You won’t always feel like working out. Or giving it your all at the end of a long set. But it’s pushing through those moments that help to separate those that max out their talents with the rest.

3. “My swimming goals can wait.”

Time is limited. You know this, I know this, everyone knows this. Then why do we often act as though it weren’t? Why do we postpone the things we want to do with our swimming until it is too late?

There’s no excuse for not chasing your dreams. No matter where you are right now, how far away you may be from achieving them, or what kind of odds are stacked against you, be bold enough to seize this moment – yes, this one — to start chasing your goals.

4. “This stinks.”

Often times the biggest hurdle in our swimming is our own attitude. It is the thing that tells us that we don’t want to do something, that when things aren’t going our way to give in, and that unless circumstances are perfect, there is no way we are going to move forward.

The fastest way to separate the swimmers who achieve big things against those that will toil in the lanes of mediocrity is by the reaction on their faces and their body language after a difficult set is scrawled up on the whiteboard.

Be the swimmer that doesn’t flinch in the face of adversity. Be the swimmer that is willing to rise to the occasion even when no one else will. Be the swimmer that doesn’t complain and takes pride in doing the work that makes others flinch in fear.

5. “I can’t do it.”

Nothing robs a swimmer of their willpower or ambition faster than the two words: “I can’t.”

It’s understandable that you don’t want to do something, but it’s important that you understand the distinction between not wanting to do something, and not being able to do something.

So the next time you come up against a wall of “I can’t” remember the distinction between won’t and can’t, and also, go back to all of the times that you told yourself that you couldn’t do something, and then promptly did it anyway.

Yes, you are that capable, and it will be rare that you’ll come across a set or workout you cannot do if you just put your mind to it.

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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6 years ago

By reading the article in its entirety, I completely agree. Sure, a successful athlete may for a moment have s reaction on the inside that says, “this set sucks,” but before it even turns into a facial expression or a statement, the successful athlete is already focused on knowing that by doing what’s difficult, you get closer to your goals.

7 years ago

I’m going to have to disagree in this one….if you can manage to find a swimmer that never complains, I’ll be stunned. Wether it’s a rough 15,000 yard practice, or a long test set, I highly doubt that a swimmer will never complain in the slightest.

Reply to  Hina
7 years ago

You’re missing the point of this article. The idea is that if one wants to become the greatest swimmer they can be, they would aim to not complain ever. Obviously this type of perfection is near impossible, but in aiming to eliminate it entirely, convincing yourself that it is possible to never complain, and holding that mentality close, said swimmer will likely complain less than every one else, therefore bringing him closer to success than his competitors.

Reply to  Niemannator
7 years ago

I agree. While it is nearly impossible to never complain, this article gives all swimmers something to strive for. If you really want to improve your swimming, you should learn to enjoy it. Enjoy those test sets and distance days. I compete at the national level, and this article really rings true for me. The days I go into practice with a positive attitude turn out much better than the days I don’t want to be there.

Reply to  Niemannator
7 years ago

Well the article is titled “5 Things You’ll Never Hear a Succesful Swimmer Say,” not “How to Be the Greatest Swimmer You Can Be.” This title implies that the most Succesful swimmers never complain, but if this is the goal of the article I believe it should be renamed.

Reply to  Hina
6 years ago

I agree that the most successful swimmers don’t complain. I know a few that I honestly have never heard complain about practice. Yes, I hear, “that was one of the hardest sets I’ve ever done.” But it’s not ever in a complaining way. The difficult sets are seen as a welcome challenge. But we are talking about elite swimmers. So, if you don’t think this is true… Maybe you haven’t spent much time around this level of athlete. Do you honestly think Katie Ledecky complains about hard sets. I’m going to say ah, NO! She doesn’t. Because she is the best. So maybe the problem with this article is the objectivity of the word ” successful.” The more successful the… Read more »

Reply to  Swimmer1
6 years ago

Correction of my grammar, I mean subjective not objective.

8 years ago

I have coached swimming for 17 years various club levels and high school and hopefully one day collegiate and higher. I have had successful programs despite typically being small, no club swimmers or the under dog. Athletes who have continuously negative self talk and can’t find a way to have positive self talk are not as successful. Sports is so much mental as well as physical you have to train both.

The idea is you didn’t dwell on the stink. You knew it was apart of the steps to get you to your goals so welcomed the hard work. So you turned the hard work into a positive, maybe after the workout:)

We all have bad days its how… Read more »

8 years ago

Seriously? If you never say, “This stinks” or “I’m just not feeling it today,” you’re a robot or you’re delusional. “Never” is a strong word. I was a successful swimmer and said, “This stinks,” plenty of times. But I knew that to be successful you had to work through the stuff that stinks. If you’re smelling roses every time you’re in the water, you’re not working hard enough.

Reply to  MetalSwim
7 years ago

In order to be successful, you have to realize something “stinks”, and that you’re not feeling it sometimes. But the part that makes someone successful is when they’re not feeling it, and a set really sucks, they excel and bust their butts no matter what in practice… Then surprise themselves on a bad day during a set that they originally thought stinks.

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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