Need a swift kick of motivation? Give this list of swimming quotes a look the next time you feel your motivation sagging in the pool. Let’s do this.
As athletes we all have days where the last thing we want to do is go down to the pool, strap up, and pound out 5,000 meters.
While the following might not cure injury or illness, the list of motivational swimming quotes outlined in this post is designed to help you curb the biggest practice-killer of them all… insufficient motivation.
Without further ado, here are 10 quotes (plus some thoughts of my own on selection and interpretation, as well as related quotes from some of the best swimmers on the planet) to get you fired up for your next practice/competition–
1. “I Only Fear Not Trying.”
Simple, and yet profound.
Living a life without regret should be the true aim for each and every one of us. And that includes our swimming.
Looking back on our swimming days and wondering “what if” can be a life-lasting and agonizing experience. It’s why you see so many comebacks in the run-up to the Olympics.
Don’t wonder what you could have done with your swimming, and instead resolve to live regret-free with your swimming.
2. “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.”
The reality is an overwhelming majority of people have no idea what they are talking about. You will be told numerous times over the course of your swimming career that you can’t do something. That you aren’t talented enough. That your goals in the water are.
Use their nay-saying and doubt as fuel for some epic swimming.
While it is inevitable that the perceived authority of a select number of people close to you – whether it is a family member, coach, friend – may have some impact on you, do not allow others to dictate what you are capable of.
3. “Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” – Steve Jobs
Being a kick-butt swimmer is about much more than setting records or winning gold medals. It is about being part of an environment that fosters and encourages success for not only yourself and the swimmers in your group but the ones coming up behind you.
It’s about doing your best, all the time, regardless of who is watching. One of the easiest ways to see who is going to be successful is to see how well they work when there is no one else around. Quality, high-level swimming should be your default setting.
Choose excellence in everything you do, large and small, and excellence will simply be something you are.
4. “The price of excellence is discipline. The cost of mediocrity is disappointment.”
Discipline gets a bit of a bad rep.
When you hear the word your first thoughts tend to flutter to the stereotypical 1960’s conservative dad, sporting black horn-rimmed glasses with the short sleeve white dress shirt, cracking his belt in his hand. Not pretty.
But in reality, discipline can be your best friend, because once you harness it, discipline becomes easier and easier to use. Disciplines form habits, and good swimming habits are what makes champions. While most swimmers will wait around for motivation to strike them, the disciplined swimmer does the work regardless of how motivated or not they are.
This swim quote should you not shy away from being a self-disciplined athlete. Instead, when you head down to the pool for swim practice, embrace it.
5. “The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender.” – Vince Lombardi
Hard work is an investment.
Not only is it the blood, sweat, and tears that you pound into that pool on a daily basis, it is accumulated wealth. What I mean by that is once you have stockpiled hard work, once you have begun to travel down the path to success, it becomes much harder to turn around and go back.
Lombardi’s quote applies just as equally to swimmers as it does to football players: put in the hard work and you’ll discover that you are in it for the long haul.
- “I think goals should never be easy, they should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.” – Michael Phelps
6. “If it’s important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”
I love this quote as it brings some hard truth. After all, we all know that swimmer who has no problem talking a big game about how successful they want to be in the water, but when it comes down to actually doing something, suddenly their big talk turns into big excuses.
We are imperfect in a lot of ways, but one of the ways where we truly excel is in finding excuses.
Sometimes we pull the old and tried out of the toolbox (“I’m tired”, “Don’t feel like it”) and then other times we unleash our inner creativity and find some new and just-as-effective manner with which to delay starting action.
Sometimes you need to just get of your head, get out of your own way, and get down to it.
7. “There is no substitute for hard work.” – Thomas Edison
We live in a world that plasters us with daily messages promising us short-cuts. Nowhere do you see this more incessantly than in the fitness and wellness market. The promises of Six Minute Abs, losing weight by eating like crap, and so on.
