6 Reasons You Aren’t Seeing Success with Your Swimming

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for competitive swimmers by clicking here.

As we near mid-year 2017, many of us are looking back pondering where we did well, and where some of us may have gone astray. Whether the year was a hilariously amazing success or a complete bust, taking a moment to objectively critique how you did this year gives you an opportunity to make the corrections necessary so that you can hit the ground running in second-half of 2017.

Here are 6 reasons for why you didn’t see the results you want in the pool–

1. Your expectations don’t match up with the work you’ve done.

Denial is a funny thing. How many times have you swum a race, leaving everything in the pool in terms of effort, touched the wall and looked up to see a result that fell far short of your expectations? You look at the clock in disbelief, unsure how you could have swum that result given all the work you had done.

Did you put in the necessary work, though?

Sure it might seem like you only missed a couple workouts here and there, sick one week, and slacked on the main set every so often, but cumulatively these things can add up rapidly. Look back at your training and ask honestly ask yourself, “Based on the work I did leading up to this meet, did I earn this result?

2. Your goal setting skills need some work.

There are many reasons for why goals are stinky. Not being realistic, not having a clear deadline, not having a plan of action, and so on, but perhaps one of the most common is a glaring lack of specificity.

Let’s take a goal statement that I hear often on deck:“I want to break two minutes for the 200 freestyle this year.

It’s a nice goal on the surface. It appears specific; after all, there is a quantifiable element to it. There’s fantastic intention, but this type of vague goal will probably only end up frustrating you more than anything else. While it hints at being specific, it doesn’t outline where and when this swim is going to happen, meaning that it has no deadline outside of “this year.”

More importantly, it doesn’t describe how you are going to achieve this goal. It doesn’t go into detail about what you are going to have to do to get to your goal.

SEE ALSO: 5 Goal Setting Hacks for Swimmers

3. You’re over-thinking it.

How often have you bounced these around your head –

“I want to be an elite swimmer but I need to buy a better suit/train in a better facility/get the right supplements…”

“I want to swim in the fast lane, but I am going to be embarrassed around all the fast kids…”

“I want to be the best swimmer I can, but first I need to research everything I can about technique, improving my kick, strength training, etc…”

I’m not knocking critical thinking skills, or dissing being interested in the mechanics of technique and so on, but if this paralysis-inducing analysis is keeping you from putting in your best effort at the pool today it may be time to turn your brain off and just swim.

4. You’re a part time athlete.

As far as swimming tips go, this one requires some humility.

We’ve all seen the guy or gal that walks into the local fast food joint, order two big cheeseburgers, a basket of fries…and a Diet Coke, thinking that the one “good” diet decision will negate the rest of the awful choices.

Don’t be the same way with your swimming.

You’ve worked hard at the pool, pounded out the miles day after day. Don’t throw it away by not giving yourself the opportunity to recover properly with adequate nutrition, hydration and rest. If you want to be an elite athlete, remember that doing so means the out-of-the-pool stuff is just as critical as what you do in the pool.

5. You’re not setting short term goals.

Even at this point of the year, championship season feels as though it is far beyond the horizon. (And it is.) This causes a couple different issues—

  • Removes any sense of urgency. With so much distance between where you are at right now and your season end goal, you begin to sense detached from it. There is no pressing need to get down to work on your goal. After all, there is so much time to go still, you can always get serious later.
  • It’s hard to get motivated to get after that goal. Swim seasons are a long haul. With the long amount of time between now and championship season creates a disconnect. There is too much of a gulf between the swimmer you are now and the swimmer you aspire to be, which makes it hard for you to make the goal relevant.

The solution is to introduce short term and micro-goals.

Set goals for the month, for the week, and even for individual practices. Not only will they keep you focused on making the steps necessary to achieve your big goal, but will also keep you dialed in and motivated on a daily basis.

6. You’re not consistent enough.

If there is one thing every single champion swimmer holds in common is that they are consistent. They show up every day, rain or shine, and put in the work. No matter what kind of day they had, if they’re feeling  a little beat up, or if they simply aren’t “feeling it” they show up and do the necessary work to forge forwards to their goals.

There are an endless number of reasons for why some swimmers fail to put their best effort in every day at the pool–

I forgot my goggles. Oh well. Can’t train today.

