Can’t Swim? Here Are 25 Things You CAN Do To Stay In The Zone & Get Fighting Fit

Can-Do Spirit - Photo Courtesy: Craig Lord

Can’t Swim? Can’t Gym? Coronavirus-crunched on all sides?

Ask not what you can’t do but what you CAN do.

Here are 25 things You CAN Do While Training and Racing Are on Hold – from Wayne Goldsmith, exclusively for Swimming World.

  • You’ve been told that your next Swim Meet has been cancelled. The one you’ve been planning for and training for over the past few months.
  • You’re disappointed.
  • You’re frustrated.
  • You’re annoyed.

There’s a wonderful philosophy that helps give power and perspective to everyone facing difficult situations and seemingly overwhelming challenges:

Life will always throw you challenges and obstacles that will test you. In many cases you can’t change them: that’s out of your control. What you can do, what you must do, is choose how you will react to those challenges and obstacles. The real power you have is in choosing how to think about, talk about and react to life’s challenges”.

  • So, you can’t train. 
  • You can’t race. 
  • You can’t go to the gym and do dryland training with your team-mates.

Here’s what you CAN do. 

25 Things You CAN Do While Training and Racing Are on Hold

  1. Improve your mental skills. Everything physical has a mental component. The mind and body are connected in all that you do every day. Master the Mind!
  2. Work on your flexibility. Spend 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening stretching. You could be listening to your favourite music or watching your favourite TV show – whatever it takes – just stretch, stretch, stretch.
  3. Learn how to cook a few simple meals. One of the most important qualities all successful people possess is independence – i.e. self-responsibility. As an athlete, learning to cook some simple meals – e.g. how to cook a rice dish, how to follow a pasta recipe, how to cook a steak – is an essential aspect of becoming independent and an important life skill particularly as you get older and travel away to meets, go to college etc.
  4. Clean, repair, restore, replace your swimming equipment. Everyone’s got a pair of fins with a few cracks in them. Every swimmer has a kick-board with some chunks missing. Get your swimming equipment in tip-top condition.
  5. Learn how to get better quality – and quantity – sleep. When it comes to swimming successfully, sleep is as important as training. Spend some time investigating the topic of sleep and learn how to get more of it. 
  6. Start an on-line chat group with your team. Everyone’s in the same boat. Why not start an on-line community with members of your swim team? Have people post photos and videos about how they’re spending their time. Share ideas about keeping fit and healthy. This is the perfect time as a team to share, to learn, to grow and to support each other.
  7. Become a student of the sport of swimming. Learn all the current State, National and World records. Study the times, the splits, the breakdowns and the details of every stroke and every distance. 
  8. Learn more about your event than anyone on the planet. Become a student – a “Master” of your own specialist event. How many strokes did the last National Champion take in their final 50? What were their splits? Where did they take their first breath off the walls? There’s a wonderful saying: “if you can see it – you can be it”.
  9. Contact a champion. The beauty of social media is that you are only a click or two away from just about anyone in your sport. Why not contact a current or past member of the National team and ask them about their swimming journey? 
  10. Research the training habits of the best. Why not Google “Training Tips of Olympic Swimmers” or a similar search? What is it that the best do that makes them so exceptional? It’s all there – on your laptop or tablet or smartphone. 
  11. Clean up and re-organize your room. Nothing clears your head and says “I am ready for a new challenge” than a clean, tidy, well-organized room. 
  12. Send one inspirational message to one other person in your team everyday. There’s nothing that makes people feel more loved than knowing someone is thinking about them – and that someone really cares. In tough times and challenging moments like these, why not send one member of your team a text or message that says “Keep smiling” or “Hang in there” or “Did I ever tell you how amazing you are”. 
  13. Set up a simple – and free – home gym. There are literally thousands and thousands of free workout videos on the Internet. Many of them don’t involve any special equipment. With a little bit of floor space, a few chairs and a bit of imagination you can build a killer dry-land program in your home that will get you stronger than you could ever imagine. 
  14. Re-set your goals for the next 1, 3, 6 and 12 months. This is great time to re-visit and re-set your goals. With pool training and swim Meet schedules being uncertain at the moment, why not make your goals focused on some important non-swimming areas. For example Goal 1 – Get 8 hours of sleep every night. Goal 2 – Eat 4 pieces of fresh fruit every day. Goal 3 – Stretch 10 minutes every morning and every evening. 
  15. Keep fit! Get outside. Run. Walk. Cycle. Ride a mountain bike. Go play with the dog. Find ways to keep moving, keep active and keep fit which you can do outdoors and with plenty of space.
  16. Learn Yoga! Yoga is brilliant for swimmers. It improves your flexibility. It helps strengthen and stabilize your core. It helps you learn to relax and to control your breathing. It costs nothing – as there are many high quality, excellent Basic, Introductory Yoga videos available for free on line. 
  17. Watch some videos of previous Major Championship events. You have at your fingertips access to the greatest library of swimming information that any generation of swimmers has ever had. Search for videos from last year’s National titles. Or the previous two Olympic Games. And watch how the greatest athletes in the world do what they do best.
  18. Talk to your coach. Chances are your coach is sitting at home every afternoon feeling a bit down and flat. Why not give your coach a call and ask them about your training, your racing and your goals for the next year? I guarantee your coach is missing coaching as much as you’re missing training.  Safe Sport: communicate with your coach through your parent or guardian if your age demands it.
  19. Learn a non-swimming skill. Having an interest and developing a passion outside of swimming is a great idea. It’s an excellent way to take care of your mental health and wellbeing. It could be you develop an interest in collecting. Or learning how to write short stories. Or what about learning how to build your own computer? Having a non-swimming skill, hobby or interest is important to maintain a sense of balance and perspective in your life.
  20. Clean out your swimming workout bag!!! There are more varieties of mould and fungi growing in the bottom of most swimming bags than you’d find in some of the biggest pharmaceutical laboratories!!! Clean out your swimming bag!
  21. Work on strengthening and stabilizing your “core”. Strengthening and stabilizing your core will help every aspect of your swimming. It will help your “connect” your upper and lower body which will increase your potential to apply greater force and power to the water. It can potentially decrease your risk of injury. It’s a great time right now to strengthen and stabilise the core muscles around your pelvis, abdominal region, lower and upper back and shoulders.
  22. Learn to meditate. Meditation is one of the most powerful and important skills anyone can learn. Research tells us that meditation has the potential to “re-wire” your brain which is why it is recommended for people dealing with stress, anxiety and depression. From a swimming performance perspective, meditation can help you with relaxation, with concentration, with focusing and with practically every aspect of your swimming training, racing and recovery. 
  23. Make an “I will” list. One of the challenges of having a break is falling for the trap of making “false-promises” to yourself, i.e. “when I get back to training, I’ll never have a day off”, “I’ll never breath inside the flags”, “I’ll never do a sloppy finish” etc. etc. WRITE IT DOWN! Make an “I WILL” list, i.e. statements that begin with the words I WILL: promises to yourself about your training and racing that you WILL keep. 
  24. Learn as much as you can about nutrition, hydration, vitamins, supplements and well-being. What you eat and drink today – swims tomorrow! Or if you like – “Put high performance fuel in high performance engines”. No matter which way you say it, learning how to shop for, prepare and cook healthy, nutritious meals is a wonderful way to improve your swimming, enhance your recovery and life a long, happy life.
  25. Go to You Tube or another on-line video platform and search for videos recorded by champion athletes and coaches in other sports about “success” and “dedication” and “commitment” and resilience” and “mental strength”. What do NBA players do to stay motivated? How do NFL players prepare for important games? How do professional soccer players deal with set-backs and injures and overcome difficulties? You can learn a lot from other athletes in other sports. 


