What to Do When You Want to Throw in the Towel on your Swimming Season

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join 9,000+ swimmers and coaches who read his motivational newsletter last week by clicking here.

Every new cycle of training, every new season, always starts with a promise of big things to come. It’s a time of hope, excitement and frenzied motivation.

As the season progresses, things start to change.

The commitment becomes heavier and heavier. The work becomes less rewarding. The results taper to the point that you feel like you might actually be getting slower. Until finally the training has become impossibly hard, a chore, and not very much fun at all.

We all experience these moments, these periods of time where the absolute last thing we want to do is strap on the suit and make the commute to the aquatic center. Where we can’t seem to do anything right, where our stroke feels sluggish, off, heavy, the water slipping through our fingers like sand.

This stage in the process is called “the dip”, and it is (sometimes) as Harvey Dent said, the moment when the night is darkest, right before the dawn.

Here are a few things you should do before making the decision to throw in the towel and wash away all the work that has taken you to where you are:

Take a tactical break.

The only thing worse than going through a down-cycle in motivation is thinking and stressing about it. After all, how often have you “figured out” your way out of a slump? Rarely, if ever. Thinking about how not sweet things are going leaves us feeling even more ensnared.

One of the more effective tools that I have used in my own swimming (and outside of the pool as well) as to reboot by having a full day or weekend where I don’t think about the pool.

Often it’s not a physical break that we need, but just a mental refresh.

Take a few hours, a day or a weekend and get some fresh air (you know, that outdoorsy stuff), hang out with friends, do some cross training, do anything but think about what’s frustrating you in the pool.

If you are experiencing resistance to the very thought of taking a break—“But I can’t take a day off, my competitors will blast ahead of me!”—remind yourself to think in the long term. If you take a break now, but come back recharged, refocused and with a head-full of speed, than the small “break” will have been not in vain.

Take the pressure off yourself.

Those pesky dips in motivation are frequently as a result of a perceived lack of progress in the water. You expect to be swimming faster in practice given the work you have put in, leading you to feel discouraged about the prospects of achieving your goals next meet.

Instead of viewing your performance at practice in the greater context of your goals (“I had a bad workout, so obviously I am going to stink up my next meet and not achieve my goals!”), consider instead your next workouts as a learning experience.

A chance to see if you can push past the feelings of wanting to quit, to see what you are made of.

When you approach these moments as a challenge, instead of an indictment of where your swimming currently stands, you will find yourself more willing to stand up and fight.

Push on through.

Perhaps the most frustrating feeling is knowing that you are doing everything right, making all the correct decisions when it comes to your lifestyle choices, of showing up early to practice to do extra, of consistently throwing down excellent practices, and still not seeing the results you expect.

It’s understandable that this would be infuriating to the point of being overwhelming. I mean, what else do you have to do?

While it is impossible to say without knowing your exact situation, odds are that if you put your head down and push on through good things will happen (eventually).

The reality of your situation is this: You have big goals. You’re facing difficult circumstances. And you have the choice to pack it in or hammer it out.

Guess what?

Most swimmers, in your situation, will give up.

They’ll find the adversity to be a sign that they aren’t deserving or worthy. The second that things don’t go precisely their way, or against expectations, they lose any sense of resilience.

It’s exactly this chasm that will separate you from the rest, so blast on through.

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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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