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.
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.
- If you have a hard time getting to morning practice (who doesn’t), make the only goal in the morning driving to the pool.
- If you worry you lack the motivation to consistently eat healthy, focus on spending just 10 minutes a day meal-prepping snacks and a meal or two.
- If you really, really want to improve your start, build the habit of doing just 5 starts after practice each day.
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.
Image credit: J.C. Mouton