When You Don’t Feel Motivated to Go to Practice

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. You can join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

I love swimming.

I really do.

I love the feeling I have when I get out of the water after a great swim workout, I love that feeling when my stroke is locked on, and I love the process of chipping away at improving something technically.

And yet, there are days where the last thing I want to do is go to the pool.

Even though I know how good I will feel.

Even though I know it’s in service of my goals.

And even though I know a banger of a swim will help me sleep like a champ at night.

There are a bunch of different reasons why we might slacking with motivation, but a lot of it is a fundamental misunderstanding of how motivation is generated, and how we view it as being mandatory for a great workout.

Here are three of the things I’ve struggled with the most when it comes to getting motivated to go to practice:

1. How you are feeling doesn’t have to be connected to your motivation.

When we are in a good mood, when things are sailing in the rest of our life, it is easy to find the motivation to go to the pool.

It’s when you are tired. When you are stressed out. When you feel frustrated.

That’s when going to the pool and taxing yourself via a two-hour session in the pool sounds about as appealing as swimming backstroke head-first into the bulkhead.

Previous experience should tell you that you’ve had great workouts when in a bad mood, a good mood, or anything in between.

When you are having a meltdown of a day commit to going to the pool and doing the warm-up. Keep it simple. When we are already feeling overwhelmed thinking about the full workout makes us feel even more overwhelmed.

The fix: Give yourself a small, winnable goal (completing the warm-up is about as small and winnable as it gets!) to build some momentum and motivation.

2. Is your season-end goal completely disconnected from today?

We all have goals in the water. Some are more epic and ambitious than others, but we all have ‘em.

The problem with our goals is when they totally and utterly don’t line up with what we are doing today.

If your goal is to smash every single one of your PBs at the end of the year, but you are showing up to half the practices, you are going to start feeling demotivated.

When the work we are doing today doesn’t line up with what we are trying to achieve tomorrow we experience a big old drop in motivation.

The solution?

Work backwards from your big goal and figure out what the “perfect” week of training looks like for you.

Make that “perfect” week of training your goal.

It gives you something to work with today, adds a sense of urgency to your swimming, and gives meaning and motivation to today’s workout.

Make the process the goal, not the result.

3. Motivation comes from doing.

The big secret to motivation—that you already know, even if only intuitively—is that you get motivated after you start.

You don’t feel motivation when standing on the cold pool tiles before practice.

It’s not always in the car ride to the pool.

It’s not usually mid-day when you are groggily plying yourself with sandwiches at lunch.

It’s once you get in and get going.

Motivation comes from doing, not from sitting around.

This is why you should focus all your energy and focus on getting started.

If you go to practice each day and warm up to the best of your ability you are guaranteeing yourself an opportunity to have a great workout.

If you promise yourself to do the first rep at your best effort on the main set, no matter what it is, you will always have an opportunity to have a killer workout.

If you just start, you open the door to feeling the motivation to not only finish the workout, but to give it a five-star beating.

You know it, but I am going to tell you again…

The hardest part of a hard workout is getting into the water.

Really understanding this is critical: once you realize that motivation shows up when you are in action you can forgive yourself for not being motivated before practice.

Motivation comes from being in motion.

You know that the motivation to do the big workout will bubble up once you get in the water and get started, so feeling motivated suddenly isn’t a precondition for going to practice.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book 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, and 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?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which include a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

Want more details? Click here for a free estimate on a team order of CTP.

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Old Man Chalmers
Ol' Longhorn

Agree for the most part, but a lot of swimmers experience a lack of motivation as a symptom of being overtrained.

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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