5 Ways to Get the Most of Your Swim Practices

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.

As a competitive swimmer we are always looking for new ways to get the edge on our fellow athlete. Whether it’s a new suit or a new dry-land routine, we’ll scoop to some extensive lengths to get a leg up. Instead of trying to make time for more training, more meters (yards), more of this or more of that, focus on making the most of your current practices.

Here are 5 ways to squeeze the most out of the time you spend in the pool–

1. Set micro goals.

Set goals for individual workouts, even down to specific sets and repeats. As a recovering distance swimmer, this was one of the ways that I kept myself sane during those long, lonely sets. Eye-balling the clock and wanting to turn under a specific time kept my head in the set and ultimately pushed me to swim faster.

Set marks and targets for your sets so that you have something to chase during practice, instead of strictly trying to survive the set.

SEE ALSO: 5 Goal Setting Hacks for Swimmers

2.  Ask questions.

How many times have you been asked to do a set, and wondered if it was a set born from a desire to punish rather than to improve? There were times where I was issued such a set, and instead of asking – tactfully of course – the purpose behind the set, I simply grumbled under my breath and did the set, not fully engaged and ultimately resentful.

When we don’t understand the reason we are asked to do something it limits our engagement and desire to carry it out.

3. Have a pre-workout routine so that you are primed.

Making sure that you are adequately rested, hydrated and fueled before your workout is your responsibility, so look after yourself so that you can maximize the time you are spending in the pool. Establishing a pre-practice routine can be helpful here. Doing so, and making the beginning of your workout a habit helps to lessen the amount of willpower needed to commence your workout.

The routine doesn’t need to be extravagant or complicated, it can be as simple as a set of cues. A song, a favorite stretch, some arm swings, a snack, and so on. Having your own specific routine or set of cues pre-practice signals to your body that it is go time.

4. Track and measure your performance.

I’ve discussed previously on SwimSwam the benefits of keeping a swimmer’s log book. Getting motivated, seeing your progress on paper, and managing your short, medium and long term goals are all benefits of writing out your workouts. In terms of squeezing the most from your practices, a simple way to make sure you are getting faster is by recording your in-practice results for your main sets.

This is especially helpful the next time that test set comes around — you won’t have to wonder if you were holding 26.5’s or soft 27’s. While we all tend to fancy ourselves as having impeccable recall, time tends to obfuscate the memory of our results, especially given how many different personal bests we accrue over the years. (100IM long course PB, 400 free long course kick with fins PB, 75 yards one-arm free with one flipper PB, etc)

The results will all be there written out for you, giving you a clear and tangible bulls-eye to take aim at.

SEE ALSO: 8 Reasons to Keep a Swim Log

5. Make sure that you are recovering adequately and completely.

Your work in the pool isn’t done once you complete warm-down. The successful swimmer always has an eye towards the next day, and as such does his or her best to insure a speedy recovery.

Properly refueling your body, and giving your muscles the proper nutrition to repair, grow and recover is essential in bouncing back fast.

What are some of the things you are doing to insure that you are getting the most from your time spent in the pool? List ’em in the comments below!

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It would be good to hear advice on how to get most out of practice for younger swimmers 11-14, for example.

I ask our 11 year old twins to tell me what two things/improvements they will work “today” in each stroke. I found out asking for one thing is not enough and more than two is too much for them to handle. After practice I ask them what they worked on and how they think they did.
95% (a guess) of young swimmers 14 and under just “cruise” in the practice, never improving technique.


Sad to hear. Some people that coach age group were never good in swimming, they don’t know what to tell your kids ways to improve. Some of them don’t even belong to ASCA or USA Swimming, don’t attend coaches seminars and really are not great coaches.

Ask coaches what they have to offer, push coaches to do a better job. I am a coach myself I talk from experience. If that is not the case consider trading club teams.

bad parent

Psycho dad,

If your involvement with your swimmers ended at this line of questioning that would be great BUT you have posted way too much to hide the fact that this is the tip of your iceberg.

Also, I would say 95% of kids in high volume programs match your prescribed “cruising” statement. I think kids in shorter race oriented programs have plenty of time for feedback and don’t need their dad’s to pester them outside of swimming practice for the program to be effective. Your problems with Nitro are well expressed. Either let them coach or leave them alone.


Psychodad: 2 things. First off, relax and let your kids be/have fun! 11 years old!!! Then, let the coaches coach!
At least you pick a perfect nick name!


As a coach, hearing of Psychodad’s involvement makes me very happy 🙂 The parents are the original coaches and we would have nothing without them. Engaging their kids in the thought process behind what they put so much time into is a good thing, even for 11 year olds! Sure they should have fun and enjoy swimming but that does not mean they should mindlessly go through practice. Although, as a swimmer, I hated when my Mom told me I needed to kick more or breath less – yes I’m sure that I needed to do that but she didn’t swim so she didn’t know how badly I hurt at that time, or how hard I trained to conquer that… Read more »


Adam – it’s simple: 1 – A parent should give unconditional love to the kid, support the kid, teach values, encourage independence etc 2 – A coach should coach (I.e. give individual feedback to the swimmer, help him/her set goals/daily goals as the psycho dad was saying etc) 3 – A swimmer should try his/her best, listen to the coaches etc. When one of the 3 above mentioned parts crosses the line, that’s when problems start… even you said that when your mom “coached” you, you didn’t like it…

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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