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by Matt Donovan

March 25, 2019

Try these things to get back into top form

We’ve all been there and it’s not fun. When you’re in a slump, it seems like there’s no way out. But if you’re willing to shake things up, you can find your way back to training and racing even better than you were before.

What causes a slump? Unfortunately, it’s usually the same thing that makes any athlete great: repetition. Doing something over and over can help someone become an elite athlete, but it can also lead to a fixed mindset and monotony in training. When this happens, your body and mind become lethargic. No matter what kind of training you prefer—whether it’s old school sets like 10 x 500s or ultrashort race-pace training—when you go to the same well all the time, the positive benefits of the training will eventually taper off. Paraphrasing Michael Phelps’ former coach Bob Bowman: “Broccoli is great, but if that’s the only thing you eat, you don’t have a well-balanced diet.”

Here are some things you can do to snap your slump and get back into top form.

Practice in a Different Lane or a Different Order

Are you the type of person who always has to be in the water first, leading the lane, and swimming in “your” lane or the fast lane? Then change it up. Get in the pool last, go second or third in a lane, and swim in the slow lane.

Be mindful of others who don’t have the same skills as you, but swim with them. Interact with someone on your club or at your pool you’ve never met before. In addition to making a new friend, you’ll have a new appreciation for swimming.

Watching hours of film of Olympians is less impactful than the information you can gain by watching a beginner for 10 minutes. Watching a novice swim will give you a very powerful outlook on the sport. You may pick up on a technique flaw that you haven’t seen before. Because their flaws are more pronounced, it’s easier to see why a particular drill or skill has such significance. Additionally, you may re-ignite your love of the sport by helping out a teammate. Maybe you haven’t dropped time in quite a while, but a tip or two that you give a fellow swimmer might make a huge impact and put a smile on your face as well.

Have Someone Film You in Practice and Meets

Coaches can talk until they’re blue in the face, but if you can’t visualize it, it will never be real. The power of filming can’t be understated.

If you’re not currently working with a coach or a Masters club, find someone to give you private lessons. They don’t have to be the greatest coach in the world, just someone to give you some new things to think about.

Stop Going to the Same Meets and Entering the Same Events

Stop pigeonholing yourself as a “sprinter” or a “backstroker.” You’re a swimmer! Just go out and have fun. Enter a race that you think you’ll finish dead last in. Two things will happen: 1) You’ll get nervous behind the blocks in a way that you don’t get in your signature event. (This is a good thing. Remember this feeling. Revisit it when you go back to your traditional events. Go find that fire and save it for when you need it most); and 2) you’ll drop time and chances are you won’t finish last. Show yourself that you’re still improving and getting faster. Even Hall of Famer Babe Ruth didn’t hit a home run every time. Just get on base. You don’t need to swing for the fences every single time.

And while you’re at it, go to a new pool in a new place where no one knows your name or what you swim. Get that new pool feel. Get the jitters, get the butterflies, and get excited to swim.

Reconnect With an Old Coach

Reach out to your old coach and send the that video you had someone take of you. This is the coach who made you who you are, probably knows you better than you know yourself, and definitely will have some insight for you. That old coach can easily remind you of some drills that you used to do and get you back on track. That coach may have learned a few new tricks since you last talked and can likely take your swimming to another level.

Coaches love hearing from their old swimmers. Trust me, I speak from experience. Nothing brightens my day more than hearing from my old swimmers and knowing that I can still help them out in some way. So, call up your old coach—you’ll both benefit.


  • Technique and Training


  • Mental Training
  • Motivation