Five Inspirational Books to Read During Winter Training

Photo Courtesy: Johannes Jansson

Commentary by Norah Hunt, Swimming World College Intern. 

While almost everyone loves the holidays, for swimmers there is a certain amount of dread that inevitably manifests itself this time of year. This anxiety can be chiefly attributed to holiday training.

In truth, it is daunting. Doubles after doubles, scary test sets, some absurdly long New Years practice; these will all get the best of even the most dedicated and passionate swimmer.

The trick for fighting the holiday training blues is to constantly remain inspired. Here are five books about swimming that are sure to motivate even the least excited athlete:


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Beneath the Surface: My Story by Michael Phelps

This is the most updated version of Michael Phelps’ autobiography, and it provides a behind the scenes look into the life of an athlete the world thinks it already knows.  While taking us through every Olympics and every great success, the most interesting parts of the book center around Michael’s upbringing. Raised in a single parent household while battling attention deficit disorder, Michael is a perfect example of a kid with a relentless dream that simply never stopped raising the bar for himself.

three year swim club

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The Three Year Swim Club by Julie Checkoway

In 1937, a group of poverty-stricken kids in the sugar plantations of Maui set out to become Olympic swimmers. They had no pool (they trained in irrigation ditches), and they were often undernourished. Nevertheless, they quickly became the best swimmers in the world. The dawning of World War II and the cancellation of the Olympic Games made these youths the ultimate underdogs, and their story is about as inspiring as it gets.


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Chasing Water: Elegy of An Olympian by Anthony Ervin

The story of Anthony Ervin is simply incredible.He is an extremely gifted athlete,  and the fact that his two gold medals were won sixteen years apart is a testament to the type of journey he has had. This memoir is not so much focused on his swimming feats as it is his journey and the steps he took to find himself again after many reckless years. Perhaps most inspiring for young swimmers is the idea that even though Ervin left the sport for a substantial amount of time, the water was alway there to welcome him home.

lynne cox

Photo Courtesy: teen

Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox 

Lynne Cox is a long distance swimmer who has successfully completed some mind blowing swims that include the English Channel, the Strait of Magellan, the Cape of Good Hope, part of the Nile River, the Bering Strait, and even a mile in the iceberg ridden Antarctica. Her honest and unflinching memoir takes readers through her unique journey, and her honest depictions of some of her swims will make even the longest IM set seem like a walk in the park.


Photo Courtesy:pac

In the Water They Can’t See You Cry by Amanda Beard

 This New York Times bestseller is perhaps one of the best portrayals of the disastrous effects of being thrown into the spotlight at such a young age. Amanda Beard was 14 when she won bronze at the Atlanta Olympic Games, and her incredibly honest memoir depicts her struggles with managing the spotlight and the attention that it brought. The incredibly candid book ends on a positive note, as Beard describes the newfound happiness she has obtained. Beard’s unflinching descriptions of her struggles are extremely heartfelt, and her love for the water will resonate with all swimmers.

Winter training is a long, grueling time of the season. However, it is also an incredibly rewarding time to conquer the seemingly impossible with teammates and coaches. Our sport is filled with people that have overcome and that have persevered, and it is important to remember and draw courage from their stories. Whatever the next few weeks of training through at you, remember that you always have the strength to tackle that double or push through that tough dryland. You can always go longer than you think you can. Best of luck!

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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Lisa Beagle
6 years ago

Taylor Beagle

Swimming Pool Lovers
6 years ago

Yay 🙂

Dirk Smith
6 years ago

“The Three Year Swim Club” was such an awesome book! I’m glad to see it on this list!

Andy Cinoman
Andy Cinoman
6 years ago

Swimming to Antarctica is a fantastic read – Lynne Cox is an all-time great in the sport of swimming and a wonderful writer.

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