7 Self-Defeating Thoughts Swimmers Need to Drop

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.

There’s no doubt that mental fortitude is a strong cornerstone of any successful swimmer’s journey to the top of the podium. On their path, across an endless number of swim workouts, to the top they encountered a lot of the same doubts, frustrations, and self-defeating thoughts that you may be feeling.

Here are 7 self-defeating thoughts that you should lop off the next time they appear, and in the process speed up your own journey to excellence:

1. “It’s the way it is, and that will never change.”

When we got into a rut, or things aren’t happening for us, we accept it as status quo. Things aren’t changing – at least visibly – for us at the moment, so why would they down the road? This is just the way it is, and the way it always will be.

Refuse to believe that your destiny is decided for you. The destiny that we choose happens as a result of the choices that we inflict on our swimming career. We choose the outcome, not the other way around.

2. “It’s not supposed to be this hard.”

If it’s worth achieving, it will be challenging. It may even be near impossible, but if what you want to achieve in swimming is worth all of that daydreaming, and worth all of those early mornings, than yes, it will be difficult.

And that is okay.

In the end you will learn far more about yourself in the process of chasing those goals – consistency, staying motivated, evaluating yourself honestly – than you can possibly imagine, and although that gold medal will feel fantastic around your neck, mastering the process of achieving something wonderful will be the most satisfying of all.

3. “I failed the first time, so obviously it’s not meant to be.”

There is that misplaced sense of destiny again. Learning to appreciate failure and setbacks for what they truly are – lessons to be learned on the path towards your swimming goals – is the critical component here.

Coming up short is okay. It’s abandoning all of that hard work, and the freshly unwrapped lessons to be unearthed from not hitting your targets, that is the true failure. All of the greats, from Spitz, to Phelps, to Popov all had moments of serious struggle.

It’s what you do to get through the struggle that ultimately reveals the character of a champion.

4. “People say that it cannot be done, so obviously I can’t do it.”

There are many reasons that people will shoot down your ambitions and dreams. Some of them rooted in jealousy and envy, while an overwhelming number of them are out of plain ignorance.

Walt Disney’s thoughts on this sum up best what should be your approach to those who would prefer to belittle your ambitions: “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

5. “That fast time I did in practice doesn’t count.”

This is how hilariously effective we can be at getting in our own way: Even when we do something terrific – posting a lightning fast time in practice – we will discount it, putting the swim or effort down to luck, or that you could have done better.

Appreciate and take pride in the moments where you absolutely crush it. Allow the self-confidence that should spring naturally from those periods to propel you onwards and forwards.

6. “That swimmer is successful, why aren’t I?”

This line of thought is a double edged sword. On one hand you’re comparing yourself to other athletes, which for brief motivational purposes can be a good thing, but once you are measuring immeasurables against one another you’re only going to come to a conclusion you don’t like.

Swimming is a competition, and as such we are constantly aware of the swimmers in the lane next to us, who is doing what, and where we rank among them. Looking externally for some sort of justification for why you aren’t as fast as them will lead you down a rabbit-hole full of “it’s not meant to be” and “maybe I don’t deserve it.”

Focus on yourself, your swimming, and your performance and you will leave others in your wake, left to compare themselves to you.

7. “It’s hopeless.”

I have been guilty on this one. A surge of frustration and anger well up within you, nearly spouting out of the top of your head. In a cloud of anger you look at the work you have done, all the extra time put in, the attention to your diet and technique, and it all feels like it was for nothing.

Take a moment to step back. Breathe. Once the cloud of anger and frustration begins to dissipate, solutions and a way forward will begin to make themselves shown.

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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As someone who has practiced cognitive therapy for 25 years, I am so impressed with the information that you are providing for swimmers & coaches. This is such an important part of the swimming triangle. It is often underestimated and I could not be happier that these concepts are being emphasized in a way that I think most swimmers, coaches, and parents can relate to. The concepts generalize in terms of dealing with many aspects of your life and will serve you well. Thank you SWIMSWAM and Olivier Poirer-Leroy for facilitating these important messages!

I like Joni’s comment and will add more. I learned from an early age (from good coaches) that there is a lot to the mind in swimming. What is tremendous is that the skill set for calming the mind and moving toward achievement works just as well in the boardroom as it does in the pool. Athletics for most of us will lead to a better work environment through concepts honed in the weight room or pool. Work the head!

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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