Getting Your Swimming Mojo Back!

Feeling a bit flat and struggling to get down the pool? This week on the SS blog we have a personal piece from SS Head Coach Paul Newsome on getting his (and your) mojo back:

Hi everyone,

May is a funny time here in Perth. The long summer triathlon and swimming season has finished with many swimmers feeling a bit flat and unmotivated as the days get shorter and the mornings colder. You might be in the northern hemisphere and entering into the summer but if despite that you too have lost your swimming motivation, this post is for you.

Since winning the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim last June I've been really struggling to train consistently. I missed swimming the Catalina Channel in October due to a serious back injury, ended up having surgery on it in December, got my stitches infected in January, had the wound re-open in February and then ran a series of events in the UK in March.

I've told the squads I'm going to shave off the beard
when I've got my swimming mojo back!
It feels like one thing after another, I've had zero consistency to my training and I'm totally craving routine and stability right now. In a nutshell, I need my swimming mojo back! Sound familiar?

Here's some thoughts and ideas I've used with myself and also the Swim Smooth squads in Perth to re-ignite our respective swimming fires over the last week or two. It's been going great - so why not try them yourself if you're feeling a bit flat?

1. Get A Stake In The Ground

The first thing I did with the Perth squads was have everyone do a 400m and 200m CSS timetrial to work out their CSS pace. It's easy to get het-up about timetrials but don't think of this as anything more than a stake in the ground of where you are right now - no big deal.

Once you know your current CSS you can train accurately at the right intensity for your current fitness level to get you on an upwards path, which is very motivating. That's important to get right because if you try and hit your times from your peak of fitness last season, you'll struggle hugely and you will feel like quitting before you've even started.

For more information on performing the CSS test see:

Or our post from a few weeks ago:

I just performed the CSS test myself and my times for the 400m and 200m were 5:04 and 2:27 giving me a current CSS pace of 1:19 /100m. For me that's very slow (my CSS pace before Manhattan was around 1:10/100m) but that's OK, that's where I am right now and the only way is up!

2. Set Yourself A Mini Goal Or Two

If you've been out of the water for a while like me it's unlikely you're going to hit personal best shape after a month or two's training, so rather than setting yourself a big PB as a target, try something a little smaller.

Americans Down-Under: Squad swimmers and
training partners Kelby and John are keeping their
motivation high heading into the Perth winter.
My mini-goal is to get my CSS down to 1:15 /100m. And as a second mini-goal (rather a tough one!) I'm challenging myself to swim with ITU super-fish Richard Varga during the swim at the JB Trust Triathlon in July. Now that is a pretty big challenge but it feels very motivating and I'm not afraid if I can't quite match him off such little preparation - but I'm going to try!

My top tip here is to make your mini-goal(s) as motivating as possible, keep them just achievable but challenging. Make them too easy or too hard and you'll struggle for motivation but find the 'hard-but-doable' sweet-spot and your competitive juices will start flowing nicely!

3. Commit To Swimming 20, 35 or 50 Sessions

Nearly always the biggest challenge is simply starting your new routine. We think about doing it, then put it off to tomorrow and then the next day, and then it never happens. Procrastination is a dream killer!

The hardest thing of all is just starting, once you are underway it gets easier and easier. So the most important thing here is to turn off the brain and just start!

What I suggest you do is pick a time period (for me the 10 weeks to the JB Trust Triathlon) and work out the number of sessions you want to swim in that time. Then start counting them down. I picked 50 sessions and I'm already on number 4.

You might pick 20 or 35 sessions yourself depending on your level of swimming but make sure it's a fixed number and start ticking them off! My bet is that as you get near the finish you'll feel sad that it's ending. That's not a problem of course, it's simply time to set some more mini goals and have another count-down.

But what to swim? You need one of our best-selling
Waterproof Training Plans. Each containing 35
focused training sessions to follow - perfect!
Prior to winning Manhattan I did a very similar thing: Coming off a solid block of training I had 10 weeks remaining until the race and I wanted to get 50 sessions in during this period. 5 sessions and around 36km per week might sound like a lot but not compared to my rivals who were swimming upwards of 65km per week (in fact 2nd place finisher Lochie Hinds was clocking over 120km per week!). But 5 sessions was all that I could fit in around my busy work and family commitments so I had to be realistic.

I tweeted every session through my @SwimSmoothPaul account and the act of ticking them off did amazing things for my mojo at the time. After the race we collated all 50 of the training tweets here:

You might not choose to tweet every session yourself but why not publicly announce your mini goal? It could be to swim 9 minutes for 400m or getting out of the swim ahead of your main rival in your Ironman this summer. Post it on the Swim Smooth Facebook page or tweet to @swimsmooth with hashtag #swimsmoothmojo! If we get enough good ones we'll list them in the blog next week. :)

4. Keep A Record Sheet

Similar to the idea of tweeting your sessions, I've suggested our squad swimmers keep a record sheet of their swims:
Click To Open PDF Version

Try using this yourself. Not only does it feel good to record your sessions but recording 'one good thing you did' and 'one thing you could do better' is very motivating in its own right.

