How to Love Working Hard at Practice

How to Love Working Hard at Practice

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The 400m individual medley is no joke.

A controlled sprint over 4-6 minutes that covers all four stroke disciplines, baring our weakest stroke for the world to see and for the competition to take advantage of (dang breaststroke got me every time!).

Fewer swimmers have been more dominant in the event than Ryan Lochte.

He won the event at the London Olympics in 2012 by over 3 and a half seconds, and still holds the SC world record in the event.

And while the event itself is difficult enough, the training for it is simply grueling.

“You can’t be good at just one stroke,” he said earlier this year. “You have to be good at every stroke. I love training for every stroke.”

Which echoes one of his quotes that has stuck with me over the past few years, and helps explain how a swimmer can be so much better than the rest

“I love working out.”

Loving the Work

For most swimmers, practice is a chore.

Something to be dealt with, completed, and forgotten.

Simply sucks.

How to Love Working Hard at Practice

The idea that we can enjoy going to the pool and actually find enjoyment and satisfaction in working our chlorinated posterior off seems, well…


But here’s a cold-fish-slap-to-the-face slice of reality…

It’s impossible to beat someone who loves the process.

Who enjoys themselves at practice.

Who finds pride and happiness in pushing themselves on the regular.

How to Embrace Hard Work

Okay, that might all sound nice and great, but where do we start?

How do we turn around our mindset that we view each practice as an opportunity instead of as a burden?

Here are a few ideas…

1. Get serious about a goal.

Things are always easier when you are working towards something.

When you feel like you are building something.

Sit down today—not tomorrow, next week, or worse, “someday”—and write out some awesome goals for yourself.

Hard work becomes a whole lot more fun and a whole lot more meaningful when there is a tangible objective at the end of it.

2. Reframe your view of hard work.

“Hard work” gets a bad rep.

Somewhere along the way we were told that we could get the results we want without having to put in the effort.

“Hard work” is for suckers, we were led to think.

Wishful thinking, as it were.

Instead of “have to” start thinking in terms of “want to.” It will give you back your sense of autonomy.

3. Remember that working your butt off feels amazing.

Yes, the struggle can be real struggley.

Exceptionally struggley at times.

Doubt and uncertainty can pile up over the course of what seems like an insanely impossible workout…

But you know how amazing you feel after you put in a solid, no-excuses effort in the water. When you walk off deck you feel slightly superheroish.

So why wouldn’t you want to feel that way more often?

4. Focus on mastery.

Know what feels pretty awesome?

Getting good at something.

And the only way we get good at something is by showing up every day and chiseling away at it.

Even if it is only intuitively, you know how great it feels to conquer a skill—that breathing pattern you struggled with for so long, that interval that at one point seemed impossible.

Each day work on getting a little bit better, on leveling up your mastery of the sport.

5. Do an extra 5%.

If you want to be better than the swimmer you were, or the swimmer in the next lane, adopt a 5% better approach to your training.

  • Today complete your practice 5% better than you did yesterday.
  • Do the main set 5% better then the swimmers in your lane.
  • Do 5% more underwater dolphin kicks off each wall.

When you infect this type of thinking into your swimming you won’t necessarily see improvement right away, but that compound interest will add up to staggering and devastating amounts in the mid to long term.

(Why 5%? Because it’s so small, so “easy” that it’s impossible to say no too.)

Today I am going to go to the pool and work harder than hard…

How about you?

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Olivier Poirier-Leroy Olivier Poirier-Leroy is the founder of He is an author, former national level swimmer, two-time Olympic Trials qualifier, and swim coach.

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