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by Scott Bay

August 13, 2018

A simple self-assessment is all you need to determine what to do next

“I feel terrible,” you think to yourself while warming up for a workout. Do you listen to that voice? Ignore it? Wait and see if it goes away?

Your response dictates how the rest of your swim can and should go. If that’s the voice in your head, a simple self-assessment is a good way to choose your next move.

Be Honest

If you feel terrible, figuring out why will help you make good choices in what is going to make you happy, healthy, and come back to the pool. This is basically looking at yourself in the mirror with three different filters and asking some hard questions: Am I physically beat up and tired? Am I injured (or coming off an injury) or sick (or coming off an illness)? Am I stressed or depressed?

Physically Tired or Just Drained

Many in the swimming world are really into routines. Add to this that a lot are hard-driving, Type A personalities, and feel like more is better and much more is much more better (or something like that). This can lead to a lot of chronic fatigue or overtraining. Do a few self-assessments so you can make your next decision.

  • Think about your mood in and out of the pool. One of the hallmarks (but not the only one) of overtraining is mood swings.
  • Think about your training load. How much and how intense have you been going?
  • Think about your diet. Food is delicious but also fuel for the body and mind. Are you taking care of that piece of the puzzle, too?

Injury or Illness

You don’t want to turn a minor injury into a serious one because you didn’t dial back your training enough. Coming back from a serious injury is difficult because you don’t want to push your rehabilitation process too quickly. Being sick or coming back from an illness is no fun either. Do these things apply to you? If so, there are a few simple questions to ask yourself.

  • If I’m injured or just feeling pain, how important is the workout? Why am I here?
  • If I’m just coming back from an injury or illness, can I really expect to be right back at it? (Hint: The answer is no.)
  • Is “pushing through” an illness a good idea or does it just wear my body down and prolong an illness?

Stressed or Depressed

Oxidative stress from working hard physically and psychological stress cause similar reactions in people. When you reflect on your training and the other variables that are easier to examine quantitatively, it’s time to ask some other questions.

  • How high is my stress load? This is a combination of job, family, social life, and many other factors. Bad days at work or at home or a strained relationship can affect how you feel just as much as a killer workout the day before.
  • Why am I at the pool? Is it just a habit or does it make me feel good?
  • What is the current state of my mental health? Many of us can tell you our resting heart rate and interval times, but we often ignore our mental health. This goes beyond bad days or being in a foul mood because of a co-worker.

Next Steps

Depending on your answers to these questions, you may want to push through and feel great at the end of practice or you may want to take a day or two off and see what happens. The body has a remarkable way of sorting itself out. But you must listen to your body during the warm-up to figure out what to do next.


  • Technique and Training


  • Mental Training
  • Motivation