My Favorite Trick for Helping Swim Practice Go By Faster

Think back to the last time you did a big, “boring” swim practice.

Maybe the set was something you didn’t see the point of.

Your mind wandered. Your focus wavered. Time seemed to slow to a dog-paddle-with-DragSox-on crawl.

And hey, I get it…

I am not immune to my mind wandering outside the lane lines, especially when I am dead tired or I am stressed out or I’m fantasizing about the 16-course dinner I am going to stuff in my gullet when I get home.

But if you want to make your swim practices go by faster, there is something you can do (besides wishing your coach would write easier workouts).

This something will also make you a more efficient swimmer.

And it will also make you a faster 🏊 🏊 🏊.

It’s counting your strokes.

When American freestyler Zach Apple transferred to Auburn University, he walked out onto a pool deck that was totally stacked with elite sprinters.

Bruno Fratus. Marcelo Chierighini. Renzo Tjon-A-Joe.

Olympians, world champions, and NCAA champions littered the lanes.

In a recent episode of Inside with Brett Hawke (click here for the full interview) Apple rehashed the experience of being fresh-faced and eager to learn from the champions in the chlorinated midst.

One of his new teammates, Kyle Darmody, pulled him aside one day at practice and asked him:

“How many strokes are you taking in warm-up every day?”

Apple, a very late bloomer in the sport, looked blankly at Darmody, an NCAA champion and 6-time SEC champion.

“I have no idea.”

“You just need to take one less stroke per lap in warm-up,” said Darmody.

Apple started counting his strokes.

Lengthening it out.

Eventually, Apple progressed to the point he is swimming each lap of a yards pool during threshold sets with three kicks and eight strokes.

And before long, he was counting medals, top 10- world rankings, and plenty of buzz as a legitimate contender in the 100-meter freestyle for the Tokyo Olympics.

So what does Zach Apple and counting strokes have to do with making practice go by faster?

Welp, it’s actually kinda simple…

Counting your strokes keeps you present

Practice feels longer than a 7-day swim meet when we are thinking about stuff outside of the water.

When we are “bored.”

When our mind is restless.

Counting your strokes is a simple way to keep yourself in the moment.

You stay present.

You swim each length one stroke at a time instead of wishing that you were the end of the set or practice.

When you go to the pool today…

And you want to make practice go by faster…

Count your strokes.

It will go by faster…

And more importantly, you will get faster.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes, and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

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Ol' Longhorn
9 months ago

My favorite trick is to volunteer someone else for a get-out swim.

Sun Yangs Hammer
Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
9 months ago

Practice goes even faster if I’m still asleep in my bed

Comments are Closed
Reply to  Sun Yangs Hammer
9 months ago

At least you can count sheep.

Reply to  Ol' Longhorn
9 months ago

My favorite trick is to take 2 years off and then realize you actually enjoy practice

tea rex
9 months ago

8 strokes at threshold? That is suspiciously long! I don’t see anyone at NCAAs taking less than 10 strokes without 10+ meters underwater.

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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