OK so there we have it, four great ways to re-discover your swimming mojo again. The most important thing? Turn the brain off and just start - not next week, not tomorrow but today!

Enjoy your swimming!



Marina G said...

At the end of the day I ask myself these 2 questions:
1) what did I do well and why?
2) what can I do better and how?

Shorty said...

Mate , A brilliant blog , excellant as i am exactly the same ie. going no where in the pool , end of season , lost mojo etc , so your advice is perfect and timely.
I am now looking forward to a better challenge an d result over my winter " break " so to speak .
Cheers, A Kiwi Raider from down under.

Anonymous said...


I was wondering if you could address the finer aspects of goggles and caps, perhaps in a post?

It sounds silly - but I find I have to stop my swimming a few times every session to readjust my cap and goggles. And I can't do olympic turns because I'll get water in them eyes.

I am a girl with longer hair and use the latex kind. it always creeps up and pulls the goggles' strap with it. As for the goggles, I have been following the advice that there should be suction action without the strap on, so I cup them to my eyes and they should hold and not pop out immediately.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

(I meant, when shopping for goggles, that is how one can find the right fit, with the suction test)


Annie Oberlin-Harris said...

Marina- An excellent strategy for self improvement!

Shorty- Glad this post ran parallel to you- let's all get our mojos back!

Anonymous/Cat - It's really a matter of personal preference- trying out different goggles to see which ones suit your face shape.

Anonymous said...

It might be winter for you in beautiful Perth,Oz, but here in Gourock, Scotland it's the opening day of our outdoor pool season (May to Sept) with Inverclyde Masters and because of that we have plenty mojo to spare! g'day.

Marcus Rooney said...

Perfect timing of article for me Paul, thank you!

I am on a massive come-down from a great season where I achieved all my tri and open water swimming goals, culminating in my first Busselton 70.3 at the weekend. As you say, it is now end of season here in Australia so after dedicating 7+ months to training 8-10 times a week I am now struggling to know what to do.

But, after reading this I now have 3 things to do:

1. thank you for the article (tick!)
2. purchase the overglider improvement plan as I think I have graduated from bambino but I am noticing a little pause creeping in to my catch that I really want to fix asap
3. ditch the "have a break" plan and go swimming 1st thing tomorrow morning...!! Can't wait to get wet.


Paul said...

Great to hear that Marcus - what time did you swim at Busso out of interest?


Anthony said...

I'm pretty new to swimming, and just completed my first competitions this Winter. I had really been focused on improving my times in the 500 and 1650 free, and put in a lot of time (both fitness and technique oriented) over the Winter months.

I did have a lot of fun at the meets and exceeded my goals.

Then, almost immediately, I found myself struggling with motivation to swim.

At first I tried to fight back and grit my way through, but then I decided to try some grace instead - let my swimming brain rest, focus on running for a while. This really worked for me. I did lose some of my swim fitness, but my coaches say my technique is the same or better than it was before my meets. I feel much more motivated to swim now, and I think that aerobic fitness will come back pretty soon.

Just another idea - just as our bodies need rest time to recover, I think sometimes the same thing happens with our motivation.

Marcus Rooney said...

Cheers Paul - came in at 5hrs 21mins overall and am very happy with that as my goal was 5hrs 40 mins. The conditions were fantastic which definitely helped. The swim was great, I felt relaxed and calm even though it was the usual washing machine. So many of the blog tips came back to me during the 32 mins. E.g. coming back into shore I really focussed on sighting and actually paused to get a proper look at where I needed to go. I saw loads of swimmers way off to the left and it reminded me of your blog.. they must have done an extra 200m at least.. but I stuck to my plan and couldn't believe my time. I didn't really enjoy the bike much so plan to focus on OWS next season.
In the end I went for the catch masterclass DVD rather than the overglider plan btw so looking forward to going through that over the winter.

Paul said...

Superb result Marcus - well done! What's the next challenge?


Marcus Rooney said...

Too busy swimming to reply..! Well not so many sessions but I've set myself a program that is consistent and achievable and so far 100% attendance even on some cold & stormy mornings. The pool is a lot quieter in winter at least!
5 weeks into my catch masterclass and I've taken 4 secs off my CSS but I think there is more to come.
Goals are to beat my 2.5km OWS time before end of 2014, maybe attempt the 5km distance, and finish in the top third of my age group at sprint and olympic distance triathlons next season.
I'd like to try a video analysis too.
Quick question for you Paul - or anyone out there - is it unusual to feel faster & more relaxed in open water than the pool? I definitely do (as long as it's not too rough). My theory is that I'm slim and the extra boyancy of salt water with or without a wetsuit helps my body position just enough to raise my legs and reduce drag. It might also be because is so much more interesting..!
Mogs / Marcus

Paul said...

Hey Marcus

Good to hear you're cracking on and getting the consistency up there!

Yes absolutely, you're likely to feel better in the OW for all those reasons!!



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Go on get your feet wet!

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