The latest articles from Olivier Leroy
If there was one thing you could do to swim faster tomorrow what would it be?
What is of the up,
Easily one of the most frequent questions I get from some of you beauties is a variation of the following:
“If there is one thing I could do to swim faster tomorrow, what would it be?”
To which I would say…
- Grow 17 inches.
- Tape dinner plates to your hands.
- Wait for someone to hand you the motivation you need to train your butt off.
Then again, that stuff all sounds silly.
But does it?
After all, how many times have you daydreamed about suddenly—and without having to work for it—being wildly successful?
Or fantasized about all the cool stuff you want to achieve in the water… sans the two-a-days and having to challenge yourself on a daily basis?
I’ve been just as guilty.
It’s natural to want all the goodies and accolades without the hard work.
(We are literally wired to seek out the path of least resistance. “Not working hard” absolutely falls into this category.)
But if you do want the records, the personal bests and the hysterical success, than if I had to pick one thing that would help you swim faster tomorrow…
Just one thing…
It would be to accept that you are going to have to hustle.
And here is why accepting that you are gonna have to hustle will work beyond your wildest imaginations to make you a faster swimmer (and also crush whatever goals you have when you aren’t water logged)—
The hustle is…
An unwavering commitment.
It’s a tidal-wave of deliberate, aggressive action. It’s the “rage to master.” It’s a refusal to wait, to sit, to accept anything but forward movement.
It’s leaning forwards into the wind, jacket flapping like one of them goofy weather reporters in a typhoon, and stepping forward, step by step, inch by inch, no matter how vicious the resistance.
It’s a violent and ceaseless determination.
It’s adaptability. It’s the willingness to try new things. It’s the humility to know what doesn’t work and to retool and rethink.
It’s like water. Fluid, unstoppable, and no matter what you put in front of it, the hustle will find a way around, under, above, or through it. It’s inescapable. It’s pre-destined.
While the rest look for shortcuts, for tricks, for hacks, high performing swimmers lean on the hustle.
It is allergic to excuses. It swats aside procrastination. It simply doesn’t have time for it or them.
It doesn’t hope or wish, or dream or fantasize. It gets down to work and busies itself with stomping down harder on the accelerator.
It willingly takes responsibility. Appreciates accountability. And holds itself to a higher standard.
It quite literally feeds off of the doubt and cynicism of others.
(My dad—unbeknownst to me at the time—mastered this with me. He would pass along some negative smack talk that a fellow swimmer or coach had said about me. Whether it was completely made up or not didn't matter, as nothing quite got the gears going like someone telling me I couldn’t do something.)
It recognizes the inescapable fact that no one is going to come along and hand you what you want. There is no back up. No genie in a bottle waiting to be stumbled upon.
Success in the pool belongs to those who hustle.
No matter if you are gifted with those dinner plates, have Phelpsonian amounts of talent and five Eddie Reese’s in your corner.
When you understand that you and you alone have got this…
That you have the power to be the swimmer you want to be…
Than you’ll fully grasp that…
It’s time to unleash the hustle.
Will You be Great?
We all dream of achieving the pinnacle of excellence.
But few have the stomach for what comes next.
The hard work, the sacrifice, the time spent honing and perfecting our technique, elevating our conditioning until that moment where we stand up on the blocks and let it all fly.
Here are three things you should consider before chasing down some organic, free range greatness...
What is greatness going to cost you?
In the immortal words of Snoop Dogg (or B.B. King if your musical tastes are a little more, ahem, aged), “you gotta pay the cost to be the boss”.
What will you have to pay to achieve greatness?
Podium-topping success comes with an equitable amount of sacrifice. The idea that we can have our cake and eat it too is sold to us via advertising (“Swim faster with no effort!”), but if you want to achieve something awesome in the pool you’ll have to earn it. (Shocking, I know.)
Daydreaming about success is fun, and therein lies a common problem—those fantasies can feel so real, so tantalizingly close that when confronted with the harsh reality that an obscene amount of work and time is required to make them come to pass that we recoil in disgust.
(“Eww, two-a-days? No, thanks.”)
Are you willing to do what is necessary?
It’s okay to say no—there are an endless number of reasons to say so.
But if you…
- Plan on being on the blocks the next time the Olympics come around.
- Wanna go to a Div 1 school and get your education paid for.
- Want to be the best dolphin kicker on the team.
- Plan on breaking a minute for the 100 freestyle for the first time.
…then you need to determine what it is going to cost.
There is no shortcut, and no getting around this fact.
