| Tuesday, October 30, 2018
Think back to the last time you felt unmotivated to be at practice.
What was the main thing you were feeling?
Take a chlorinated step back and think about what it was during that time that really got your suit in a twist. It wasn’t that your workouts weren’t going well (even though that felt plenty awful), it was a frustration that you were unmotivated.
What’s the matter with me? I have big goals in the water and I feel unmotivated today… How am I supposed to ever achieve my goals for the season?
Bad enough that you were unmotivated, but you became fixated on the gap between how you wanted to feel (motivated) and how you were feeling (unmotivated).
When we fixate on that chasm it becomes almost impossible to get motivated. This is especially the case if you have convinced yourself that being totally fired up is a requirement for a great workout.
How motivated we feel from moment to moment depends on a wide variety of things: How much sleep we got last night, how well we ate that day, how the morning’s workout went, stress levels, hydration levels, what we are focusing on, and more.
When you are standing at the end of the lane, wiping the inside of your best swim goggles, here will be times where all the motivational slogans and pump-up music in the world still doesn’t get you motivated to train hard.
Understanding that you don’t need to feel completely and utterly motivated is the first step. It’s nice to have that chest-thumping fire when you walk out onto the pool deck for practice, but it’s not mandatory for you to be successful today.
Here are some things you can do to bypass the need to feel motivated and crush it in the water:
Focus on starting. How many times have you been on the outside of a hard workout, quietly reflecting on how much it’s going to hurt? We’ve all been there—hard to be motivated in these moments. But then you get started and realize, hey, this isn’t so bad. And before you know it, you end up having a more-than-respectable practice. They key is not allowing a perceived shortage in motivation from you getting started.
Enthusiasm comes from being in movement. Another big side-effect of the whole starting thing? You’ll get motivated in the process. Motivation and enthusiasm are rarely found in the quiet moments when you are standing on the cold pool deck before a hard practice. Or when you are thinking about how difficult the main set is going to be. It slowly reveals itself once the main set gets underway. It shows up when you commit to swimming with great technique. Motivation shows up when you do.
Be process-based. Our motivational woes are often a result of thinking about how far out of reach our goals are, or focusing on our past performances in comparison to how lousy and unmotivated we are feeling in the present. You can cut down a lot of this motivational yo-yo’ing by building yourself a process—a list of things you control and work on each day in practice. Having a good process largely removes that need to feel motivated and gets you focused on building the performance of your dreams.
Resist the comparisons. Some of the most crushing motivational days of my age group career were when I heard about the epic results of my competitors. While comparing ourselves to other swimmers can work in some instances (“She’s doing it, so can I!”), in a lot of cases it works against us (“How will I ever swim as fast as him?”). Don’t subject your motivation to the performances of others—your effort and focus at practice today should be on you and you alone.
Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer, Olympic Trial qualifier and contributor to USA Swimming.
He’s the author of Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High-Performance Mindset, a 300-page mental training workbook that gives swimmers the tools and knowledge necessary to bulletproof their performances in the pool.
He also writes a weekly mental training tips newsletter for swimmers and coaches that you can subscribe to for free here.