Expect It to Be Challenging

I tend to look forward to Monday morning workouts. (When I say “morning” I mean, like, 11am.)

The reason is simple: With Sunday being a day off, and Saturday’s workout being relatively early in the day, I have about 48 hours of time to recover from the previous week’s training.

As a result, my expectations for Monday’s workout are always high.

I’m rested, after all.

Which means that I should be able to throttle Monday’s workout.

Go time, right?

Not always.

When I look back through my log book they are actually rarely that good. At least, not according to the comments and ranking that I leave myself.

It took me a while to wrap my head around why Monday mornings are so spotty, but the explanation is quite simple…

The expectations I had for the workout weren’t helping me perform better.

I wasn’t expecting it to be hard…

I was expecting it to be easy.

And as a result…

When the workout didn’t go smoothly, or I didn’t feel as good in the water as I expected, it was hard not to feel discouraged.

But here’s the sneaky reality of our expectations…

Expecting it to be hard keeps us motivated. It prepares us for adversity. And it keeps us working away at things even when it’s hard.

Let me explain…

Expecting it to be easy sets you up for disappointment in a big way.

In my experience (both personally, and with swimmers that I’ve trained with and worked with over the years), it’s the wishful thinkers that always end up the most disappointed.

They expect things to be easy.

They feel they deserve for things to be easy.

They hope for the easy path.

Or that because they have suffered through some hard work and persevered through some trying times, that it’s all downhill from here on out.

But “easy” expectations aren’t realistic. Nothing hard is ever easy. And if your goals are ambitious, if what you are trying to accomplish is certified terrifying, than yes, it’s gonna be hard.

It’s gotta be hard, in fact.

Expecting it to be hard keeps you motivated.

Not only is “easy” success a myth, but it’s also pointless because an easy win is a totally hollow victory.

The moment it’s easy is the same moment it loses any meaningful sense of reward and satisfaction.

When you race against a swimmer who is super slow does that motivate you to swim your best?

Not likely.

But when you race against someone who is a little faster than you, does that push you to a new level of effort and achievement?

You bet your soggy chlorinated bottom it does.

The “hard” part makes it rewarding…

Beating the swimmer who should be beating us. Chasing down the world record holder on the anchor leg of a relay. Out-working the faster swimmer in the next lane.

You don’t celebrate the easy wins.

It’s the hard ones that we celebrate and ultimately motivate us.

“Easy” doesn’t prepare you.

When you expect it to be hard you are better prepared, mentally and physically for competition.

You already understand this, even if it is just on an intuitive level…

If you walk on deck at the championship meet with the expectation that your warm-up will go just so, your feel for the water will be exactly as good as you want it to be, and your competition will swim just slow enough that you beat them, you are in for a world of disappointment.

You know this. I know this.

And yet, we fall for this “it should be easy” line of thinking more than we should.

But, if on the other hand, you go in with a hardened mindset that things will be challenging, you are better ready for the surprises:

A bad race on opening night. Choking on one of your best events. Not getting the “perfect” warm-up.

It always turns out to be harder than you think.

Swimming history is littered with examples of swimmers who had to work harder than expected to achieve their goal:

Don’t fall for the illusion of easy. Go in with the mindset that it will be tough, that it will stretch you and that it will challenge you.


Mental training for swimmers finally made simple.

Tired of choking on race day? Want to finally conquer your mindset so that you can give your PB’s the beating they deserve? 

Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset might just be for you. Used and trusted by some of the top clubs and swimmers on the planet.

Learn More

Get Daily Tips on How to Swim Faster

Subscribe to the YourSwimLog.com newsletter and get tips and advice on how to swim faster every weekday morning, straight to your inbox. 

Join 33,000+ swimmers, coaches, and swim parents learning what it takes to swim like a boss.

Unsubscribe anytime. Email will never be shared or sold.

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.

Related Articles

Journaling Prompts for Swimmers
Mental Training

21 Journaling Prompts for Swimmers

Feeling stuck with your journaling? Here are some journaling prompts for swimmers to build self-awareness, confidence, and help swimmers maintain perspective over the course of the swim season.

Read More »
The Importance of Having a Powerful Why for Your Swimming
Mental Training

The Importance of Having a Powerful Why for Swimmers

Swimmers invest a lot of time in the water over the course of the season. The two-a-days, long swim meets, and the perpetual sogginess can be difficult to bear for even the most motivated of swimmers. In the moments when you are struggling with commitment or motivation, it’s a great

Read More »
The Big Mistake Swimmers Make with Motivation
Mental Training

The Big Mistake Swimmers Make with Motivation

Motivation or some variation of it is by far the most common query I get from readers of my weekly newsletter. “How do I get motivated to work hard?” “How do I get motivated to do the things necessary for my goals?” “Why is it so hard to get motivated

Read More »
Mental Training

The 3 Swimmers You Can Learn Most From

During my noon-hour swim today, my mind wandered back to my age group days. The swimmers I trained with. The swimmers I raced against. My heroes growing up. And the resulting big box of ribbons and medals collecting dust under my bed. Over the years, I realized, I’d learned a

Read More »