If you ask any elite athlete if they were able to sandbag their way to excellence, they will laugh.
What is the cost for you to be great?
What does your schedule for greatness look like?
It’s easy to ignore the importance of the day-to-day grind in favor of the lustre and shine that comes with fantasizing about our goals of greatness. Talking and dreaming about our goals is fun, actually living them—not so much.
Having a goal is a crucial step, but it is an empty one without a plan to get there.
And even here most swimmers fall short—they will describe what they need to do (“Faster turns!” or “Better breakouts!”) but not outline what they are going to do.
What are the systems, habits and routines that you will have to put in place to achieve greatness?
Let’s say that you intend on smashing your personal best time and breaking the state record. To do so you’ve determined that you need to improve your kick. Knowing this, what will you do on a daily basis to get there? What are the things you will inject into your practices in and out of the pool to achieve this objective?
- Spend an extra 10-15 minutes after PM practices doing vertical kick?
- Focus on banging out perfect breakouts in practice from warm-up to warm-down?
- Do bonus hamstring and hip stretches at home on Tuesday-Saturday nights?
- Run stairs on your own for 35 minutes at the stadium on Saturday and Sundays?
What will your schedule look like for you to earn greatness?
Will you be a little (okay, maybe more than just a little...) stubborn?
Okay, so you have your crazy goal.
A determination to earn it.
And maybe you have a schedule to achieve it mapped out.
Assuming you are ready to rock and roll, you will next encounter resistance.
Somebody, somewhere, at some point, if your goal is lofty enough, will tell you it won’t happen.
It might come from a teammate, or worse, a parent or coach.
Resistance comes in various forms. Dismissal of your goals as too ambitious for your abilities, the negative influence of those you surround yourself with (“Oh it’s just one morning workout, what’s the big deal?”), to outright jealousy and blockage.
A curious symptom of those who are jealous of what you are doing is that they now don’t have the feeling of superiority over you.
Isn’t that a weird thing? Because you choose to do something great, it makes them feel lesser than they like, leading them to hate on what you are doing. (“I couldn’t do it so why should they?”)
At the end of the day, if you know in your heart that greatness is upon you, will you be stubborn enough to see past those who doubt you?
There is nothing inherently wrong with simply doing your time when it comes to your swimming career.
For many the friendships, competition and travel are all they aspire to in their years of circling the black line.
But if you are ready to take it further, to extend yourself over and over again to the point of breaking, to take your talent and abilities for a sky-screaming rip, than it leads me to ask—will you be great?
When you are ready you know where to go.
Why Not You???
Over the couple of years that I have been writing for SwimSwam I have received a significant amount of email from readers of my articles.
Many of them seek advice, while others reach out to share stories about their own swimming journey.
In this heap of correspondence I have read stories of hope, of frustration, of success and of failure, but there is perhaps nothing that drives me to react more viscerally than a variation of the following:
“I have goal to win a medal at nationals but my teammates and parents don’t think I can do it.”
Look, I fully appreciate and understand the need to be moderately realistic with the goals you set.
(When I was a kid I wanted to be a Transformer. That didn’t quite pan out.)
But what I don’t understand is people telling someone that they simply cannot do something.
(Or worse yet, laugh...)
Tell them what it will take, sure, explain to them in gruesome detail all the work it will take to accomplish this goal...
The superhuman commitment and dedication required to achieve superhuman feats in the pool...
But to flat-out tell a swimmer they cannot do something they dream about makes my blood boil.
In replying to these emails I generally ask the swimmer a simple question: “Why not you?”
Today a swimmer will dare to dream a little bit bigger.
Why not you?
The dedication and steps that are necessary to drop 3 seconds from your best time are the same that are required to drop 5 seconds. With high aspirations comes more effort, so why not stretch what you want to accomplish a little further?
Big dreams require more work. They require fearlessness to overcome the small thinking of those around you (and all too often yourself). And they require you to adjust what you think is possible.
In the words of Tom Hardy’s character Eames in the film Inception, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”
Today a swimmer will decide that they will make the full commitment necessary to achieve their goals.
Why not you?
It can be frightening to go whole-heartedly after something you crave dearly. All sorts of doubts and fears plague you not only at the outset, but at every junction and step along the way.
Setbacks and errors will be overly scrutinized, somehow symbolic of a greater conspiracy for you to not achieve big things.
Similarly, many swimmers hold themselves back because they don’t feel completely ready to charge forward, waiting for the moment that they are 100% prepared. Opportunity and life does not wait for you.
If you sit around waiting for that fictionalized moment where the stars align, where things are just right, than you will not only be waiting a painfully long time, but the opportunities that are before you now will float by.
