The Ripple Effect of a Bad Swim Practice

The Ripple Effect of a Bad Swim Practice

At some point—today, tomorrow, next week—we’ll have a bad practice. Here’s a sneaky way to bounce back quicker.

The problem with a bad practice isn’t necessarily the bad practice itself. Yes, it’s a miserable experience, we feel like we wasted our time, and we get a sense of having let an otherwise perfect training opportunity go down the drain.

Nah, it’s what happens next that is the real performance killer.

It’s the ripple effect of that bad practice into the future.

For most of us, that practice is still in our mind the next time we walk on deck, fresh as can be, influencing and coloring our thoughts and actions. We tend to perform at our next swim practice, or in the arena of competition, our next race, with the memory of our last performance fresh in our mind.

It’s why swimmers go on stretches of bad workouts. One after another. With one bad practice turning into a stretch of them.

It’s why swimmers have one bad race on Thursday night, and by Sunday night are still swimming in a funk, even though the training leading up to the meet was out of this world.

The momentum of a performance or workout inevitably seeps into what’s next.

Viewing our swims as an interlinked chain can help us to sever the link between the bad workouts, while also making us more aware that we need to be able to reframe the bad swims and practices so that we can get things back on a positive track.

When we have a bad practice, or we race below expectations, the self-talk, the self-image, and the feelings we experience end up affecting how we swim tomorrow. Our self-confidence feels shaken, and this feeling doesn’t go away the moment we walk off the pool deck.

Conversely, when we have a great practice, or we race like a maniac, experience a surge of confidence and momentum. The sense of competence, of being in control, and of being able to perform at a high-level sticks with us until our next swim.

As you can see, our swims and practices are rarely an island, cut off emotionally from one another.

For better or worse, how we swim today is going to influence tomorrow’s confidence and performance.

Finish Today with a Little Win

Here is one little and totally doable thing you can do anytime things aren’t going your way in the pool.

The power of this is that it is controllable, and gets you focused on mastery, which will give you a spark of confidence moving forward that can easily turn into a wildfire in the future.

In practice

We all have those practices where our stroke seemingly abandons us. Where the usual pace and intervals feels 12.4% harder than it should. As a result, doubt multiplies like camping chairs in the bleachers at a swim meet.

Although your speed might not be there, and your stroke might feel like garbage, there is something you can do.

And that is to swim the last 100m of your practice with the best technique you can. No more, no less. 100m of the best technique you can do.

No clock, no stroke count, just straight killer execution.

In competition

Race didn’t go as planned? Take a breath—this happens to all of us. Not only at some point, but at many points over the course of a swimming career.

Once you’ve done your warm-down (although the temptation is to go mope in the hot tub or showers, don’t), do the same thing as above.

Swim 100m with no pace clock, with no attention to anything or anyone else in the water. Do those two or four laps with the best technique you can.


Finish today with a little win. It will give you a small step back in the right direction that can help you step into a bigger win.

More Stuff Like This:

3 Things Swimmers Can Do to Develop a Better Attitude. Having a better attitude helps you face adversity, be more coachable, and of course, swim faster. Here’s a few things swimmers can do to improve their attitude.

7 Things You Can Do Today for a Better Practice Tomorrow. Want to get ahead of tomorrow’s workout? Here are 7 simple things that you can do today to make sure tomorrow’s practice goes down like a cool glass of success.

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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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