5 Ways to Bounce Back from a Bad Swim

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.

Here are 5 ways to bounce back the next time things go awry at your next competition.

1. Incorporate resilience

Let’s be honest here, your racing conditions will generally be acceptable, sometimes even perfect. But relying on them to be perfect leaves you open to getting rattled the second things don’t unfold as you expect.

Your goggles will fill up with water, your race plan will get derailed, you’ll misjudge a flip turn. What matters most is how you react to these events. While you may never know exactly what will happen come race time, you can train and prepare for less-than-optimal race conditions.

Training and competing in conditions that are adverse before your big meet will prepare you for those “oh, snap” moments when your race plan doesn’t get off on its best foot. Bob Bowman would sometimes turn the lights off at practice so that Phelps would get used to swimming blind – which ended up happening in the 200m butterfly in Beijing. By the end of the race his goggles were completely full of water, and yet Phelps – knowing exactly how many strokes he had to complete – cruised to an easy victory and another world record.

2. Get to the root of the cause

For Cordes and his early take-off, the answer is pretty simple. You think he will ever leave early again on a relay exchange? Not a chance.

Without beating yourself up, try and look as objectively as possible at your swim and figure out why things didn’t go according to plan. Did you set unrealistic goals? Did your preparation match the outcomes you envisioned?

3. Get some perspective

It’s easy to lose yourself in the instant replay of what happened. Of obsessing over how other people may now perceive you, how you disappointed your teammates/coaches/internet pen-pals. But I am going to tell you a little secret…

It’s not the end of the world. Seriously, you aren’t Bruce Willis and this ain’t Armageddon.

There are a couple different ways you can do this:

  • Remember other times where you faced adversity, and came back successful.
  • Get back in the moment; sure ruminating over and over again about that awful swim might make you think that you can change the outcome, but thinking about it on an unending loop in your mind will not change the result.
  • It could always be worse. Yes, that’s right, it can always be worse.

4. Don’t take it completely personal

This one is hard. Very hard.

There will be times that your hard work will simply not pay off. Something beyond our control will knock us off our pedestal and tumbling away from the achievement of our goals. Another swimmer touches the wall first or we get injured.

Does that mean we are not deserving of success? Of course it doesn’t. It simply means that success will have to wait another turn.

5. Use it as fuel for whatever is next

Mistakes can demoralize and defeat you, or they can be the catalyst for you taking your swimming to the next level.

Failure should motivate you. Successful swimmers experience failure and absorb it, take it in and remind themselves daily how it feels, because they never want to experience it again.

Feigen proved it with his 100 freestyle silver medal at World Champs, and I can almost assure you that Cordes will bounce back stronger than ever this year, using his Worlds experience as motivation.

Can you think of any other tips or techniques to help bounce back from a bad swim? List them in the comments below.

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the anonymous swimmer girl
6 years ago

Really needed this today, just added 30 seconds on my 500 freestyle because I got sick before the race. And both my 200 and 400 freestyle relays got dq’d because of my teammates false started, and I gained 15 seconds on my 200 I.M. At least I pushed through. I really needed this today. Thank you.

6 years ago

I swam 1:09.97 yesterday in the 100 m Fly, nowhere near what I should have gone. Although it was my last race and I was really sore, I am still downtrodden.

Reply to  SwimmerFoxJet
6 years ago

1.09.97 is a great time you should feel proud

7 years ago

This is a great article! I needed this today. It was sectionals today and I just gained 1.5 from my best time in my best event and in my other event, another girl on my team just out touched me and we both went under the school record but she gets it.

7 years ago

Thx really needed this totally jack up at a swim meet

joe chavez
7 years ago

this is very helpfull information from a bad swim meet

8 years ago

Totally needed this today. Thanks for writing this 🙂

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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