8 Things to Help You Get Psyched 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

We all get those days when the last thing we want to do is strap on the suit and crank out 10 x 200 butterfly for time. (Except for Mel, maybe…)

Motivation doesn’t have to be one of those “you-have-it-or-you-don’t” qualities. Knowing how to harness it when it’s peaking — and how to massage it out of hiding when it evaporates – plays a major role in how we perform in the pool. A swimmer that is stoked to show up on deck is going to work harder and ultimately perform faster more than the unmotivated athlete.

The next time you feel the fire in your belly starting to flicker, deploy any and all of the following  eight ways to stoke the flames—

Pick Out Some Goals.

I’m no space scientist, but I know this much: Goals are super! They provide direction and a benchmark for our efforts. They challenge, invigorate and push us to our perceived limits and every so often – a little further. They demonstrate what we can achieve when we set ourselves to something, and they also spur us on to greater heights with the confidence earned with each goal accomplished.

Not bad, right?

So set some shiny, specific (important!) goals for your swimming that are important to you (also important – be selfish here). An exact time you want to swim. A cut you want to make. Dream big, and then write it down and make yourself accountable to it.

Call in for Back-up.

Excellence is difficult; achieving it completely on our own is impossible. Having a positive, supportive circle of friends and family is critical to your success.

Your friends and family knowing of your goals, and facilitating your success is only half the battle.

The other half?

Surrounding yourself with successful swimmers.

You’ve probably heard the following—“You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most of your time with.” Successful swimmers hang out with successful swimmers. Step it up and jump into the faster lane next practice. Watch what the fast kids in your group, team and state/province/planet are doing.

Do One Thing Really, Really Well.

The big, greasy goal at the end of the season is what inspires you. It’s what you fantasize about when you should be listening to your teacher. It’s the time that you paste in big, bright numbers to your ceiling so it’s the last thing you see at night. It’s the yellow Omega pad at the end of the pool.

On one hand it inspires and motivates us, and then on days when we aren’t feeling so hot, when we cannot seem to find our stroke, when our mood only continues to dampen and the last thing we want to do is train — the mere thought of that goal can become daunting and heavy. Soon enough, the “I’m-so-far-away-so-what’s-the-point” thoughts begin circulating through your mind.

Avoid psyching yourself out by looking at the enormity your goals, and instead focus on the smallest step you can take today.

When I felt off, like my hands were slipping through the water, or I was stressed from school and/or up to my eyeballs in drama with the ex-girlfriend, I would pick a couple different areas of my swimming and focus intensely on them for the duration of the workout. My entry. Getting an extra couple dolphin kicks off each wall. Breathing every 18 strokes.

I would pick something small, and before long the confidence and motivation gleaned from doing one thing particularly well would spread itself to the rest of my swimming.

Be Prepared for That Next Lull

Motivation, like a lot of things in life, is in a constant state of ebb-and-flow, kind of like the tide. In, out. Up, down.

Today you are on top of the world, jacked out of your mind, ready to accept any and all challenges. Tomorrow you’d rather draw the shades and call a mulligan on the whole day. The key to lessening the impact of the lows and their frequency is to get your Sherlock Holmes on and figure out why they happen in the first place.

Write down what you were feeling, the activities you were engaged in, if you were stressed out, how you were eating, and find the commonalities. Trust me, they are there. Ya just gotta look. And once you do figure out what they are (for me, lack of sleep is a huge, rippling red flag to an approaching bout of low-motivation) – tactfully head them off one at a time as they arise.

Baby Steps Aren’t Just for Stumbling Toddlers

Going back to feeling daunted again, there are those moments where we have to start something – could be a difficult set, a homework assignment, or an article (ahem) – but the sheer amount of work facing us seems impossible to surmount.

So what do we do? Start? Of course not. (Aren’t we just gloriously and peculiarly weird in our self-sabotage?)

Start somewhere. Start something. Start anywhere.  Doesn’t have to be the hardest part, the easiest part; just something.

Here is a little trick I play on myself (which I may or may not have used for this article right hurrr) – commit to five minutes.

Just five minutes.

Don’t think beyond that, just promise yourself the first five minutes. You’ll find that once you get into it the “now that I’m doing this set it’s not so awful” groove will kick that sense of feeling daunted right out the window.

Don’t Plan for Somedays

Don’t wait to get pumped up about your goals later. Or tomorrow. Or worse, the day that doesn’t appear on the calendar because it simply doesn’t exist — “someday.”

The best time to start chasing your goals, to be the champion swimmer you want to be, is right now.

Not when you “feel like it.”

Not “sometime,” “eventually” or “later.”



Embrace the Horror

Overnight success stories are great for television and media. They make for great vignettes and athlete profiles, but let’s get serious here; they are a bold-faced, unchlorinated pile of lies.

Success isn’t stumbled upon or conceived overnight. It’s the messy, final result of a culmination of small wins. Eating well when you coulda motorboated the contents of the vending machine. Showing up early that week and doing extra ab work. Not taking 18 right-handed strokes with your keyboard into each wall during kick sets.

Success in the pool is the gritty, day-to-day of showing up, doing a little extra,and doing it well.

So embrace the grind!


Doing is invigorating. Sitting, thinking, endlessly planning and ruminating leads us to needlessly overthinking things. Action brings us confidence, builds our self-esteem, and the best of all – brings us results!


What are some of the ways that you psych yourself up with when you are feeling down in the dumps? List ‘em in the comments below!


In This Story

Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
9 years ago

I honestly needed this so much right now with regionals coming up so thank you!

Ethan Taylor
9 years ago


Gina Rhinestone
9 years ago


10 years ago

This is a great article that is capable of breezing anybody up. I am mostly fascinated by that area of doing one thing realy realy well. Many will pile up many goals to be achieved at once but at the very end they are unable to achieve any. I believe if it can be taken one after the other,it will take shorter before they are perfected. Good work .

Kari K
10 years ago

Stumbled onto this today and quoted you on FB – the section about Don’t Plan for Somedays. Love this! Thanks for the reminders.

11 years ago

Love this article! especially the part about surrounding yourself with fast and motivated swimmers. This season was especially hard for me and I had people telling me I would not achieve my goals and putting down my swimming everyday. I will really work on surrounding myself with motivated and hardworking swimmers next season!

C Martin
11 years ago

Definitely love the part about “someday doesn’t exist.” Kind of along the lines of “tomorrow never comes.” Very motivational.

Emilie H
11 years ago

Absolutely love this. In swimming and in life, these 8 things can help move toward any goal you have in life.

Reply to  Emilie H
11 years ago

Thank you Emilie for the kind words, I am glad you enjoyed the article.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, swim coach, and best-selling author. His writing has been featured on USA Swimming, US Masters Swimming, NBC Sports Universal, the Olympic Channel, and much more. He has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 …

Read More »