Although details of the swim life can look very different from season to season and team to team, there are a couple aspects of a swimmer’s journey that nearly everyone can relate to: the grind, the challenges, and the hope that it all pays off in the end.
That’s why it’s CRUCIAL to understand the why behind your craft. And not just one overarching reason for why you do what you do, but little ones along the way to help you when motivation falls to the wayside. That’s what we’ll be discussing in today’s blog post (feel free to save this webpage for a rainy day to come back to when you need some inspiration).
Let’s Get Started…
Understanding the Nature of Motivation:
First things first, let’s start with WHY understanding your personal WHY is important (otherwise, what would be the point of this blog post?). The reality is that as humans, we have limited resources (time, money, energy, willpower, etc). At the beginning of the season, after a break, our resources are plentiful. We can set goals looking towards the future with a hopeful heart when we’re fully in love with swimming.
But, what we often don’t account for is what happens when our resources begin to run low. We all have had the experience of trying to decide whether or not to attend practice after a tough day at school or a tough set the day before. This is a GREAT example of making choices when resources are low (And resources being low drastically reduces motivation).
So are we doomed? What do we do to keep going during that middle of the season grind “slump”?
Answer: Fall Back On YOUR WHY
What is Your WHY?
Your Why is YOUR specific reason for committing to the goals that you did at the beginning of the season when resources were plenty. In order to really work, your WHY has to have a couple of characteristics:
- Your WHY must be “bigger” than you. It must be a reason that keeps you accountable when things get tough. This could be that you’re swimming for a team, for a family member, for a religious reason, or even for a life goal that you’re trying to achieve (for example maybe you’re trying to drop time to get recruited to swim in college). Whatever it is, having a reason to keep going that is bigger than yourself is MUCH more effective than just relying on personal brute willpower. Remember, willpower is a resource, and you will run low some days!
- It must become a source of inspiration for you. For the same reason that it must be bigger than you, your why has to spark a passion deep inside you that will inspire you to keep going. Inspiration is what gets us out of bed every morning, so make sure that your why inspires you deeply.
- Finally, your why it must be personal to you. Although we all *technically* want the same thing (to go faster), the reason behind why we want to go faster will be different. This part of your why will likely be different depending on your circumstances. Think about your specific set of goals and obstacles and figure out your why according to those. Using somebody else’s WHY just won’t be effective, because it doesn’t bring up the emotional response needed to inspire you.
Something surprising to a lot of people is that you actually need MULTIPLE whys. That’s because there’s a time component to your motivation and to the reason behind doing what you’re doing. A lot of times it helps to remember the big reason why you’re doing something, while other times you need to break it down into smaller, more actionable reasons. Let’s talk more about this:
Examples in Swim Life: The Long-Term Why
Your WHY that acts as more of an overarching theme will be considered more of your long-term why. This is something that you can come back to every day no matter what else is happening in your life.
When you sit down at the beginning of the season to write your goals, take a minute to take stock of your circumstances. Here are some long-term “whys” you could have:
- Make a cut or a team that you never have before
- Be proud of your work ethic or improve your character
- Get a spot on the high school or college team
- Help your team win a big meet
- Swim for your family or anything important in your life
This list isn’t the only possible big, long-term whys you could have, but just something to start getting you thinking! Remember, the more personal your why, the better it will help you in the middle of the grind.
Examples in Swim Life: The Short-Term Why
Although having a long-term why helps you to show up day in and day out, it also helps to break down each set that you do into smaller, short-term whys.
Examples of the short-term why could be:
- Strengthen yourself (Click here for the 10 best strength training exercises for swimmers!)
- Add flexibility
- Gain cardio strength
- Get faster at sprinting
- Hit an interval you never have before
This method allows you to take a set that you HATE (just as an example), and give yourself a short burst of inspiration and accountability. It’s much easier to push yourself when your reason for doing so is to hit a faster interval than you ever have before than it is to say “I need to do this set because I want to make the high school team.” Breaking down your big goal helps you along the way.
Here at SLAF, we put a lot of emphasis on our own mental training and toughness. And that’s no coincidence given that’s what each of us have learned in the pool and the gym. At SLAF, our why is YOU. Our why is making the entire swimming world faster. It’s bigger than us, it’s inspiring for us, and it’s very personal to our company.
So what’s YOUR WHY? Let us know in the comments!
Until next time,
Abbie Fish and the SLAF Team