Get Nervous Before a Big Practice? It's a Good Thing. Here's Why.

Get Nervous Before a Big Practice? It’s a Good Thing. Here’s Why.

Ever get nervous before your workouts? It’s not a bad thing. In fact, it is a sign of good things to come. Here’s why.

“Okay, tonight we are gonna do a 1,500m kick for time, so be ready!” said your coach as you limped off the pool deck after a 6,500m morning practice.

You nearly trip over your swim bag, a couple teammates groan, and your coach laughs manically as you retreat to the change room.

For the rest of the day, that timed kick set is never far from your thoughts.

During lunch, while your friends are gossiping, you are staring blankly across the cafeteria, picturing how much agony your legs are going to be later.

Stuffing your face at your locker between classes you quietly wonder if there is a good excuse you could use to bow out of the PM practice.

Later, you pass one of your teammates in the hallway, who is sure to remind you of the set (like you’d forgot) when you breeze past one another:

“Soooo, who is excited for that big kick set tonight?”

Back at the pool, getting changed back into your still-damp training suit, you can feel the nerves piling up in your stomach.

Sure, it’s not quite the same kind of nervous and anxiety you feel behind the blocks, but it’s there. In fact, the nerves may be at such a low simmer that you barely notice them.

But they are there.

Churning away in your belly.

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Why You Are Nervous Before Practice

There are some obvious reasons for why you are feeling some anxiety and nervousness before practice or a really hard set.

We worry that we are going to get pummeled. Thinking about the agony is stressful. Wondering if we are going to do well or if we are going to stink up the practice makes our nerves a little jittery.

But there’s a flip side to this.

I would argue that being nervous before practice is actually a really good thing. After all, being nervous means that you care. You have high expectations for yourself in the water.

And most importantly…

It means there is an opportunity for serious growth ahead.

There’s something you’ve never done before awaiting you, and the uncertainty of the outcome—“Can I do this? Will I fail? Am I going to die halfway through the set?”—is causing your tummy to churn.

Now, our first instinct—whenever anxiety or stress rears its head—is to run. Hide. Give up on the set or pull our punches with our effort.

But instead of viewing this “impossible” set as punishment, or being too hard, keep in mind it’s true purpose: to stress you beyond anything you’ve ever done before.

It’s an indication that you are about to do something new, slightly terrifying, and altogether good for you and your swimming.

Welcome the nerves as excitement. Nervousness and anxiety is a neutral behavior: it’s how we interpret it that makes it good or bad.

(Fun fact: Simply rephrasing the anxiety you are experiencing as excitement can help you perform better. Before: “I am anxious” vs. “I am excited.” Seriously that basic.)

If you are never getting nervous before practice, you likely aren’t pushing yourself very hard in training. It means that your practices are “safe” and risk-free. And if you aren’t challenging yourself—and incurring the nerves that come along with doing something new—you aren’t improving.

Don’t worry about the nerves. Embrace it as something exciting. The anxiety just means you are on the cusp of breaking out in the pool. And that is something to get excited about.

More Stuff Like This:

This New Mental Training Book Will Help You Swim Like a Rock Star This Season. Ready to take your swimming to the next level? Learn more about our awesome mental training book that will help you rock out with your socks out, whether it’s in practice or competition.

10 Things That Have Nothing to Do with Talent. Much is made about having lots of talent. But talent alone doesn’t make champion swimmers. And it’s something you also don’t control. Here’s what to focus on instead.

How Swimmers Can Develop World-Class Resilience. Grit, mental toughness, fortitude—whatever we’re calling it this week, is essential to your swimming success. Here’s why resilience is the difference maker you’ve been looking for in the pool.

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

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