5 Challenges a Swimmer Faces and How to Conquer Them

Swimmer Grant Shoults

5 Challenges a Swimmer Faces and How to Conquer Them

Anybody who is familiar with competitive swimming knows that with all of the rewards the sport offers, they come with a price. This price includes a variety of challenges that can push your body and mind to their absolute limit. Below are five of the most common challenges swimmers face that require a certain degree of determination, grit, and motivation to conquer.

1. Early Mornings

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Early morning swims can test any swimmer’s will. Swimming back and forth as the world sleeps, we work to sharpen our craft. But why do we do this, and how can such a challenge be overcome? One of the best ways to power through early morning practices is to think through the benefits. Mental toughness is quite possibly the most significant benefit of enduring early morning swims. Being able to swim set after set with success as you’re cold and sleep-deprived can give you the confidence to own that next practice. Doing this day after day can help you become better with time management as well, which is a vital skill for anybody. If you’re a swimmer who trains in the morning consistently, your body can adjust to performing at its best potential, which can help a lot with morning competition. As early mornings are dreaded by many, it is easy to have a negative attitude, always thinking how much you would rather be in bed. The next time you are struggling through a rigid morning set, try to remind yourself why you are doing it and what you will ultimately get out of it. With the right attitude, your goals come closer to becoming a reality.

2. Practice Food Needs

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The second challenge swimmers commonly face is that intense hunger both during and after practices. According to Livestrong.com, the body expends calories not only to keep swimming but also to maintain its temperature. The colder the water, the more of an appetite one develops. Caloric expenditure during swimming is also affected by the type of stroke you swim. You will likely feel hungrier after swimming a high-intensity stroke such as freestyle, backstroke, or butterfly, as opposed to a resting stroke like breaststroke. The best way to curb hunger is to fuel up beforehand. It is best to allow a gap of 2-4 hours in between a heavy meal and swimming, and 30 minutes to 2 hours between snacks and swimming.

3. Bad Race

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Another common challenge swimmers experience is failure. When putting in hours of work preparing for a race, goals are expected to be reached. Of course, this is not always the case. To be successful, one needs to fail and learn how to pick themselves up again. It is okay to be disappointed, but you never want to beat yourself up too much as success sometimes has to wait another turn.

Additionally, it is crucial to reflect on the disappointing race result. You need to think back and figure out why things didn’t go according to plan. Did you set unrealistic goals? Was your preparation adequate? If not, what could you have done better? With a lousy race, sometimes you can use it as an advantage in the future. Failure can be a great motivator as well. To be able to absorb a loss, remembering that terrible feeling can make you even more driven to do whatever it takes not to feel that way again. Gary Hall Jr. once said, “A champion is not someone who has an obsession with being the best, rather an obsession with being better, continually striving to improve oneself. They are also determined by how they overcome obstacles, defeats, adversity, hardship, toils, and pain.”

4. Difficult Sets

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Whether it’s the brackets, your stroke feels off, or you’ve just had a rough day, we all have had those days where we have a monumental set to do, and the energy and motivation just aren’t there. Even if the energy is enough, the set can start to feel like too much to bear. If it’s one of those days where you would rather be anywhere but the pool, one strategy that could get you through is by visualizing success. Thinking about your goals, imagining yourself having just achieved them, and making family, friends, and coaches proud can turn that negative energy into positive energy that will charge you through that practice. On the other hand, if you feel beat and don’t feel as if you can make it anymore, it can be helpful to focus on your technique or by continually telling yourself to do “just one more.” Picking up a specific technical issue you may be struggling with can not only help to get your mind off of whatever pain you are going through but also prepare you for your race when you are enduring the same pain. The “one more” mentality can be especially useful when dealing with a high volume of reps in a given set. Breaking down a big set can make it seem less daunting and discouraging.

5. Balancing Swimming and Life

Swimmer

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Spending so much time in the pool can make it challenging to balance the swimming life with school life, work life, etc. Figuring out a schedule that works for you can take some work, especially as you get older and have more responsibilities. With such a packed schedule, it is essential to prioritize what is most important in your schedule and then to find ways to fit in other things you enjoy when you can. Picking up a planner can also help keep you organized and less stressed. Although swimming, school, and jobs can consume the majority of your day, it is a great idea to find the right plan that allows you to get everything done while also taking care of your mental and physical health.

Swimming is a gratifying sport, but it is not without its challenges. Sometimes swimming can give us miserable moments, but the way we react is what matters. You cannot allow your results to determine your love for swimming; rather, remember why you swim in the first place. If challenges ever seem to be too much, try to remember when you were younger, and you swam merely to go down to the pool, be with friends, and do your best. Being able to put things into perspective, remembering that swimming is a sport that is supposed to be fun and that we are lucky to be able to participate in is critical if you are ever getting too down on yourself.

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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