Will You Make Today’s Practice One to Remember?

If you have been swimming competitively for more than even a couple years, than you’ve already accumulated a healthy-sized database of workouts. From the early morning long course sessions, to mid-week PM practice where you cannot believe there are still 5 more workouts to close the week, to the Saturday morning “get out swim” that gets everybody out 30 minutes and 2,200 metres early.

But while ya sit there, let me ask you this: how many of those practices do you actually fully remember? How many of those practices can you recall with any type of specificity?

If you’re like me, there are generally two types of workouts that you remember:

1. The soiled-the-bed workout.

Yup, those ones. The ones that sting, so they last in your memory.

Why these workouts are so awful are as varied as we are as swimmers. Maybe our calves and hamstrings cramped up on us right from warm-up (ouch). Or the swimmer who you’ve always dusted had the practice of their life and left you in the dust for a change, simultaneously issuing you a healthy dose of humility. Or maybe our attitude was awful that day from a melange of out-of-the-pool stuff ranging from too little sleep, too much homework, and too much stress. Or maybe we simply couldn’t find our stroke, feigned an injury and got out early.

These workouts were so bad, so unbelievably awful that they live on in our own personal hall of shame.

2. The holy-cow-I-can’t-believe-how-fast-I-swam workout.

These ones are a whole lot more fun to reminisce on.

These are the workouts where you break barriers, come within tenths of breaking a best time, finally beat that guy in the lane next to you on the main set, or led the lane for the first time.

Those workouts leave us feeling mighty fantastic about ourselves. We strut out of the pool, red-faced and sweaty still, and yet, we have never been happier or prouder. We sense like our swimming is on the right track, that we are capable of hilariously rad swimming, and that our goals are going to get straight-up punched in the kisser.

And that’s it!

We rarely think about those middle-of-the-road workouts where we kinda just dial it in, do a mostly good job, and do little that is noteworthy (either good or bad). But consider for a moment how much faster you could progress with your swimming if you could string together a few of those exceptional workouts, instead of just banging them out every so often.

Here are a few ways to insure that you are racking up more of the super-sauce workouts and less of the stinkers:

Do something today that you have never done before.

I would imagine that a lot of those great workouts came about as a result of you doing something outside of your comfort zone, something you had never done before. You don’t need to wait around for these types of things to just happen. You can plan for them.

With each practice go into it planning on doing something you have never done before. They don’t have to be ground shaking little goals either, they can be as simple as holding a breathing pattern for the entire main set, having perfect turns on every wall, or just hanging out and doing 20 minutes of extra core work after practice.

Create little goals, little things you’ve never done before, and the confidence you will create and the progress you will make will stun ya.

Design circumstances that allow for exceptional radness.

Think back to all of those workouts that went really well. What were some of the common circumstances that led you to swim so well? Was it your attitude? Did you have a really good sleep the night before? Did you get supremely amped up by blasting some ruggedly thuggish music just prior to getting into the pool? Think back to those great practices and try to draw some of the common habits and patterns.

No matter what you do, do it well.

There will be days when you simply don’t feel like training hard. Your energy is zapped, everything and everyone is annoying you, and no matter how hard you seem to try you can’t get into the swing of things in the pool. Your first instinct will be to say, “Screw it. I’ll bounce back tomorrow.” And while that is a mildly laudable sentiment to have (it is better than saying “That’s it, I quit!”) you still have today. You still have an opportunity to improve.

Feeling tired and banged up? Focus on swimming with perfect technique. Feeling unmotivated and distracted? Count your strokes and try to do one less per 25. You don’t need to swim a best time every day in practice to progress or make a practice worthwhile.

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

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