Swimming Can Be a Brutal Sport: 7 Tips to Persevere Through the Tough Times

Photo Courtesy: UNO Swim & Dive

Swimming Can Be a Brutal Sport: Remember These Tips

The act of being vulnerable is different for everyone. As aquatic athletes, we put a lot of ourselves out for the world to see, and it takes a lot to do what we do every day. Swimming is a fairly individualized sport, so however we swim in a given meet seems like a clear indication of how we’ve been progressing in the water – yet this can easily be a stretch.

Being in a rut and having bad races can be incredibly hard to bounce back from. We don’t talk about it very often, but there comes a point in our career when we question our intentions in the pool. We love swimming with all of our being and couldn’t imagine our lives without it, but we can only handle so much.

When it comes down to it, we fell in love with swimming for a reason. Sometimes, we can lose sight of ourselves, and our passion gets buried behind bigger struggles. It’s important that we take a step back from reality, redefine ourselves as swimmers, and remember why that little kid deep inside of us picked up a pair of goggles in the first place.

Here are seven things every swimmer needs to hear:

1. Body image is hard. Don’t feel alone because you don’t look like everyone else in a swim suit.


Photo Courtesy: UNO Swim & Dive

We were all made uniquely different for a reason, so we shouldn’t be comparing ourselves to others, let alone associating our worth with our body shapes… Society does that enough for us, right? And chances are, whoever we look up to most likely strives to be like someone else as well.  It’s really a never-ending cycle. Remember that you are perfect just the way you are, and your suit fits you just as it should. Besides, you only swim as confident as you feel, so own it! Embrace your imperfections and love who you are – inside AND out!

2. Turn your failures into opportunities for improvement.


Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

It’s okay to fail. Just because something didn’t turn out as well as you hoped doesn’t mean that it’s wasted time. In fact, the only time wasted is that which isn’t spent exploring new opportunities. So yes, you will fall down sometimes and may not do as well as you wanted to do; but, find something good in your experience anyway. Don’t allow you to judge yourself by your times. Focus on a small part of your race or practice that you thought went well – start small and work your way up. Whether it be underwaters, good break outs or killer turns, there’s always something you can smile about. If all else fails, be proud of yourself for doing what you do anyway and having the guts to keep going, even when it’s hard. That, in itself, is a victory.

3. You don’t always have to be the fastest.

And, chances are, you may never truly be. Sometimes, this one is the hardest to swallow. As kids, our dream was to go to the Olympics and swim alongside our super heroes and role models. Seeing them win gold medals and cry tears of joy seemed like a pretty good goal in life for a while – until reality hits you, and you realize how difficult it is. Because swimming is a sport almost solely based on times and medals, it’s hard to find meaning in yourself when you aren’t on the podium. You push as hard as you can at practice, but sometimes, it just isn’t enough. Not to mention, it’s hard to be happy when your teammates drop time left and right, and you haven’t gotten close to your best time in years.

So, what do we do? What do we make of ourselves? We make the most of it; that’s what we do. Just because we don’t add to the points doesn’t mean that we aren’t as valuable. Everyone contributes in a different and unique way, and you’re no exception.

4. You’re an asset to your team in far more ways than one.

Just because you aren’t the best doesn’t mean you aren’t valuable. It can be so hard to see, but everyone on a team has a role, regardless if they put up points. For some of us, there comes a point in our careers where there really is no “faster”… But there’s always “better.” It’s painful to face the truth and realize that you may never be the swimmer that you always wanted to be, but it takes guts to find your purpose beyond what your goggles can see.

When it comes down to it, times do not matter, nor will they matter 10 years from now. What we will remember, however, is the wonderful memories and friendships that we’ve created over time. So sure, you may not add 17 points to the trophy, but you definitely put the time and effort into it as everyone else did. You have every right to celebrate the victory as hard as everyone else does.

Do not let your times dictate your worth on your team, because your value goes far beyond any pool you’ve ever swum in. Better yourself in a different and remarkable way. Make people remember you for your love, strength and courage outside of the water. Be the best teammate you can be; be unforgettable. Most importantly, be you and be happy. That’s all that truly matters.

5. You work hard. Be proud of yourself.

Swimming is hard; probably one of the hardest things we will ever do in our lives. We sacrifice so much for the love of our sport. We give up sleep and socializing to be in the water at 4 a.m. We push our bodies past the point of injury sometimes, yet we still keep going. Even if we wanted to, quitting just simply isn’t our vocabulary, because we’d be so lost without the pool.

Regardless if you believe or not, you’re truly a unique breed in today’s society. Not a lot of people can say that they dedicate their lives to a sport for 20-some hours a week on top of maintaining some sort of life, so don’t let anyone discredit you because you aren’t as fast as others. You work hard every day to be the best version of yourself, and that cannot be compared to anyone else around you. Be proud of what you’ve accomplished this far and continue to aim for improvement, not perfection.

6. For every good day, there are a thousand bad ones.

If swimming were easy, everyone would do it. It’s impossible to be successful in everything you do. You’re going to struggle through a couple of practices, miss some intervals, and add time in your best race. It’s normal, and that’s what makes us human. We have bad days and acceptance is hard to tackle, but it can honestly be one of the most rewarding feelings ever.

Accepting our failures and learning from them is what allows us to improve. Not to mention, it’s undeniable that one of the greatest feelings in the world is having that one awesome practice, killing a great set or getting a best time. Everything becomes worth it for that one moment, and that’s why we continue to do what we do every day. The tough days are what make you stronger. You can’t appreciate a good day in all of its glory without struggling through some of the others. Remember that.

7. Be thankful for what you have.


Photo Courtesy:UNO Swim & Dive

Sometimes, we forget how lucky we are to have what we do. Be grateful for everything in your life – in the pool and beyond. The only person out there who can hold you back from your dreams is you. Be hungry for more but be accepting as well. You have the opportunity to swim every day with some of the most wonderful teammates. Your coaches are there for you. You may swim for them, but they will do everything they can to help you reach your goals, and they’ll support you every step of the way.

You’ve found your niche in your own part of the world, and you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing; don’t questioning it. Embrace it with gratitude and keep going. Enjoy every moment you have, good and bad. Before you know it, what is now the greatest time of your life will be all but a distant memory, so give all you can while you can. It’s worth it for far more reasons than one.

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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