This is the ultimate guide for helping age group swimmers get highly motivated.
You are going to learn about some proven techniques and tools that you can start using today to light your motivation on fire.
(And keep it burning bright after that first burst of motivation fades away.)
If you are:
- Struggling to stay consistently motivated…
- Know that you could be swimming a whole lot faster if you better understood how your motivation works,
- And you are frustrated with the ups and downs that comes with not being motivated…
You are going to get a chlorinated kick out of this guide.
Let’s dive in.
How do I get motivated to go to swim practice?
Here is a better question…
What motivates you?
What are the things you get excited about when you get to the pool?
Best times. Swimming fast. Hammering the competition.
Those are the obvious ones.
But there are other, less obvious things that are highly motivating.
(And sure, reading your favorite motivational swimming quotes can help in a pinch, but I’m talking about something long-lasting…)
More importantly, they are things you can do every single day at the pool.
And they involve…
Choice. Clarity. And mastery.
Choice is motivating:
When you choose to work on something at the pool, whether it’s swimming with tighter streamlines or attacking every last one of your turns, the autonomy and self-direction that comes from choosing the work you are going to do is motivating.
Clarity is motivating:
For how impressive our brains are, they don’t like trying to focus on too many things at once. And they don’t respond well to having nothing to focus on, either.
Which is why it is so critical to be crystal clear about what you are doing in the water.
Be engaged and present with what you are doing—even if it’s a set you don’t like, or the main set is mostly doing an off-stroke, being focused and present is waaaay more motivational than daydreaming.
Mastery is motivating:
Although we hang our motivational swim cap on the big moments in the pool—going a best time, or winning a big race—it’s the little moments of mastery that keep us motivated to keep coming back each day.
Using mastery as motivation means chasing new intervals. Trying to swim with the best technique possible for a full workout. Doing a drill that you have been avoiding. Dropping one stroke off your usual stroke count.
Simply, when you choose what to work on, you are clear about what you are focused on, and you have little moments of mastery, you are going to swim really, really well.
And there isn’t much that is more motivating than that!
Why am I motivated sometimes, but other days I am not?
Motivation isn’t an on-off switch.
A better way to view motivation is more like the charge on your battery.
Some days you are going to wake up and your motivation is going to be at 25%, other days it will be at 98%.
The good news is that there are TONS of ways you can charge up your motivation:
Now, doing one of those things might give you a little jolt.
Doing two might get you enough to do some serious scrolling…
But hitting a bunch of those things each day will give you a consistently full charge of motivation.
The truth is that motivation is an every single day thing.
You won’t wake up every morning with that full charge.
But there are plenty of things that you can do on the daily to keep your charge at a high level.
Do I have to be motivated to go to swim practice?
Here’s the funny thing about motivation…
It’s a bit over-rated. We talk about it as the be-all and end-all for doing the right things at the pool.
But let’s be honest…
There are always going to be days where the last thing we want to do is kick our legs out of the bed-sheets, leave our warm bed, and head down to the pool for a two-hour swim practice.
The swimmers who appear to be the most motivated—the ones who show up to the pool on time, work hard every day, and swim like a boss on race day—also have excellent routines and habits.
Don’t feel like there is something wrong with you if you aren’t 100% motivated, all the time.
No one is.
The trick is having the discipline, routines and habits in place that put working hard and doing the right things on auto-pilot.
I am injured and have lost motivation in the water.
You are swimming along, competing on the daily with your teammates, and then, seemingly out of nowhere…
Injured. Your shoulder is throbbing. Knee pain to the extreme. Which means you are out of the water for a week, or two, or longer.
On one hand, you are in good company.
The injury rates for swimmers are in line with most other sports.
And the stats on swimmer’s shoulder in particular are pretty eye-opening:
As bad as the physical pain might be, it’s not the ouchies that present the biggest challenge.
It’s the doubt, frustration, and uncertainty that comes with trying to get back. You worry that you are disappointing your teammates, coaches, and of course yourself.
With the doubt comes a crash in motivation.
Wondering if you will make it back to 100% is normal.
But as long as you are doing your rehab work properly, taking care of your body, and doing what you can in the water/gym, then you are on the right track.
I have a hard time staying motivated after a bad swim practice.
Don’t we all!
Here’s something you might not realize…
How motivated we are depends a lot on the people that surround us.
When we train with swimmers who are positive and excited to take on challenges, it makes doing the hard stuff a little easier. Same things goes when your coach is positive and knows how to crank your motivational gears.
But what about on the days when things go poorly in the water?
When you try hard, but just can’t get things going in the water?
In moments like this, when the motivational crunch is real, coach yourself.
Here’s what I mean by that:
Most of you have heard of using a logbook.
Maybe you dismissed it as being too old school, or maybe you weren’t into it because it looked like more work than it was worth.
But logging your workouts can be a massively powerful tool for more motivation.
There are a lot of reasons for this, from being able to step back and get perspective after a bad swim, to having a place where you can see progress.
When it comes to having a bad practice and salvaging your motivation, try self-coaching in the pages of your logbook.
How it works:
After you get home, hang up your towel, and sink into the couch with a popcorn bowl full of pasta and self-pity, crack open your logbook. Write out the workout. The sets, intervals, and so on.
And here comes the important part…
Once you have written out the basics of your workout, evaluate and self-coach the workout. Check the positive stuff you did, acknowledge where things slipped, and most importantly, give yourself something to focus on the next time you get in the water.
This kind of self-coaching gives you better self-awareness—hugely important for having more consistent motivation—and gives you a chance to take control after a frustrating workout.
Here’s an example of how this might look:
Saturday, Sept 10
Warm up: 800 swim/kick/pull/drill by 200
Pre-set: 8×50 free swim @:50 desc 1-4, hold 5-8
Main set: 36×50 free @1:00 as — 2 @ 200 race pace, 1 kick strong
Warm down: 8×100 backstroke with FINS @1:45
Comments: Not the greatest practice today. Missed the race pace targets half the time. Felt off, tired. Happy that I swam with good streamlines though, and my breakout felt good. With a full night of sleep I will bounce back tomorrow.
Now, this doesn’t seem like much.
But there’s a couple HUGE things happening here.
By writing it out, you are getting the disappointing workout out of your head so that you aren’t dwelling on it anymore.
And you are setting yourself up for a better practice tomorrow.
What’s Next for You?
I hope this guide gave you some insight and ideas for how you can get and stay motivated this season.
One of the awesome parts about our sport is mastering things we thought impossible—and there are fewer things more exciting than realizing that you can tweak and accelerate what is happening between your ears.
Spending just a little bit of concentrated effort and time on improving your motivation will have exponential results in the pool.
At this point, it’s time for you to take the next step…
What is the #1 thing that you are going to take away from this guide? What will be the numero uno opportunity you see for supercharging your motivation levels?
Will it be sitting down and reflecting after your swim practices? (Good and bad!) Or maybe write yourself up a little checklist of ways to keep your motivational charge at a high level?
Let me know on Twitter, or send an email via my weekly newsletter (it’s free). I’d love to hear from you.