Today a swimmer will do it a little bit better than they did yesterday.
Why not you?
Success in the pool, and any endeavor in life, is a result of making small gains, barely perceptible gains, those 1% improvements, consistently over the long haul.
When we watch others succeed in a grand, sudden moment of epicness we come to believe that this is how change is applied with our training as well; big, sweeping, dramatic moments of uprooting change.
In reality it’s not like that at all. It’s the constant application of making yourself a little bit better every time you jump into the pool. Bit by bit, inch by inch.
Today a swimmer will decide to have better habits in the pool.
Why not you?
Our habits are the foundation of our swimming.
From whether or not we get up for morning to practice, to exercising good nutritional consumption, to maintaining technique when fatigued, the myriad of habits we have in the pool forms the swimmer that gets up on the blocks come meet time. These habits can become such second-nature to the point that we don’t even think about them anymore.
Deciding to use this power of automaticity for the betterment of your swimming is the closest you will get to putting success on auto-pilot.
When doing the tough thing, the hard thing, the right thing, becomes second nature those big scary goals will begin to crumble before you.
Today a swimmer will help others succeed.
Why not you?
It’s understandable that as a high flying athlete you get caught up in your own swimming.
You have a lot of things on your plate, after all.
Between the two-a-days, cramming in work and school, and achieving the amount of rest and endless eating to make this all possible, it is easy to lose sight of the passion you have for the sport.
An easy way to get back in touch with why you love the sport is by giving back.
Spend a few minutes working with one of the youngsters on your team.
(They look up to you more than you know.)
Encourage a teammate that is having a tough workout. Be the one who steps up and makes the training environment one that is more enjoyable for everyone.
These things may seem trivial, but they can go a long way in not only deepening the passion you have for the sport, but also in developing a place for you and your teammates that fosters success.
You were built to do some great stuff. Whether you do it or not is up to you. Not your coach, not your parents, not your friends.
Instead of looking at the swimmers around you doing big things with their swimming look in the mirror and ask...
“Why not me?”
The Lies we tell Ourselves at the Pool
The big ‘mo.
Surely you’ve experienced it at one time or another.
You put together a couple awesome workouts in the pool, and you can’t help but feel a growing surge of power at your back, as though the accumulated positivity and accomplishment in recent days is pushing you forward and onward.
But then what happens?
We slacken off. We miss a day.
And then we start back at square one, picking up the pieces, trying to get back to that place we just were.
It’s kind of infuriating, no?
Sometimes the reasons that we take both our feets off of the accelerator are out of our control. Injury. Illness. House of Cards season 3 comes out.
But a lot of the time, it is because of the mental wizardry that we use against ourselves.
Here are 3 of the goofy lies that we (a.k.a. “I”) ply ourselves with that arrest the big ‘mo dead in its tracks…
I did good yesterday, so I can take it easy today.
This is something I prefer to call the cupcake fallacy (I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I will fully admit to being uncontrollable around cupcakes), and it is something that makes us feel good about the poor decisions we are about to make.
Here are a couple examples…
I swam super duper awesome yesterday, so that means I can totally slack off today.
I ate really well over the weekend, so I can dive head first into this box of cupcakes guilt-free.
I am planning on doing really good tomorrow, so I can totally do whatever today.
This is the previous lie’s ugly step-sister. Just in the future. (All of the step-sisters and step-brothers are ugly. Smooth talkers, though.)
We justify not giving a full effort, or giving the practice at hand our full attention by promising that in the future we will do so much better.
But rarely, if ever, does this happen. (Tomorrow you’ll say the same thing, or come up with a different excuse.)
Do you recognize any of these…
I am not feeling totally up to it, but I am sure I will be tomorrow.
My stroke doesn’t feel as good as I want it to today, but tomorrow—no matter what!—I will give a killer effort at practice.
It’s just one workout.
Is it, though?
How many times have you caught yourself saying that?
Just once, right?
Nope. That is incorrect.
It might only seem like once, but I promise you that the “just one time’s!” have accumulated up to being something sizable.
Because it is only “one workout” it doesn’t seem like much, and might seem close to the point of meaningless, but the sum total of times you use this excuse can add up to something very substantial indeed. (Every time I use the word "indeed" it makes me feel 6 IQ points smarter. Fact!)
Ultimately, just “one workout” probably won’t make much of a difference. But the routine of showing up every day is massive.
What are the goofy reasons you come up with to avoid maintaining the big ‘mo in the pool?
See you at the pool,
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