6 Things to Think About Next Time You Stumble with Your Swimming

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.

Our swimming doesn’t always go, well, swimmingly.

We lose that precious feel for the water. That nagging ache in our shoulder or knee turns into something far more serious. We get frustrated at a lack of progression.

There will be times when we fall short. Sometimes rather spectacularly. This I can assure you. No matter what silver linings may eventually appear over the horizon, during that moment it is difficult to see beyond our bubble of pain. Here are 6 things to consider the next time you find yourself coming across rough seas with your swimming–

1. Friction is a part of growth.

Challenges are the doorways to excellence. Success isn’t seamless or simple; it’s a jagged climb up the mountain. It’s easy to look at the elite swimmers of the world and imagine that their path to the top of the podium was clean and easy. In reality, it is littered with false starts (not just the kind that get you DQ’d), wrong turns, and roadblocks.

Those that hit the pinnacle of the sport understand that the ultimate triumph is only necessary because they kept a smile on their face and worked through the bumps and bruises along the way.

2. Complaining won’t help you get there any faster.

Sure, complaining might make you feel faintly better during the moment, but in the end it brings you no closer to achieving your swim goals. When you complain and search for blame in the afterglow of a defeat or failure you miss out on the lessons that it provides. And while indulging in ye olde blame game may give you a faint sense of self-control, in reality it stunts you from making the necessary changes to come back stronger, better and faster.

3. Failure is a temporary condition.

Simply because you have come up short on one occasion, it does not mean that you will continue to fail, or that you are now burdened to fail with every subsequent effort. A common example is a swimmer who has an awful swim on the first day at a competition. Yes, it stings that the race didn’t go as planned. Does this mean that the rest of the meet is a lost cause? Absolutely not.

The pain of your setbacks won’t last forever, so trust yourself to be okay when they do happen and be willing to move on from them.

4. Focus on the process, and not the outcome.

Big, lofty goals are tricky. It’s necessary to have them, but they can throw us off course. Either they are so far away that we feel we can delay truly acting on them until another time, or there is such an enormous gap between where we are right now and where we want to go that we become demoralized. While it’s important to have those greasy goals at the end of the line, don’t get lost in them.

Instead, focus on the day-to-day stuff, that which is right in front of you. The outcome will take care of itself when you concentrate on the process of becoming a better swimmer each and every day.

5. Stop worrying about what others are doing.

We don’t all get Olympic-sized pools train in, or a training squad composed of Agnel, Phelps, McLean, Schmitt and Luchsinger. It’s not always fair having to train in a single 25 yard lane going 2 seconds apart with a dozen teammates. We also aren’t all born with size 14 feet, have dinner plate hand paddles for mitts, or have super-human growth spurts at the age of 11.

Endlessly comparing yourself to others, whether in competition or during practice only leaves us with the constant sensation of feeling like we are coming up short. If only I had his dolphin kicks. I wish my start was as fast as hers. It’s natural for our brains to organize and rank our performance. Feed this desire by directing the comparison within and hold your swimming up against your past and present self instead.

6. Design a path out.

Turn the pain and frustration into creating a path forward. What did you learn from this experience that makes you smarter and better-equipped moving forward? What are the things that you will do differently in the future? What is one small, meaningful step that you can take immediately that will set you on this path? Looking at building a better path forward reminds you that setbacks don’t last forever, and that they can help propel you forward even faster.

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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7 years ago

One thing that worked for me when I “stumbled”. Actually, I plateaued badly and could not progress for almost a year, despite hard work in the pool, a few expensive stroke clinics, a change in coach/program, adding weights, eating better, and all the rest…

I took a break. I took a semester off from swimming, and played soccer on my high school team. It was a lot of fun, I kept in shape, I trained differently, I used different parts of my brain (and my body), and I had a blast. I returned to swimming over Xmas break and by middle of spring I was cutting time, swimming personal bests, and enjoying swimming again. It did not ruin me for… Read more »

8 years ago

One of the most important things I have ever heard in this sport came from Tommy hanen an Olympian in the 1 fly. He said the most important things he learned from swimming was how to successfully fail. Move on, then fail again. If you aren’t at a place where you fail some times, you won’t get better.

8 years ago

I’m a track runner who just stumbled on this post & this is great advice for just about any athlete! (land or water) so thanks for the inspiration!

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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