Are You Creating an Environment for Success in the Pool?

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.

It was May of 1971 and the Vietnam war was celebrating it’s Sweet Sixteen.

Two American congressmen were sent over on a fact finding mission to learn more about the widespread heroin use that was taking place among servicemen. The news that they came back with was bleak and disturbing: some 35% of soldiers had tried the drug, while 15% were actively addicted.

A month later, US President Richard “I am not a crook” Nixon launched the Special Action Office of Drug Abuse Prevention, which was equal parts rehabilitation and prevention. More importantly, for the purposes of this article at least, Nixon wanted to find out what happened to the addicted soldiers once they came stateside.

As a result, once his tour was complete every soldier was screened and tested before they came back to the US.

Those results were even more horrifying. As it turned out, the number of servicemen actively addicted was actually closer to 20%.

You can imagine the panic that was surging through the American public. Not only were they locked in a costly and unpopular war, but the men who had gone to fight it were coming home addicted to what was at the time considered an inescapable addiction.

But then something curious happened.

When these addicts were back in the states, within a year only about 5% of them had relapsed.

(To understand how extraordinary this is, consider that at the time the relapse rate for someone treated for heroin addiction in the US and released to their homes was 90%.)

So what had happened?

Put simply – the environment had changed.

Designing an Environment for Success

But what does this have to do with swimming?

Heaps, my friend.

Your environment – the people you surround yourself with, the places you go, even your food choices — all play a part in driving your behavior.

It’s not difficult to see how the servicemen, who were surrounded by the triggers that facilitated the heroin use — the stress of combat, friends who were using, ease of access, and so on – succumbed to it while overseas.

But once they were stateside, and all of those same triggers were now missing, nearly all of them were able to walk away from it.

So how do we apply these lessons towards swimming our butts off?

Here’s a few different ideas—

Surround yourself with people who have similar goals as you.

Jim Rohn quite famously, and I’d argue fairly accurately, said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Whether we like it or not, the people we hang out with on a regular basis influence our attitudes, our thoughts, and as a result, our actions.

Looking at your peer group would you say that they are pushing you towards a more positive outcome, or are they loaded with naysayers, complainers and critics?

Dummy proof your success.

One of the simplest and most effective ways to create an environment where you succeed more easily is to remove the barriers between you and what you want.

Here are a couple examples:

  • If you are having a hard time not diving into that box of cookies late at night (any other fellow sleep-eaters out there?), make it easier on yourself by throwing them out. If they aren’t there you don’t need to waste precious willpower on not eating them (or trying not to eat them and then doing so anyways).
  • Have a hard time getting up in the AM? Set out all of your workout gear before you go to bed. Put your shoes with a pair of socks in them right beside your bed. Have a breakfast pre-made. Lay out your clothes on the floor beside your car keys.

In other words, remove any of the barriers that are making it more difficult for you to do what you need to do.

Disrupt the routines.

Another way to change your surroundings is to change up your current routines.

Something as basic as switching lanes when you train, or wearing a different drag suit and goggles to practice can be enough to jolt you out of past triggers (pulling on the lane rope, not completing the assigned sets properly, etc) and embrace a clean slate.

You don’t have to flip your world upside down to create an environment that promotes better habits; sometimes all it takes is a couple tweaks to give you that feeling of a fresh start.

About YourSwimBook

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Creating an Environment for Success in the Pool – Nice article.

Would be nice if some of the local clubs kept their training pool temps below “bath water” levels so the successful training can continue. Curious if others have solutions for fixing pools with 80+ degree water temps during a training session. Locally, logic and common sense doesn’t seem to get getting through to pool management?


Unfortunately, competitive swimmers are a small minority at most swimming pools. The water temperatures are kept high for the benefit of the aqua-exercisers and recreational swimmers who are swimming at a 2-3 minute/100 pace. The main places that have this solved are the facilities that have 2 or more pools.



You must have missed the point of this article completely. “Bath water” temps is an excuse, something that creates a negative environment. Keep that out of here

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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