How to Squeeze More Awesome from Your Swim Practices

Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here.

We are conditioned to believe that it’s necessary to do more, more, more of the things we are doing to see results. That we need to do it longer and harder than the next athlete. While sometimes that is the case, before you jack up the mileage it is important to be making the most of what you are already doing.

While I suppose it might be great for “character building,” pumping out endless mileage is pointless if you are doing it without purpose or any sense of intention. The limited time we have in the pool should be spent with maximum efficiency and intent.

Here are a few different ways that you can maximize the time you are spending in your Speedo:

Use Visualization to Imagine Yourself Kicking Butt at Practice (And Then, Like, Kick Butt).

We have talked a little bit about using visualization to set up your performances in competition. But don’t just stop there with your mental imagery – you can also use it to set yourself up for better practices.

Research published in the Strength and Conditioning Journal in 2011 showed that participants who focused on imagining a desired result were able to perform better than those who focused on the individual movements within the exercise.

Swimmers can adapt this by visualizing before the workout and main set what they want their stroke to look and feel like, how they are going to execute their turns, how fast and effortless they are going to blast across the water, and so on. Doing this clears your mind for the work ahead, and also adds intention so that when it comes time to pound on that main set, all you need to do is “step into” the visualization you had earlier.

SEE ALSO: 5 Motivational Swim Posters to Inspire You

Figure Out Where You Are Nailing It (And Where You Are Un-Nailing It).

When practice wraps up, and everyone limps their chlorine-soaked bodies home for the inevitable carb-load, another opportunity opens itself up to you for maximizing your workouts. This comes in the form of assessing the practice that was.

Doing so gives you a few moments of reflection, while also opening up the hood on the workout to see what went right, what went not-so-right, and most importantly, how you can apply that knowledge moving forward.

Here are some sample questions you can use to better assess your practice:

Before your practice: What are the things that I am going to work on today? What are the goals and objectives for this session? How can I prepare myself before I get in the water to make the most of my time spent swimming?

During your practice: How is my stroke? Am I focusing on executing my technique properly through all phases of my workout? Am I getting gassed easily or am I experiencing a surge in endurance and/or power? Was I able to maintain focus throughout the whole session or did my mind wander mid-set? Did I apply any technique corrections from coach properly?

Post practice: What were the things that worked during this workout? Was the workout a success or a failure? What factors contributed to whether or not I was successful in the water? Can I implement those lessons moving forward to further improve the likelihood of banging out an awesome session?

Get Positive When You Are in the Soup

The next time you are neck deep in a challenging set, tell yourself to go faster.


Researchers in Lyon at the L2C2 Institute of Cognitive Science found that a group of participants using positive action verbs (Go! Hammer time!) increased their grip strength compared to when they said negative action verbs (Don’t go fast!), or said things that were unrelated to what they were doing (You’re a towel!).

In other words, the simple act of saying (or for swimmers, thinking) positive stuff enhanced performance. This provides another example of how our bodies follow the lead set by our noodles, giving you another reason to manage your self-talk while you are training.

Build a collection of action verbs (aka triggers) to use when you are punching in a maxed out effort:

  • Go! Go! Go!
  • Pull harder!
  • Don’t quit!
  • Execute superb scissor kicks!

You get the idea.

Putting It All Together

It might seem like a lot to do at once, but try out one of these tips at your next practice and see if you can’t squeeze out just a little more awesome out of your workouts.

Give it a shot and let me know how it goes in the comments below.

About YourSwimBook

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. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.

NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.

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5 years ago

Great article! I actually use the positive thoughts technique when I’m in the middle of a hard set. Even if I’m already doing great, I tell myself to swim faster or push harder and it really works. Thanks for the tips!

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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