by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.
Everybody wants to be great. Everybody wants the medals, the records and the glory.
They just don’t want to have to work for it.
It’s easier to settle for the thought that there is a shortcut somewhere, a sneaky way that gets us results with less effort.
But there isn’t.
Hard work is unavoidable, no matter how much our culture of insta-results likes to claim otherwise, or how talented your coach and parents tell you that you are, or how pre-destined you consider yourself for greatness.
The benefits of being a devastatingly hard worker go beyond just faster swimming:
- You rule the process. Being the swimmer that puts in the work means you are consistent in effort and attendance, and in turn this creates athletes how understand the value in the process versus being fixated on results.
- Gives you swagger. There is a rock-solid type of confidence that comes from putting in the work that is impossible to fake.
- Creates mentally tougher swimmers. A swimmer who is unafraid of hard work is unafraid of challenging circumstances, which, if swimming fast at the big meet is important to you, comes in handy when you step up on the blocks during pressure-packed situations.
- Gives you the power over today’s performance. Swimmers who work their tail off understand the urgency in making the most of today’s opportunities, which means they refuse to wait for what might appear like more favorable circumstances to take action.
- Makes you a generally faster swimmer. And of course, at its most basic level, hard work promotes faster swimming.
How to be the Hardest (& Smartest) Working Athlete in the Pool
“I’m sold!” you might be thinking. “Let us be working hard!”
But before plunging into the water and belting out 4,000m at the highest intensity you can muster here are a few things you should consider in order to make the most of your new-found desire to have a legendary work ethic:
1. Start with an audit of your training & effort.
I’ve rarely met a person or swimmer who said that they were not a hard worker. We all tend to think that of ourselves, but is this the actual case?
After all, self-awareness is a tough skill to crack. We tend to look back on yesterday, the weeks and months prior and exaggerate how things went. We inflate the work we did, downplay the practices we didn’t, and end up with a tainted view of our training history that leads to unrealistic expectations.
Spend a couple weeks journaling your swimming workouts and seeing how you are actually doing in the pool.
Two crucial things will happen: you will realize quickly how much (or how little) effort you are actually giving, and it will give you a baseline to improve on moving forward.
2. Set standards for yourself.
What does having an awesome work ethic mean to you? It’s not enough to just say that you want to be a hard worker, you need to come up with ways to quantify this.
Here are a couple ideas to get you thinking:
- Give a 9 out of 10 effort at every practice.
- Do the entire workout as described by coach.
- Attend 95% of practices this month.
Set some standards so that you can say, “Yessir, I’m doing the things necessary to make me feel like I am the hardest working swimmer on the block.”
3. Effort is only as good as the engagement and focus that goes with it.
The most shredded guy on my team during high school was also one of our worst swimmers.
It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying; like a wind-up toy he’d amp himself up, drop into the pool, and it would be a flurry of white water, red cheeks and loud panting for two hours.
The effort was there, but it made for some ugly (and not terribly fast) swimming.
(It certainly made for a great workout, however.)
Hard work goes beyond how simply hard you are trying.
It also involves being focused and trying to swim with superior technique and efficiency. When you put together a high degree of effort and a focus on technique you create a combination that is incredibly hard to beat.
More quality, less garbage.
4. Beat your best.
Being a “hard worker” in itself isn’t a great goal, as it lacks any kind of actionable specificity. After all, I can “work hard” at sitting on my butt crushing a pizza watching Netflix.
Rather, working hard should be about becoming a better swimmer than you were yesterday. It’s not just high effort for the sake of effort, but of going out of your way to get better each day. About mastering yourself and your performance.
Hard work combined with progression is where the magic happens.
You don’t always need to be outworking the swimmer next to you, but you should always be seeking to outwork yourself.
5. Stop avoiding the thing you know you need to be doing.
In all likelihood there is that one thing in your training that know you should be working on. Worse, you know the improvements that will come with it, and yet, you keep putting it off, pushing it into next week, into “someday” territory.
Whatever it is, attack it. For once and for all.
You know that once you do will kick yourself a little bit for having procrastinated so long, and you’ll likely also experience a “that wasn’t so bad” once you apply yourself for a little while.
Remember that you don’t always have to like it.
You can still love the sport and also do things that are tough or unpleasant.
There will always be things you don’t want to do in the pool (for me, it was breathing pattern sets—couldn’t stand them), but just know that pushing through the suck and avoiding the temptation to always take the easy route will get you to legendary status.
6. Start with today.
Okay, so now that you’ve audited your training history and set some hilariously ambitious standards for yourself, you might be feeling curiously like a boss.
Until, of course, you start thinking about the enormity of what you have set out for yourself.
“10 out of 10 effort for every practice until the end of the time?”
Drop the long-view approach and start with today. Start with the next lap. The very next stroke if you must.
You become a hard worker in the pool one lap at a time. So for a moment forget about the glory and mountain of work ahead of you and concentrate solely on the next few strokes.
Make the decision to kick a high degree of butt in the pool each day, go to work, and leave the competition and your PB’s in the rear-view.
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.
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