3 Things Swimmers Can Do to Stay Fired Up to Train Hard

The swim season is a long, long haul. For many fast age group swimmers there is no season—it’s non-stop from September to August, with a week or two to recover, catch up on socializing, and prepare for another monster season.

With the length of the season it’s natural that there are going to be some serious dips in motivation. Sustaining that kind of focus and discipline for the seemingly endless swim practices is hard. I get it. Been there, done that.

But there are some things you can do in order to mitigate the inevitable dips in motivation.

Here are 3 tips for competitive swimmers to keep the fire burning bright all season long.

Sleep more. Yup—you read that right. In terms of boosting performance in the water and even improving psychomotor function (i.e. less grumpy and stressed), there is no tip out there more enjoyable than getting more sleep. When researchers at Stanford had their varsity swimmers sleep an extra couple hours per night they got faster across every meaningful metric in the water, from reaction time, turn speed, and time to 15m (which decreased by over half a second!). Added sleep means you are less fatigued mentally as well, and more likely to make good life decisions in terms of your goals in the pool.

Surround yourself with greatness. While swimming can feel like a very lonely sport at times, with swimmers spending a couple hours at a time staring at a black, tiled line, there is lots of opportunity to build a powerful support system. Ever notice that when you hang out with other swimmers who are doing big things that their ambition rubs of on you? Choose positive people to be around. If you swim quite literally on your own, make the things you surround yourself with on a daily basis be motivating. Swimming posters with motivational sayings, or watching races of your idols daily on YouTube, for instance.

Pivot your setbacks. There is a goofy myth out there that if we have big goals in the pool that we should never encounter resistance or friction in their pursuit. As a result, when crap does eventually happen—and it always does—whether in the form of injury, illness, or another swimmer coming out of nowhere and dusting you, we succumb to that overwhelming sense of being demoralized and defeated. Obviously we weren’t cut out for this, we softly tell ourselves. Here’s the deal—setbacks are part of the process. Michael Phelps broke his wrist 8 months out from the craziest performance in Olympic history (8 golds in Beijing, in case you were wondering). And people also forget that he actually failed his first attempt at that record in 2004 in Athens. You can use setbacks to send you reeling on your backside, or you can double down and get aggressive with overcoming them.

Bonus Tip: Write out your workouts. One of the secrets to high performance, uh, performers, is that they know that motivation isn’t their muse. They don’t wait to feel motivated to go to the pool and unleash a devastating workout. It’s simply routine, habitual. And one of the ways to facilitate this kind of routine and process is to write out and track your workouts in a swim log. Logging your workouts will help you see big picture with your swimming, connect lifestyle to your training, instill accountability, and yes, even help you stay motivated on those days where you’d rather stay curled up in the sheets than head out the door to morning workout.

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