3 Simple Rules for Better Swim Workouts

Unlock better swim workouts (and more motivation, too) with these simple rules for high-performance swimming workouts.

Faster swimming on race day requires more than just showing up to the pool each day and stacking the meters and yards at practice.

It means being strategic and mindful about what you want to achieve when you dive into that crystal-clear chlorinated water each day in training.

Received an email from a newsletter subscriber recently who had a very simple question. To paraphrase:

“Training every day feels like a struggle. How do I stay motivated to work hard at practice each day?”

Great question!

Here are three quick and dirty things you can do to not only make going to practice slightly less struggley, but also crank out better workouts, more often.

Rule #1: Have a daily “why.”

This is probably the biggest factor in how your time in the water is going to go.

Why are you going to swim practice? Beyond the “I have to” or “it’s part of my routine” or “I want to swim fast at the end of the season,” what is the thing you want to achieve today within this workout?

Improve endurance? Top-end speed? Enhance recovery? Sharpen your technique? Master a stroke rate? Hit a race pace as many times as possible?

When you know why you are going to the pool, and you have a focused objective, it becomes easier to a) get your butt in the water and b) get after it like a champion.

Jack Alexy, when recounting a disappointing 2022 US Trials experience, noted that a fresh mindset that focused on maximizing focus and purpose during training helped him turn things around.

“I was approaching every practice with that mindset and question of asking myself, what do I do today in these next two hours that in the water to make an Olympic team, world team, or win an Olympic medal,” said Alexy.

Rule #2: Swim well, all the time.

Swim with great technique.

Reach for that extra bit of water. Push-off in a torpedo-like streamline. Kick powerfully in both directions. Keep your hips high and your head down.

Technical awesomeness is crucial for swimming well, which is a precursor to swimming fast.

It’s also a great way to swim mindfully and avoid the boredom of distracto-swimming.

By focusing on swimming with killer technique from the time you dive into the water to the final lap of breaching-like-a-whale warm-down, you are mentally engaged and in the moment.

You won’t go a new in-training PB every day at the pool.

But you can swim with shark-like precision each time you hit the water.

Which means: Focus on body position. Count your strokes. Put your head down. Grab that extra inch of water. Kick forcefully in both directions.

One of the big “ah ha” moments in every swimmer’s career is the realization that excellent workouts and fast swimming start with swimming well.

Rule #3: Measure the stuff that matters.

There are a million reasons swimmers hit the pool, from building a caloric bonfire to sharpening their stroke rate for the Big Meet at the end of the year.

Whatever it is that matters to you, whatever your goals are and whatever it is that you want to accomplish while staring relentlessly at a tiled black line at the bottom of the pool, measure it.

Doing this, whether in a training journal, in a Google Doc, or in the text app on your smartphone, helps you evaluate the effectiveness of your swim workouts, gives you a motivation-boosting history of your swim training, and charts the story of your journey in the pool.

By measuring the things that matter, your attention naturally is drawn towards maximizing the pursuit of those metrics.

Instead of mindless swimming, attention narrows and energy accelerates towards the things that you count and treasure within your swim workouts.

Wrapping Things Up

Prioritizing intent, focus, and measuring the things that matter most to your swimming can give you a sense of urgency with your training.

Not only will this make swim training feel 14% less sucky, you will also swim faster and better.

Ultimately, we all have a limited number of swim workouts. Training cycles end, seasons end, swim careers end.

Why not do each one of them to the best of your ability?


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, author, swim coach, and certified personal trainer. He’s the author of YourSwimBook, a ten-month logbook 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, 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 in the pool?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.



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About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national-level swimmer, swim coach, and best-selling author. His writing has been featured on USA Swimming, US Masters Swimming, NBC Sports Universal, the Olympic Channel, and much more. He has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 …

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