Mike's Mailbag: The Motivational Buddy System

Mike's Mailbag: The Motivational Buddy System

By Mike Gustafson//Contributor  | Monday, September 25, 2017

Every Monday, I answer questions from swimmers around the country. If you have a question, please email me at swimmingstories@gmail.com.

Dear Mike,

I'm a very motivated swimmer with many goals that I want to accomplish, but I feel like I'm never getting anything out of practice. I've tried doing dryland and adding weights to my training but I don't feel like the extra dryland training is helping at all. At age 15 all my friends and fellow swimmers have already started lifting and have personal trainers or coaches to help them with what they need to do with their training to get where they want to be in this sport. But I do not have the money to pay for a personal trainer or pay for private sessions with my coach in the weight room. Do you have any advice, and/or training tips so I can feel like I'm getting a little more out of my practice and workouts. 

Thank you, 

A Motivated Swimmer  


Hey Motivated Swimmer,

Having money for private lessons should not be the determining factor between success and failure, though that can sometimes be a misconception people have about competitive swimming. You don’t need private lessons or private sessions to do well in swimming. I never had any, and most/all the good swimmers I grew up with didn’t have private lessons or training sessions, either.

Instead, we had each other.

By which I mean: I grew up with a great swim team. We had several different coaches, but we as teammates trained together since we were kids, since we were 10. We pushed each other. We knew how to motivate each other. We worked hard together.

If you’re not feeling like you’re pushed, can you switch swim teams? Is there another team in the area you can join — one that will push you, motivate you, and make you feel as though you’re working hard? It’s hard to leave teams, but as you grow into a more advanced swimmer, sometimes you have to join a swim team that is up to your speed.

If you can’t switch teams, can you ask one of your friends if you can join them in their dryland sessions? Kind of like a buddy system. When I grew up, a few of my friends did dryland on our own — no coaches, just at the YMCA by ourselves. I often did dryland — running, weights — with other teammates in the offseason. You’re probably not the only swimmer on your team hoping to do more.

I wouldn’t recommend doing this by yourself. Find someone — a teammate, a friend from another sport, perhaps — who could join you in dryland sessions. Someone who could call you up at 6am and say, “Time to go.”

I know many athletes who became some of the best swimmers in the world. I don’t think any of them got there through private lessons and private weight lifting sessions. But they also didn’t get there by themselves, either. They found a teammate, or a few teammates, to lift weights with, to run with, to play basketball with.

And they also found a great swim team. One that pushed them, motivated them, and maximized their abilities.

It’s good to be motivated, Motivated Swimmer. But you’ve got to find someone else who can be your dryland buddy, someone else who shares your motivation levels. That, above anything else, will help you get to the next level. Ask around. Talk about it. Don’t be silent about it. Ask your coaches. Talk to your parents. The more you articulate your own motivation, the more that people will understand just how motivated you are to be better and improve, and they’ll find you the resources you need to do so.

I hope this helps. 



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