8 Michael Phelps Quotes to Get You Fired Up

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.

From his Beijing heroics, to his decade of domination of international competition, Phelps has inspired countless swimmers and non-swimmers alike with his feats of athletic prowess. He pushed the limits of what was possible in the sport to heights few thought possible, while also galvanizing a fresh generation of swimmers.

Channel your inner Phelps with these 8 motivational swimming quotes from the G.O.A.T. to get your day off on the right foot:

1. “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.”

Our goals and dreams should stretch, prod and challenge us. They should take us to our limits and beyond, forcing us to reconsider what we consider ourselves capable of.

Doing great things requires going into the unknown, of pushing ourselves and our abilities, and yes, that means there will be moments where we are uncomfortable, where we struggle, and where we are inundated with doubt, insecurities and fear.

Don’t be afraid to set goals that scare you or make you uncomfortable. Those are precisely the ones that change the world.

2. “If you want to be the best, you have to do things other people aren’t willing to do.”

The road most traveled is the road to mediocrity. If you want to achieve the same results as everyone else, simply do what everyone else is doing.

However, if you want to achieve special things with your swimming, you must be willing to step above and beyond what is considered typical or standard.

3. “I want to test my maximum and see how much I can do.”

When things aren’t going great we tend to get lost in the performances of our competition. We start imagining them as bigger than life, that they are more deserving, more talented than we are. Instead of wasting energy and time on what the swimmer in the lane next to you is doing, direct that energy inwards and work on maximizing everything within yourself.

At the end of the day you will never be able to completely control the outcome, or what the competition does. But if you step up on the blocks knowing that you have done everything possible to make the most of your abilities, your swim will be a success whether you come in first or eighth.

4. “I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.”

Not giving your full effort over the course of the year gives you a fantastic excuse come championship season: “I could have swum XYZ time if I wanted to, if I had trained hard, but I didn’t feel like it.”

The pain of regret, of the what-if’s, of wondering what may have been had you made a better effort, will always be worse than the strife you will face in the middle of a workout.

5. “I found something I love… And never gave up.”

Our swimming goals, no matter where they land on the scale of greatness, should be utterly and profoundly ours. They should belong to you – not your coach, parents, or friends.

Trying to achieve somebody else’s idea of excellence will leave your motivation flat and engagement short-lived. Once you find that which you are passionate about, lock in on it and continue hammering at it until completion.

6. “Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt from those things and learn from mistakes.”

Phelps, despite his superhuman achievements, is human, just like the rest of us. He made mistakes out of the pool, while also falling short on his initial attempt at Spitz’ record at the Athens Games in 2004.

We all stumble at various points in our swimming career. What matters not is what happened or who is to blame. What only matters is what you decide to do next, how you decide to react to the setback or failure. We all take our lumps and bruises, what matters most to your long term swimming success is if you are willing to plod on in spite of it.

7. “So many people along the way, whatever it is you aspire to do, will tell you it can’t be done. But all it takes is imagination. You dream. You plan. You reach.”

You will always encounter negative people both in life and in the pool. Anytime you upset the status quo or challenge someone else’s idea of what is possible you are going to find resistance and negativity.

Perhaps they have limited ambitions of their own. Jealousy. Or you are chasing something they were never able to achieve. Whatever the case, it doesn’t really matter what their motivations are. Until provided with concrete, 100% proof that you are incapable of achieving your goal, act as otherwise.

8. “If you say “can’t” you’re restricting what you can do or ever will do.”

All too often when we are faced with a challenge we fall back into the well-worn position of saying “I can’t.” Those two words are comfortable, familiar, and instantly saps you of any forward momentum.

When faced at a crossroads when you feel the doubt flooding in, stop yourself for a moment and ask if the set, practice, or goal is something you can’t do, or something you don’t want to do.

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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We Love Phelps
7 years ago

i like #2 #7 and this one: “You can’t put a limit on anything, the more you dream the farther your get.” ~

Reply to  We Love Phelps
6 years ago

That is Phelps’ most famous quote and it drives me crazy because it should be “further” not “farther”

Reply to  sorrynotsorry
6 years ago

Nope, “farther” is grammatically correct.

Reply to  phelpsfan
6 years ago

While some old-fashioned sticklers believe that there is a difference (farther representing a physical distance, further being a metaphorical), most ‘experts’ including the OED indicate that the two can be used interchangeably.

Reply to  Braden Keith
5 years ago

Wow Keith, not sure the OED has ever been sited on Swimswam. That makes this old English Major happy.

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  Jimswim
5 years ago

It’s ironic that you wrote “sited” instead of “cited”

Reply to  We Love Phelps
3 years ago

meh you could be better

bobo gigi
7 years ago

I also remember he said: “I hate more losing than I love winning.”
That’s what makes the difference between someone good and someone great in sport.

Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

Bobo, I think you put your finger on the key quote!

Joel Lin
7 years ago

I love this stuff, but the quotes are really just the tip of the surface. The thing that is hard to bottle and save for later generations is why Phelps is GOAT. I hope this comment does not stir a pot, but I believe I have seen at least half a dozen swimmers better than Phelps in his career picking over technical mechanics, starting with Lochte who I think has the most technically perfect strokes of any swimmer in the last 30 years in every stroke, and Crocker. Phelps in his prime was just a mental toughness and focus machine. It’s hard to get it into a quote how much he just owned and psychologically destroyed everyone in his way… Read more »

Reply to  Joel Lin
7 years ago

I love Lochte and what he has accomplished so far BUT he certainly doesn’t have the best stroke on freestyle at all . Jones , Berens and thorpe have all 3 way smoother and great looking stroke on freestyle . I can think of Charlie Houchin as well .

6 years ago

Thorpe? Sun Yang? Agnel? And tbh I quite like Phelps’ freestyle.

Also no way Lochte has the best Breastroke, compared to someone like Kitajima.

Backstroke – Irie, hands down. Xu Jiayu has a lovely technique too. Lochte’s is quite loping.

Fly – GOAT :p

Stay Human
Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

If Lochte had Phelps almost genetically perfect bod for swimming (wingspan, degree of overall flexibility, torso/legs ratio, etc) he may well have been the GOAT himself. Then again, had Phelps had his mental demons exorcised earlier, he might have been even better!– a scary thought.

Reply to  Joel Lin
5 years ago

i get what you’re saying. there’s a reason phelps always (most of the time) wins close races. it’s why he beat cavic in 2008 and it’s why he won the 100 fly at olympic trials this year. it’s that while someone may be technically better than him, he has a serious drive and mental edge that propels him forward faster. he just doesn’t (most of the time) lose.

7 years ago

Very interesting thought. I recall an anonymous quote from a Michigan swimmer, essentially stating how Phelps wore him down week after week, simply by being ahead on every last repeat, in every practice. I don’t believe that was Phelps’ intention, but that was the effect. Here is the quote:

“One of Phelps’ former training partners at the University of Michigan has personally told me as much. “He just broke spirits,” said this swimmer. “He certainly did it to me.” This from a former National Team member and multiple time All-American at Michigan. He went on to tell me about glancing underwater off of turns in workouts and watching Phelps’ utterly depressing superiority. “He’s just so much better, so much more… Read more »

Reply to  mikeh
6 years ago

MikeH: Thanks for the link to that article, which I enjoyed! IMHO, the author’s conclusions were inaccurate.

First, I think the reason the US results were less impressive in Shanghai, as I’m afraid they might be in Kazan, is because the Team was chosen a year in advance rather than at Trials in 2011. For example, Grevers wasn’t in Shanghai to contend for gold in the 100 back because he wasn’t prepared enough for the 2010 selection process. Second, in addition to Lochte Phelps has had company on international podiums with: Vanderkaay, Crocker and McGill. In fact, the only 2 Olympic individual event finals, (Out of a total of 15!) in which Phelps has not had a US compatriot,… Read more »

bobo gigi
6 years ago

Congrats to swimswam on resurrecting old articles. 😉

Gina Rhinestone
Reply to  bobo gigi
6 years ago

A bit boring but it either them old things or # dayinthelifeofabaltimorecitizenunderarrest . Your Russian poisoning plot is very good also . #anamericaninkazan.

My only objection on these things is – as he is so unique then what use are quotes to others . Unique is finite – just MP.

Lazy Observer
6 years ago

As an athlete, I have tremendous appreciation for the man. But quite frankly, should ny of these even count as Phelps quotes? They are so generic they could literally have been said by anyone at any time for any endeavor. In fact, I am pretty certain my high school volleyball coach said several of these back in the ’90s.

That isn’t a knock on the guy. I just think these are common mantras for athletes and go-getters. Example: “Above anything else, I hate to lose.” -Jackie Robinson

Gina Rhinestone
Reply to  Lazy Observer
6 years ago

The Chicago Jackie Robinson West team lost their 2014 Little League title for recruiting outside their locale ie cheating .

In Feb 2015 , Mayor Rahm Emmanuel stepped in & ordered championship rings & presented the kids their new ones . I don’t know enough of Jackie to say this is what he meant .

Lazy Observer
Reply to  Gina Rhinestone
6 years ago

Yes, Gina, I am sure this is exactly what Jackie meant when he died in 1972. Way to suss out these important historical connections.

Lazy Observer
6 years ago

*to be clear, I respect him as an athlete. I am a terrible athlete.

Reynaldo Makabali
5 years ago

It’s the summary of what a life well lived is about-

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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