Seeing as everyone has supposedly gotten out of “hell week” for swimming (aka Winter Break), I figured I should talk about motivation now. You think you can relax now that you’ve survived Winter Break training and can just cruise to the championship meets, don’t you? Well, sorry to burst your bubble but that is not how swimming works. You have to keep training all the way up to taper and you still have to try while on taper. To be honest, putting in 100% effort all the time is exhausting and quite frankly, is not going to happen. There are going to be days where you just can’t convince yourself to move.
Some people say this is the time where you decide to take a day off. However, I feel that this can make things worse. If you don’t swim on days where you are not feeling great, how are you going to swim well at a meet if you feel tired or sore? You are not going to magically swim well there if you do not practice it. Instead, show up and tell yourself just do the warm-up. Do the warm-up and then you will probably think to yourself, well might as well do the rest of practice.
Over Winter Break one of the sets I had to do was a 6,000 yard IM straight. And it had to be done legally so no one-arm fly that I know everyone is thinking to do. Anyone that knows me knows I cannot do more than a 100 fly legally in practice. In a meet, I can finish a 200 fly out of sheer will and will be dead for the rest of the day. In practice, doing a 100 is pretty much where I max out, so a 1,500 fly is slightly insane. However, once I did the first 300, I figured, well, might as well finish this. And once I finished all of fly there was no way I was disqualifying myself for any reason or stopping because then my 1,500 fly would have been for nothing. Just starting something can be motivation enough to finish it.
If this doesn’t work because you’re in the middle of a set and bored, stop that train of thought. Do not let yourself think about what is next. Have a teammate tell you the next part of the set without you actually looking at the set. Trick yourself by telling yourself you only have a 50 left instead of a 100 left. DO NOT COUNT HOW MANY YOU HAVE LEFT. I found that one of the most unmotivating things I did was count down from how many we had to zero. It gets you focused on just finishing instead of trying your best. When your count up you stop focussing on it. You are just keeping track of a number that is in no way related to how many you have left and it also gives you a sense of accomplishment as you know how many you have finished already.
Finally, just focus on one small task. It may not exactly be the point of the set but sometimes you just cannot do 20 100s best average no matter what you do. You should still try but shift your goal to be on swimming as fast as you can with 4 underwater kicks off each wall. Don’t focus on best times. They aren’t always going to happen, and ultimately, focusing on your underwaters will improve your speed overall anyway so you’re still helping yourself. It doesn’t have to be underwaters either. It could be your breathing pattern, some bad habit you have with your technique, the possibilities are endless. Just choose one thing and decide you are going to do it every time no matter what.
Motivation can be hard to come by sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find and even if you can’t become 100% motivated, you can still do things to make you less unmotivated. And when you go in unmotivated and still do well celebrate it. It feels great and take note of those times so you can do the same thing again.
The pool may look unenjoyable and cold but sometimes you’ve still got to get in.