How to Develop Better Habits 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.

I am a bit of a slow learner. Stubborn, some might say.

For the longest time I always believed that the way to make big changes in life was to do it all at once, overnight, wholesale. I believed in making a complete and utter commitment. Any deviation from this commitment indicated failure.

And the result?

I botched things up. Every. Single. Time.

The idea of starting small didn’t appeal to me. I wanted change and I wanted right now.

Being the stubborn-headed dude that I am, it took me a while to truly understand that if I wanted to make change with anything, whether it was technique, a training regimen, or even making the bed on a consistent basis, that I needed to start small. Mini, even.


By keeping the bar low when we first start a new habit we make it sustainable because it is so easy that it’s almost impossible not to start. There is none of the intimidation that comes when we try to make a new change in our swimming, and without having to feel daunted entry into the new habit is much easier.

Here are a few tips for making those new little workout habits stick:

Start with a few.

When things start to go well with your new habit, and you understand the power of chipping away at it, you’ll want to take on the world. You’ll want to change everything and anything. Often times those new habits start piling up to the point that it is impossible to work on all of them.

The smallness makes you feel like you can do a thousand of them. Stick with a couple new habits, and then slowly scale up from there.

Keep it positive.

The hardest part of a new habit isn’t usually the action itself. It’s the self-talk that comes along with it. “You don’t need to do this. It’s easier not to. You’ll never be able to keep doing this.

It’s hard not to listen to these type of thoughts. They’ll come up frequently while your new habit is being formed. The key to limiting them is to acknowledge them and let them go.

Ya gotta want it.

Is this new habit something you truly want, or is it something that you kinda-sorta-maybe want? If you want to add stretching to your daily workout, learn to love the progress you are making.

A divided self will always have great difficulty sticking to a new habit, so make sure that this is something you want.

Get Back on Fast.

This is probably the most important part. There will be days where you miss or fail. The key is to fail fast, and get back on track fast. An easy way to do this is to make yourself more accountable by partnering up with a teammate, getting your coach/parents on board, and by keeping a log.

It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day. You can still recover. But if you let the disappointment of missing one lead into missing a whole bunch, than it becomes exponentially more difficult to get back in the saddle.

Ready to launch a new habit?

Pick something small. Keep it simple. Nail it every single day for two weeks. Make yourself accountable. Scale up from there.

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.

NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.

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Brian Peters

Very inspiring remarks about goals in general and so true it stings. There’s a song by George Harrison on his last album that goes “… If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”; small attainable goals and baby steps. Good stuff! Thanks.

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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