Top 5 Tips for Becoming a Resilient Swimmer

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.

Ability to adapt quickly to adversity. To be able to bounce back after a bad swim, workout, or even an injury. To handle stress and challenge, and to focus on the things which we control. This is what it means to be resilient.

While it sounds great on paper, how do we develop it? How do we adopt the mindset of a resilient swimmer so that we too can recover quickly from times of difficulty?

Fortunately resilience in the pool (and perhaps more importantly out of it) is a skill that can be developed and honed.

Here are my 5 favorite tips for becoming a more resilient swimmer:

1. When you have a bad race or workout, find something to build off of.

Research has shown that those who are resilient are able to find positive aspects to a negative situation. Those who are not-so-resilient will let things go from bad to worse by only focusing on the bad circumstances of a negative situation.

And it makes sense if you think about it.

When you experience a bad race a resilient swimmer will look for the positives (“My race strategy was bang-on, my turns were really good”), giving them something to build on. A swimmer on the other side, who experiences a bad swim and is consumed with only the negative aspects of it, is much less likely to bounce back the next time they step up on the blocks.

The next time a workout or a race comes in under expectations, search for the silver linings, or at least appreciate that it could have been worse, and use that as a springboard to move on.

2. Take a more welcoming view and approach to challenges.

For many swimmers, when they encounter something difficult or challenging the first instinct that hits them is paralysis. Kind of like in Jurassic Park, where if everybody just stops moving, the big, nasty T-Rex won’t see them.

The hard moments in our swimming career should be viewed as challenges, and not as something that has been designed to give legitimacy to the negative self-doubts we have about ourselves.

3. View your performances in a broader context.

Too many times after a bad swim have I heard a swimmer mutter, “See? I never swim fast when it matters.” As though the performance they just laid in the pool simply reconfirmed all of the awful doubts and beliefs they had about themselves and their swimming.

The resilient swimmer will accept that bad performances will happen, but that they are by no means permanent and neither indicative of their full measure of potential.

When these setbacks happen – and they happen to us all, lean back and view it in the grand scheme of things, and not as being wholly representative of your training and abilities.

4. Focus on the things you can control.

I’ve discussed how swimmers need to mind the process of achieving their goals, and not necessarily be drawn into focusing exclusively on the results. Similarly, successful swimming requires a desire to excel at the things within our reach. The things we control. The tangibles.

There will always be things that happen that are completely out of your control. You’re late to the meet and don’t get a chance to get a full warm-up in. Your main rival grows seven inches taller over the course of the summer. How fast another swimmer swims.

Whatever the case is, by focusing your energy and focus on the things you cannot control, you are leaking concentration from the things you do have power over. And ultimately, those are the things that will get you performing at the level you want.

5. Act.

Ever notice that thinking about doing something is almost invariably more agonizing than actually doing it? Of course you have. Knowing and thinking about that monster set you have to do on Saturday morning – and having all week to think about it – is almost always worse than the actual set.

Acting has a way of behaving as a tonic for fear and self-doubt. The resilient swimmer doesn’t wallow and get stuck inside their own head when things aren’t going his or her way. They seek a path out of it, and act.

Bad swim? Warm-down. Talk it out with coach. Get ready for the next race.

Injured? Put together a rehab plan. Execute it. Bounce back harder.

By acting the resilient athlete puts the ball back into their court, and no matter what the setback or circumstance, set to writing their own ticket out.

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.

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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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