How To Train Through That Dreaded Plateau

Swimmers, at any level, can hit a plateau. This is commonly known as the ‘plateau syndrome’. Basically, this means that the results you get from your training slow down or even stop. Some swimmers treat their training like a rollercoaster; one minute they are up, crushing workouts and feeling great. The next minute, they are down, skipping  workouts and not putting the effort in. They continue this cycle without any real progress, causing frustration.

Plateauing can be extremely frustrating when you don’t hit the times you for which you’ve been training. So often it’s easy to look too deep into it and forget that the solution maybe as simple as a small change. Often we tend to complicate training, which may lead to a plateau.

The best way to start is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • When was the last time that you did dryland practice?
  • When was the last time you changed up your practice?
  • When was the last time you tried a different stroke in practice?
  • What about flipping around the sequences of the practice?

You have to manipulate the training variables because if you don’t, you won’t change the response. If you are one of those people who are racking their brains trying to figure out why you plateaued, start looking at the way you train.

Look at the variables in your training to see what has changed in the last month or two. These variables should never stay the same from practice to practice. This week’s distance practice should be different from last week’s distance practice. You have to change variables in order to change the response.

Here are some ways to help push past the your swimming plateau:

  1. Celebrate every victory: Whether you drop .05 seconds or 10 seconds, drop in time is worth celebrating. If you had a bad swim and it didn’t affect the rest of your meet, it is worth celebrating. Swimming without appreciation for the hard work can be miserable. If you’re thinking that a best time isn’t the best, think again. Start anew with everything, including expectations.
  2. Have fun: Swimming is fun. Feeling light in the water is fun. Diving in the water is fun. Tweaking your stroke to make a huge difference is fun. Keep looking for the fun in swimming. Maybe stay after practice and just float around. Enjoy the friendliness of the water.
  3. Ask for help: Ask your coach to watch a specific part of your stroke that feels quirky. Believe it or not, coaches love it when their swimmers ask for help. Every coach has many swimmers to watch and they don’t always pick up on mistakes. Pointing out what you feel needs fixing helps the coach focus more on that aspect and will help you change what is needed.
  4. Be Patience: Many things can go wrong, throwing you out of whack fast. It takes patience to help your stroke go back to the way is was before. If you use your thoughts productively while putting in the yards or meters, your strokes will turn into something stronger and more efficient than before you started to plateau.

Figuring out how to do that can be difficult and confusing, but that’s training in a nutshell.


  1. Morelli, Michael, Jr. “Training to Break Through Your Plateau – In a Nut Shell.” Morellifit, 19 Oct. 2015. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.
  2. “5 Ways to Power Through Your Swimming Plateau.” N.p., 15 Dec. 2014. Web. 20 Oct. 2015.

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About Emilee White

Emilee White

My name is Emilee White and I grew up in Canyon Lake, California. I began swimming at the age of 13 in age group, but with my background of dance, swimming came naturally to me and I excelled in the sport. I swam all four years on my high school …

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