6 Things to Remember When Training Gets Tough

This part of the year is the best, isn’t it? With a couple weeks away from the pool you have time to reflect, put in some serious social time, and start daydreaming about the great things to come for you in the pool next year.

But if you really start thinking about those goals, about the levels of radness you want to achieve, with it comes that slight pang of hesitation, of fear, of realization at the mountain of work that is ahead of you.

Fear not, my dude/dudette. While the training will be difficult, below are six tips for making the most of that hard training so that you can not only reap the benefits of it, but charge through it with a full head of steam.

Most of these points require you to change your perspective on the struggle, of adopting a mindset where you accept and welcome the tough stuff as part of your own growth, both in character and as an athlete.

1. Where you are right now is a necessary part of the process.

That moment, the one where you are struggling to finish a lap from exhaustion, is part of the process. Getting where we want to go requires some suffering, some sacrifice, and to believe that we can achieve greatness without a little bit of struggle is simply wishful thinking.

Accept that being knee deep in a seemingly impossible main set is exactly where you need to be to get to where you want to go, and that it is simply another step in the process.

2. Be grateful for how far you have already come.

We tend to get caught up a lot on the swimmer that we want to be, and not necessarily think about the swimmer that we are. There will always be something to be thankful for your swimming; from the camaraderie, to the travel, to racing and competition.

When your back is up against the wall, and you can still find something to be grateful for than you will know that you have made it.

3. Tough training is a finite opportunity.

When we are in the midst of a long lactate threshold set it’s hard to poke our head above the churning water long enough to see the finish line. Training won’t always be this difficult, and it won’t always demand so much from you.

There will come a time when you will look back and either be grateful that you braved the storms (and have the matching confidence in your preparation to prove it), or you will be wishing you had put your head down and stuck it out and reaped the rewards from it.

If you’re going through hell, keep going.

Winston Churchill

4. Every swimmer has their own path.

Looking over at the lane next to you and seeing a teammate coasting through a workout, or cheating, or feigning an injury, can be disheartening when that same swimmer beats you in competition. It makes you feel as though no matter how hard you work, or how much you carry on, that some people are just more prone to success than you.

As though hard work is pointless.

Don’t play the “it’s not fair game” with your competition and teammates. It’s natural to get mad at the world when things don’t fall into place the way you think they should, but getting choked about it and sulking solves nothing. Realize that they have their path, and you have yours.

5. Going through the fire we emerge stronger.

One of the greatest lessons of sport, and of swimming in particular, is learning to face difficulty, to face challenge, to face hardship and still smile and keep plugging along.

By embracing the grind and facing up to our fears and the challenges and the training we build a strength that could not be developed otherwise.

Use the hard times to grow stronger. A lack of challenge makes us soft, pliable, weak. It is through difficulty and challenge that we rise and grow strong.

6. Make “I will conquer this” your new mantra.

I won’t lie – there will be moments where you absolutely feel like giving up. Where the mental battle between giving up and continuing will be so loud that it is impossible to ignore. Where your lungs are screaming, your muscles ache, and you cannot imagine how you will complete the next rep, let alone the rest of the set.

In exactly those moments employ a mantra of your choosing. My two favorites were: “I will not be outworked” and “This set will not beat me.” Keep it simple, employ sparingly for heightened effectiveness, and conquer your training.

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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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