  1. You can say the same thing many, many ways….”when life gives you lemons, make lemonade” but in the end, in those moments when you feel powerless and vulnerable, choosing how to think about, talk about and react to what’s happening to you and around you is incredibly powerful, uplifting and inspirational. 
  2. You COULD sit at home on the couch and do nothing. You COULD moan and groan and complain about how unfair life is and how terrible this situation is OR you can choose to find ways to get better at training and racing even if you’re not training and racing.
  3. The greatest power you have right now is the power of choice. Choose to control the things you can control. Choose to do the things that will help you get better at training and racing and I promise you that when you get back in the water and into the gym, you’ll be the best you’ve ever been.

Wayne Goldsmith – Further Info:


    • avatar
      Liz Nelson

      Thank You for your guidance through these unchartered waters. This will be a lifeline for some of our swimmers.

    • avatar

      Очень разносторонне

  1. Kate Ericsson

    great article!!! I miss my swim buddies. Marcia Barry Carolyn Lowe-Thompson Staci Maroney

  2. Missy McCracken

    Alicia Dekau Berglund – can Carmel swim club share these?

  3. Bess Swanson

    Swimming world. It’s gonna be every parents favorite article of the year. Clean room AND clean swim bag. Them bags though?

  4. Marcia Barry

    How about a couple more weeks of warm weather, a wetsuit, and out to the lake!

    • Marcia Barry

      Kate Ericsson we are there! Rode on the greenway- hiked with the dogs!

    • Kate Ericsson

      Marcia Barry same here. oh and I saw a post where someone swam at SML in a wetsuit and it wasn’t too cold

    • Marcia Barry

      Kate Ericsson google SML lake water temp. The highest I can find is 56- not that desperate yet!

  5. Georgina Logan

    Iona Logan Megan Sharp Isla Williams Hahja Gshshsu

  6. Kelly Spencer Williams

    I’m so thankful we bought a house with a 25Y lap lane in May! Keeping my swimmer in the water is keeping my sanity intact!

    • Heather York DiFulvio

      Kelly Spencer Williams That sounds wonderful! If it gets warmer here, I may take my teenager down to his grandparents house to swim in their regular pool, just to get some sort of water movement in…

  7. avatar
    Liz Nelson

    Thank You for your guidance through these unchartered waters. This will be a lifeline for some of our swimmers.

  8. Kate Stewart

    Margaret Matthews I read an article you tagged Charlie in and now Facebook is filling my feed with swimming articles. LOL. Although my pool IS closed so I WAS interested in this one.

    • Paul Taylor

      Erin Hollingsworth Wayne Goldsmith is the greatest

  9. avatar

    Merci !