6 Cliché Motivational Quotes That Actually Have Merit

Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

By Maggie Lasto, Swimming World College Intern.

As swimmers we’ve all heard – or at least seen – the classic, cliché motivational quotes during practice, at meets or even printed on the backs of T-shirts and posters. Pool decks are a breeding ground for this type of positivity. Being surrounded by slogans so often makes it easy to ignore or disregard them. However, if we actually take the time to think about what our coaches are preaching, we may be surprised by the impact they can make on our swimming successes. Here are six quotes you may want to consider writing down on a note card and posting in your locker room for the next practice:

1. “The hay is in the barn.”


Photo Courtesy: Pexels

This quote is another way of saying that everything we need is already inside of us. Usually said around taper or meet days, it reminds us that all the work we have put in at practice has prepared us for this moment. Now, we are ready to put it to good use. By practicing day in and day out, we are building up our muscle memory. Muscle memory works by carrying out the tasks we train our bodies to do repeatedly. When we force our bodies to work hard at practice, our brains will instinctively tell our bodies to do the same at meets. It is important to remember that if we are not working to put “the hay in the barn” every day at practice, then we can’t expect to be prepared on meet day.

2. “Your mind is like a parachute: it only works if it’s open.”


Photo Courtesy: Erik Scheel

We all know what could happen if a parachute didn’t open: bad things. The same would happen with our brains. A closed mind means that our brains can’t function to their full capacity. The Theory of Two Mindsets coined by psychologist Carol Dweck proposes that people either have growth mindsets or fixed mindsets. The idea is that those who lead their life based on wanting to grow and learn are on the path to success, while those who feel they’ve already reached their peak will not.  If we can train our brains to learn from others, face challenges with positivity and appreciate effort, then we will trick our bodies into reaching our full potential.

3. “The body achieves what the mind believes.”


Photo Courtesy: Swimming Canada/Irwin Wong

Sure, we all know that our mind controls our body, but it is much more than that. The way we perceive ourselves can drastically change our swimming success. The beliefs we have about ourselves change the biochemistry of our bodies and act as commands to the brain. Beliefs are intertwined with emotion. The feelings we have act as filters that block sensory information from reaching the brain. When we change our thoughts, our cell membranes become more receptive, changing the way we behave. So, when you’re about to swim the 400 IM and those negative thoughts start creeping in, use thought-stopping to change to a growth mindset. If you tell yourself, “This is an opportunity to learn how to race this better and sharpen my turns,” you just might start seeing things change for you!

4. ”Concentration plus determination equals success.”


Photo Courtesy: Pexels

According to this quote, the key to success is concentration and determination. Concentration is a large part of the equation because it gives us the ability to quiet our minds, focus on the present and avoid distractions. Visualization is very beneficial for swimmers to practice. You can visualize in many different settings, but many choose to lie down on the pool deck, close their eyes and picture the perfect race in their head in detail. You want to see yourself swimming the race from start to finish and achieving the goal you set. Not only does concentrated thought hard-wire our brain to carry out these events, it also shifts frontal brain activity towards a positive emotional state. To learn more about visualization, read FINIS training tip of the week by clicking this link.

5. ”No pain, no gain.”


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Pain isn’t fun, but soreness is a common occurrence for swimmers. Ice packs are basically attached to them at all times, and although this doesn’t feel like a good thing, it is! It is important to overwork muscles in order to get stronger. The soreness we feel comes from microscopic tears in the muscle after a hard workout. Eventually, the body works to fix the tears and builds up the muscle to protect it from getting damaged again. This means that we are getting stronger and building up a resilience to the exercise. If we kick a lot at practice and get sore, then hopefully the next time we can kick even more! Just don’t forget to have good recovery nutrition so that you can rebuild muscle and replenish your energy stores.

 6. “Look in the mirror – that is your competition.”


Photo Courtesy: Scott Webb

The sport is called competitive swimming for a reason: we all want to beat the bodies in the lanes next to us. But before we can do that, we must face ourselves. Most of the time, we (our thoughts) are the biggest thing getting our way. It is easy to turn to negativity when we are sore, tired, nervous or anxious. Focusing on negativity slows down the brain and diminishes its ability to function. With a slower brain, we are already a step behind our competitor. If we truly want to be the best we can be, we must fight off the negativity in our heads and allow positivity to be the winning opponent.

The next time a cliché quote is heard at practice or plastered on a poster, stop and take a minute to think about it. These words may have much more meaning than you initially thought!

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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Gresha Gonzales
5 years ago

Good info . Thank you

Finn Lyon
5 years ago

Lin Tozer

Mikal Botha
5 years ago

Carmen Botha

Brenda Dayton
5 years ago

Isabella Cesareo

maureen fahey
maureen fahey
5 years ago

Excellent job Maggie! So true! ~Coach

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