Struggling with Motivation -- Do This Instead

If You Are Struggling to Stay Motivated, Do This Instead

When staring across the abyss of a full season of training, swimmers can get discouraged and intimidated by the work and effort ahead.

  • How am I going to stay motivated for all that time?
  • What happens if I fail?
  • What am I going to do on the days where I am tired, sore, and the last thing I want to do is go to practice?

Relying solely on motivation to hammer all the work necessary to achieve your goals is problematic for a couple reasons.

For starters…

Motivation is fickle and fluctuates from day to day.

On your best days, when the motivational tank is full, you are fully energized, and you wake up with a fire under your chlorinated bottom.

But the rest of the time, it is hard to guesstimate how motivated you are going to be feeling.

If you are tired, motivation  and mental toughness suffers. If you are sore, stressed out, having a bad day—these things affect motivation, too.

Because of its fickle and unpredictable nature, there will be times where your motivation is running on fumes.

And that’s where things can really take a turn.

When motivation is a whimper, you end up deepening your motivational woes by telling yourself that an elite swimmer wouldn’t be struggling with motivation, and that because you are struggling with motivation, by definition you are not elite and will not be elite.


You’ve successfully pancake-stacked low motivation on top of a flawed understanding of how motivation works, resulting in peak levels of discouragement and un-awesomeness.

So what do we do?

Routines, Habits and Systems > Motivation

Instead of depending on the flakiness of motivation, build better habits, systems and routines.

Using them short-circuits the need to feel completely motivated to do the things that will help you swim the way you want.

These habits and systems look simple.

So simple, that they might get dismissed as being pointless.

Not grand enough for your grand goals, right?

But the gap between knowing and doing lies in the systems, routines and habits you use.

You can be the most motivated person on earth, but if your systems, routines and habits suck, things are gonna fall apart like a cheap training suit the moment your motivation isn’t red-lining.

If you are struggling with something in the water—not showing up to enough practices, losing focus mid-set, giving up when things get tough—check your systems and routines.

This is almost always where the problems originate.

Swimming is hard enough. But building simple routines and habits?

Systems that cut down on your dependence for more motivation?

Things so small and “easy” that it’s almost impossible to say no to?

That’s something you can stick to for long stretches of time. And low and behold, quite motivational.

More Stuff Like This:

How to Swim Like a Monster Under Pressure. Fed up with not being able to rise to the occasion when the pressure is on? Here’s the swimmer’s ultimate guide to performing at your best when it matters most.

5 Ways This Mental Training Book Will Rock Your Chlorinated Socks Off. Frustrated with your mindset? Tired of not seeing the results you want in the pool? This book will help you seriously elevate your swimming this season. Here’s how.

10 Motivational Swimming Quotes to Get You Fired Up. Need a quick motivational pick-me-up? Here’s a collection of my favorite inspirational quotes for swimmers.

Image credit: J.C. Mouton

Get Daily Tips on How to Swim Faster

Subscribe to the 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 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 »