The Pool Belongs to Those Who Show Up

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

You can’t always control your training environment, and you certainly cannot manipulate how tall or how big your feet and hands become, but there is something you can control about your swimming, and it still counts for quite a bit.

It’s old fashioned, it’s quasi-boring (from the outside looking in, at least), and it’s not some fancy new swim gadget.

It’s showing up.

In the face of fatigue, of doubt, of uncertainty, it’s making the repeated decision that you are going to show up.

After all…

Showing up means never having to restart.

When you miss a couple training sessions (for reasons that are within your control, not factors such as crippling injury or illness), do you find that it takes a couple sessions to get back into it? And that you have to sort of psych yourself to get back into it? And that you are kicking yourself for having fallen off once more?

With each stall you tell yourself (again) that this will be the last time, that now you know better, and that you will be more consistent with your training from here on out.

The constant sputtering, the stop-and-go is mentally exhausting, causes frequent discouragement, and more importantly, it means that you are short changing yourself of valuable opportunities to put in quality work at the pool.

Showing up consistently is the money-maker.

There are fantastic things I am sure you want to do in the pool this year, and I don’t doubt that achieving them crosses your mind regularly, if not daily. And while that compass is important, having goals in and of itself doesn’t make them so. You still need, to like, work towards them. (Shocking, I know.)

When you pride yourself on being the swimmer that shows up you become all about the process. You realize that while having lofty ambitions is valuable, but will ultimately set you apart from those who can only talk about their goals is that you are willing to live them.

You can set yourself the goal of being the fastest butterflier on the team by the end of the year, or you can make sure that you are crushing sets with perfect technique on a daily basis. You can fantasize about dominating the competition at the big championship meet in the summer, or you can do things 10% better than everyone else—no matter how you are feeling in the water that day.

Showing up takes the pressure off yourself.

Our goals can be our own worst enemy at times. The expectations we create for ourselves can lead us to abandoning them because we feel like the progress isn’t there, or we get that dizzying and panicked realization that we might never accomplish our dreams.

When you place value on being the swimmer that shows up every day to practice you take your mind off the outcome, that thing at the end of the line you don’t always have complete control over.

Thinking about our performances can be stressful, turning us inside out with anxiety. By focusing instead on the daily grind, the simple (yet not easy) act of showing up, you unburden yourself of that outcome-based anxiety.

Showing up removes the need for perfection.

I’ve found that swimmers that consistently perform at a high level understand that not every practice is going to be flawless. There will be those days where no matter how well rested, how well warmed up, the stroke just doesn’t show up.

But does that mean the process is flawed? Or that no good can be drawn from those less-than-awesome workouts? Of course not. The consistent swimmer understands that this is part of the deal.

All too often swimmers fall into the mental trap of believing that if they set a goal to do something in the pool, and they fall off even a little bit, than they have failed. That if a practice goes poorly, this means that their season-end goal is done with. Those bad workouts and bad sets launch them into a demoralized spiral of less than optimal practices that lasts far longer than the original bad outing.

Those who show up understand that it is about doing it better, on average, over the long haul. There will be the occasional dud, but just as they don’t let a great practice get them carried away, they don’t allow the infrequent stinker derail the overall upward trending of their swimming skills.

In Closing

Showing up isn’t the silver bullet solution most swimmers are looking for when they ask what it will take to level up their swimming. Most– as is typical of our culture these days– are searching for a shortcut, an easier way to get to where they want to go.

Ultimately, no matter what it is you want to do with your swimming, it will all come back to one question…

Will you be the swimmer that shows up today?


Olivier is a former national level swimmer who is obsessed with helping swimmers develop a high-performance mindset in the pool. 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.

The book was written with the feedback of 200+ Olympic champions, head coaches, former world record holders and NCAA champions.

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.

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3 years ago

in this time we *cant* show up, pools are closed

3 years ago

Just show up….hmmm.

3 years ago

Some coaches let swimmers show up and train while sick, passing sickness onto others

Reply to  nzswim
3 years ago

But they showed up…all good!

Angie Taylor
3 years ago

Yep! Once I dip my feet in, I’m in ALL THE WAY! If no one else is there to swim with me, it’s ok… I’m here to remove my stress and submerge into my surreal water world! Thank you for the encouragement to just show up!

3 years ago

Posting this in my classroom today – this is good advice for students as well!

7 years ago

The ones (parents) who complain the loudest that their kids are being held back by coaches are the ones who excuse their kids from practice because of a party or movie or some other bad reason for not practicing.

7 years ago

My coaching friend, you are brilliant!

Age Group Dad
7 years ago

This point is so simple and straightforward, yet many never quite embrace it. I think because the concept is easy to understand, some folks mistakenly believe it should be comparably easy to execute, then get discouraged when it turns out to be more challenging than expected. It’s worth acknowledging that each act of “just showing up” – both physically and mentally – is its own achievement in contributing to the process of getting better. And persistence in showing up consistently is a measure of commitment to excellence that not all share in equal measures.

I love the headline. Let’s hear it for those who show up!

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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