We are being marketed with solutions that are almost always too good to be true. Everywhere we turn, we are being told that we can outsmart hard work.
The path to success in the pool isn’t a pretty one; it’s rife with obstacles, failure, and a metric ton of hard work.
But it is precisely that it is so laborious and challenging that so few decide to embrace the work required to climb the summit of swimming excellence.
Be one of the few.
8. “Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.”
How often have you set yourself an audacious goal, wrote out a plan to achieve it, and then simply not gotten started on it? If you are like most swimmers, probably at least a few times, right?
Intentions are no more than wishes until they are acted upon. You can say that you want big things for yourself in the water, but until you stop waiting around for perfect conditions and take action you are merely fantasizing.
Don’t let your best intentions go to waste by not taking the first step towards achieving them. No matter what your goal is – crushing your best time, swimming a 10k straight, or winning Olympic gold – whatever it is, start today.
Heck, start right now. Not tomorrow, not next week, and certainly not when you “feel like it.”
9. “If you’re going through hell, keep going.” – Winston Churchill
There will be tough times. The length and frequency of our swim season and our workouts ensure this. There are the two-a-days when your muscles are ringing with soreness, the holiday camps where all you can do is sleep and sleep before returning to the pool. And of course, the doubt and shattered confidence that comes from under-performing in competition.
Brave these moments, for they are not only temporary, but it is precisely these moments that separate champions from B-finalists.
It’s not what happens in the pool when you feel great and up for everything, what truly makes an athlete elite is the decision to forge through the tough times and not let anything stand in their way.
10. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle
I saved this one for last because, well, it’s my favorite. It instills everything that matters to high-performance swimming: doing things well and doing them consistently.
The moment you decide to do everything with excellence is the exact moment that things will turn around.
Things might be bumpy at first – change always is – and there will be some moments where you will want to sag back into the comfortable and well-worn sweater that is mediocrity, but nothing will improve your swimming more than adopting this adage.
Living with excellence as a habit doesn’t mean being the very best at everything. Not even close.
We aren’t talking about perfectionism, which in its crappy forms (we talk about the difference between good and bad perfectionism in our mental training workbook for swimmers, Conquer the Pool) leave us feeling anxious, stressed, and more likely to burn out.
Adopting the habit of excellence means that everything you do is to your best. You have high standards and you consistently reach for them.
Not perfect, not spotless, but to the limits of your ability.
For swimmers – and athletes in general – this means living a life that is consistent with your goals. You cannot realistically commit to being elite – whatever that means in your particular case – and eat Mcdonald’s twice a day, not get regular sleep, go out on the weekends, and so on.
Don’t be the swimmer that just talks about their goals, be the athlete who lives and breaths by them.
Even More Quotes for Swimmers…
“In training, I always brought my attention back to how I wanted to feel in my races. If I need to work on my body position at the end of my races, then I would push myself in practice to the point of exhaustion then work on my body position when exhausted.” – Natalie Coughlin
“The water is your friend. You don’t have to fight with water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move.” –Alexander Popov
“Things won’t go perfect. It’s all about how you adapt from those things and learn from mistakes.” – Michael Phelps
“I think about my goals when I wake up and what I have to do that day. Then, at the end of the day, I do a recap and think about what I did well and what I could have improved.” – James Magnussen
“I concentrate on preparing to swim my race and let the other swimmers think me, not me about them.” –Amanda Beard
“I try to make the good days great and take something positive from the days I’m not feeling good—work on technique or something like that.” –Katie Ledecky
More Stuff Like This:
This New Mental Training Workbook Will Help You Swim Like a Rock Star This Season. Want to level up your mindset and your swimming this season? This book is your playbook for every aspect of your performance, from visualization, self-talk, to choke-proofing yourself before those big races.
Want to Be Mentally Tougher? Sleep More. Mental toughness isn’t just about being more gritty than the next swimmer; it’s about taking care of yourself between practices. Here’s how sleep will help you be more resilient this season.