The Short Term Benefits of Working Hard at Practice

This post originally appeared at Join Olivier’s weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

The long term benefits of training hard in the pool are easy to list off:

  • Working hard in the pool means you are better prepared to swim faster when the next big meet comes around.
  • Working hard develops a mental toughness that can only be developed through experience and facing adversity.
  • Working hard in the pool consistently over stretches of time will make you more fit, more fast and more better looking than the competition.

But in a culture of “I want it right noooow” what are the immediate benefits of hard work?

Why should we commit to having an old-school work ethic if it is, in fact, old school?

Why can’t we just be new school and train “smarter”?

(Hint: it’s because if you want to swim really, really fast you need to train hard and smart. Despite what the interwebs and glossed out advertisements might tell you, there is no outsmarting hard work done intelligently.)

That being said, here are a few of the more immediate upsides you experience when you work your butt off at practice:

1. Hard work puts you in rarefied air.

It’s rewarding to accomplish something that few others have done.

I can remember a few test sets back in the day where swimmers in my lane and group began to fade away, one-by-one, dropping off and dropping out.

The fewer swimmers remained still clinging on, the more inspired to continue I became. The solitary nature of hard work and going further than everyone else is self-propelling.

And because not everyone was able to continue, it showed that not everyone was willing to do it, which made it have value. It was something we could look back on with pride and enormous satisfaction because we went above and beyond what is typical or normal.

2. Hard work gives you a feeling of control.

There are some fairly critical things we don’t have control over in the water.

How fast the swimmer in the lane next to us swims, for one.

Which leaves us with the things we do have control over.

We can decide to put in a legit effort at practice, or we can decide not to. We can decide to focus on our technique, even when our body is dying of exhaustion of fatigue at the end of a long session of training, or we can decide not to.

Working hard gives you a sense of control that frees you from worrying about what others are doing in preparation to compete. When you know you have done the work, you can step up on the blocks knowing you have done all you can to swim at the peak of your abilities.

3. Working hard in the pool makes us identify with the sport much more.

When you work hard at completing something you gain a sense of identification and ownership with that thing.

You know the feeling: the first time you do a 200 fly and don’t completely die. Swimming a distance event and finding an extra surge of energy on the back half.

Here is a more complete example:

There is that one test set or workout you never look forward to doing.You know, that one set that seems to just have your number no matter what you throw at it.

You always struggle with it, never go as fast as you’d like, and as a result don’t give it a top-notch effort. But then, one day you figure, “Screw this set,” and put your head down and smash through.

You do well, leave it all in the pool.You might not dominate it, heck, maybe you just survived it.

But walking away from practice that day you probably experienced a weird set of emotions:

A respect and appreciation for the set because it pushed you to new heights. And an identification with it that you didn’t have before.

Because you had to work hard at it, and you gave it an honest effort, it becomes a part of you, which erodes a lot of the trepidation you have of the set.

It’s the same feeling as mastering a new skill.

When something requires our best efforts we identify with it, and it becomes a part of us, something we can hang our hat on.

Will You Work Hard Today?

Later today when coach is writing up the workout on the whiteboard, and you feel yourself wanting to cower away, to hide in the shadows of your potential, remember these three simple reasons for giving today’s session everything you have.

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I like the article! Can we get a flip-side article though? One that indicates the short-term drawbacks to working hard?

I see many swimmers who don’t work hard in practice because their afraid of overtraining or not being prepared to swim fast in-season. I think an article that examines short term negatives of hard work and why they are necessary would help some swimmers get over their fears.


From my experience the majority of the hardest workers on my team were the best performers in season. While I do believe people have different physical capacities to swim fast in season (i.e. unrested, unshaved, etc.), I think the key connection was that the hard workers were mentally tough enough to not let being unrested get to them.


See I would have to disagree with you a bit there. Some of the hardest workers I’ve seen have swam awful during season and when they rest is when their hard work really shows and pays off. It’s that much more admirable too when people are in it for the long con and not swimming every meet practically rested throughout the season.



See, I fixed it for you. That is the only part of your post I agree with you, but, hay, I just want to be loved – so I will take it.



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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