Don’t really feel up to it. Don’t want to swim if I don’t feel totally on it.

I worked hard yesterday. I’m good.

The fast kid in your lane doesn’t buy into these excuses. They understand that they need to maximize every opportunity they are given in order to see the success they want to achieve. Success doesn’t come with spurts of effort, it comes from the continual and consistent application of hard work.

Are there any other reasons swimmers struggle to see success in the pool? List ‘em in the comments below!


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which include a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

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7 months ago

Those are all internal forces, what about external forces?

Anyone who is taking the steps to search this is already a committed athlete, wants to improve, and is weighing the effort, time, money they’ve put into the sport against their season over season results. Suggesting they aren’t doing enough will surely lead to injury through overtraining, so I will answer with the presumption that athletes are busting their chops instead of presuming they are unmotivated.

#1 you have reached your maximum potential (obviously doesn’t apply to age group swimmers). Effort being equal, natural athletic ability and hereditary predisposition make all the difference.

#2 You are overtraining/overreaching (very common these days when driven athletes are told “they aren’t trying hard enough”)… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by John
John Pellegrini
5 years ago

Nobody wants to say this but in my experience it’s usually the coaching. If the swimmer is not getting challenged in the pool and there is no true attemp to make technique changes the results will show up on race day.

5 years ago

I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, I think it’s more of the mental block. I just turned 16, and moved to A new state. My technique became awful and my speed is literally the exact same as it was last year. Tbh i blamed it on track season, taking time off, and then since it was hard transitioning back into swimming I never gained my confidence back. I train every day and take rest for weekends, and all my other friends are dropping time like flies while I seem to be swimming like a 14 year old. Im slowly attempting to gain my confidence back but it’s hard. I don’t know what to do, and already thought about quitting… Read more »

Reply to  Adel
4 years ago

You said it yourself. You took time off for track. At 16 your body changes every day. Give your body time to figure out how to swim again. Everything you’re doing in the pool will feel awful for a long time. Have patience and trust yourself and your coaches. If you don’t have that trust, then you need to do something to create it.

6 years ago

I’d add consistent focus throughout workouts. Each length, each set has a purpose and keeping focused on that purpose and your form while pursuing that purpose will maximize the benefit for that time in the pool. “Perfect practice makes perfect. Practice just makes permanent.”

7 years ago

Great article. I have a 12 year old that constantly gets jealous of the other swimmers getting the coaches attention. She knows her technique needs work but feels her peers get better faster and concludes it’s because the coach doesn’t give her attention. As a result, her friendships weaken and the team atmosphere suffers Any advise???

Reply to  bewe
7 years ago

Bewe, tell your daughter that the coaches belong to her as much as they do the fast swimmers. If she wants their attention, she needs to catch their attention, just like a teacher’s pet catches the teacher’s bitten tigon by standing out. She doesn’t have to be good, she just needs to prove to them that she wants their help. I teach swimming lessons and one of the things I most like to hear is, “I need help!” That shows me that the student is interested, engaged, and wants to get better. As a swimmers am not so great and I felt I was in a similar position to your daughter but I started asking my coaches for help and… Read more »

Reply to  Mermaidgal
4 years ago

EXACTLY!!! I don’t care how fast you are, if you want help and are putting in the effort, I will go out of my way to help you.

7 years ago

That was blunt and accurate. I’m extremely impressed with this article and it will help, and not just swimmers. My favorite was 4.

8 years ago

Well, I work hard in practice. So, that’s probably not why I’m not doing so well.

Jay Markowitz
8 years ago

I think you missed one—-which is experimenting with technique and form to find the optimal and most efficient way to achieve speed. I spend a decade swimming on Long Island. In High School one of my coaches tinkered with my breaststroke and messed me up for years, by inadvertently changing my technique so that my hips dropped too low. I spent years going to practice regularly and struggling to regain the speed I had lost by following my coaches instructions. Then one day at a swim meet, I gave up, and without any practice, I went back to my old technique and my hips got back to their proper place, and I saw drastic improvement. Without constant analysis of your… Read more »

Reply to  Jay Markowitz
7 years ago

This is really the best way to improve.

Reply to  Jay Markowitz
5 years ago

Well said! Sometimes the advice “listen to your coach” is not the best advice.

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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