4 Ways to Survive Grind Season

sit-think-tired-recover - Bad Races
Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr / Swimming Australia Ltd.

By Mark McCluskey, Swimming World College Intern.

It’s beginning to look a lot like… Grind Season.

Everybody has a different name for it. As the swim season progresses, we are approaching that time of year when it becomes really tough to be a swimmer. It’s no longer the beginning of the season when you are excited to be back in the pool with your friends, and the end of the season is nowhere in sight. Morning practices started about a month ago, and you don’t think you’ll ever get used to waking up at five in the morning. Also, the weather is getting cold, and that’s not fun.

Often, swimmers let this part of the season get to them and let it affect their practices. They come to practice grouchy, skip sets, and don’t put in their full effort. You can feel the urge to slack off gnawing at you with every flip turn. It’s really difficult to ignore it, but you have to.

Here are four strategies that you can use to keep your focus throughout the Grind Season.

#1: Keep Your Goals in Mind


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

One of the most important things to do is to remember why you come to the pool every day. Every swimmer has goals, whether they are technique-based, time-based or place-based. When you’re about to hit the snooze button on your alarm before your third morning practice of the week, try to remember that time that you are trying to hit at next week’s meet. Or think about how amazing it would feel to make finals at the championships. At this time of the season, it can be easy to forget your purpose in all this work. Every time you begin to lose your drive, remind yourself why you are here, both in short- and long-term goals.

#2: Focus on Technique


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

This is the hardest thing for a lot of swimmers, especially when you’re tired. When you are in the middle of practice thinking about dinner, it’s hard to focus on anything other than just throwing your hands forward to finish the set. Approaching practices with this mindset is self-damaging and makes the practice a waste of your time. Practice is the most important time to focus on your technique, because it is where you are the most tired. If you can hold six dolphin kicks off of each wall for a two-hour practice, then you will easily be able to hold eight kicks off each wall in a 100 freestyle at your next dual meet.

#3: Stay Organized

Student athlete

Photo Courtesy: Sara Haslem Davis

Swimming is not the only thing exhausting you and your teammates. The majority of swimmers live a double life as students. At this point in the year, classes are getting tough as finals are approaching, and people are finishing up semester-long projects. This is the time when you are going to want to cut your effort in one area to focus on the other. Obviously, this cannot happen. What swimmers need to do at this challenging part of the season is get organized, specifically with time management. When you have free time, use it on an assignment coming up. Also, make sure to give yourself as much time as possible to sleep.

#4: Have Fun


Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

It seems corny, but this may be the hardest thing to do during Grind Season. With so many practices and meets, a huge part of you simply does not want to be in the pool. The most important thing you can do is be positive. Remember all of the reasons why you love swimming. For a lot of people, it is their teammates that keep them going. Try to come to practice every day looking forward to being with your second family. When most swimmers retire, the things they miss most are the times they spent with their teammates rather than the best times they swam in the pool.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

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Shaheen Alghofari
5 years ago

Joe Stott we need this…

Mike Bolstridge
5 years ago

Love #4. Still relevant all these decades later….we had the best times in and out of the pool !?

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