4 Ways to Finish a Tough Workout

Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

By Abby Bergman, Swimming World College Intern

At this time of year, many college swimmers are heading home for the summer and face challenges unique to this situation, being away from their team. Swimmers must deal with not only staying in shape while balancing internships and jobs, but also learn to stay motivated while training away from their teammates.

The following are a few tested strategies that can help swimmers maintain motivation, even during a tough workout.

1. Encourage others.


Erin Walch encourages a teammate before a race. Photo Courtesy: Erin Walch

An important way to distract yourself from the pain you are feeling is to cheer others on through their triumphs and challenges. A teammate of mine at Smith College, Erin Walch, can often be heard yelling across our six-lane pool to encourage others, even if she is struggling. Walch describes her strategy:

“I motivate myself by encouraging others… If that means cheering someone on after your race went badly, or pumping up someone who is struggling in practice (even if you’re dying on the wall), that’s just what you do. You’ll probably be out of breath, lactate will be killing your legs, and you might be having a bad practice yourself, but when you use those precious few seconds on the wall to help someone else, you immediately feel reenergized. Nothing compares to seeing a teammate turn out a great performance after you’ve helped them out.”

By helping others to push their limits, swimmers can also become better at surpassing their own perceived boundaries, whether during a workout or a competition.

2. Break up the distance.


Photo Courtesy: Jen Cournoyer

One of my greatest challenges as a swimmer is staying in the moment and not worrying about things in the future. While this is a skill I work hard at everyday, when I can manage to stay present, it is also one of my greatest assets. During a long workout that includes many repeated swims, I try to think about the swim I am doing as a separate unit rather than just a repeat. In the same way, if I am doing a straight swim such as a 1500 or longer, I break up how I think about the swim. For example, a 1500 becomes three 500s, which is easier to wrap my mind around.

3. Remember your goals.


Swimmers celebrate after achieving their goal time at NEWMAC Conference Championships. Photo Courtesy: Eliza Cummings

Another challenge faced by swimmers (especially out of season and in the summer) is staying motivated while working out alone. One way to get yourself out of bed and into the pool even early in the morning is to remind yourself what you are training for, whether that’s the next college season, a Masters meet, or a marathon swim. Smith College swimming captain, Eliza Cummings, who is currently training to swim from Plymouth, MA to Provincetown, MA explains how she stays excited while working out alone:

“When I’m in a really tough practice where my body hurts and I wish I could just be anywhere else but in the pool I try to reframe my perspective and use whatever set I’m doing for mental training…. Mental fortitude is essential for any swimmer and it’s the tough practices where that skill is developed. So when I’m in  the middle of a horrible set, I remind myself that these are the sets that matter the most because they test you physically and mentally. I visualize myself at the end of my 1650 and know that because I am pushing myself right now through a grueling set, I’ll be prepared to finish that race when it matters.”

By staying focused on the reason for a tough workout, swimmers can help overcome the pain in the moment.

4. Focus on the little things.

University of Michigan junior Marie Georger, touches the wall Saturday, Jan. 3, 2015, at the Orange Bowl Swimming Classic in Key Largo, Fla. Michigan placed first in the women's division while West Virginia University won the men's division. The event, staged at the Jacobs Aquatic Center, was the highlight of the winter collegiate swimming training season in the Florida Keys. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY (Stephen Frink/Florida Keys News Bureau/HO)

Photo Courtesy: Stephen Frink

Sometimes, you encounter a workout where it seems that no matter what you do, you just swim slow. In these cases, a simple way to save the practice session is to focus on one aspect of technique that you need to improve. For me this is often tempo or rotation. Even if I am feeling discouraged about how I am swimming, I know that this important technique work will help me succeed in the future. When you focus on one small aspect of your stroke, it helps to distract from how long the workout feels.

Notify of

Welcome to our community. We invite you to join our discussion. Our community guidelines are simple: be respectful and constructive, keep on topic, and support your fellow commenters. Commenting signifies that you agree to our Terms of Use

1 Comment
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cathleen Pruden
8 years ago

Rachel Boynton and Claire Beckett with the epic photo bomb in picture #1 <3

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x