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I’m a huge fan of journaling.

Not just in terms of having a nightly journal—which is great for gaining perspective, listing items of gratitude, and writing things out of my head (so that I can go to sleep with a less busy brain).

But with my swimming.

Putting words to paper helps me get a little more rational and analytical with what’s goin’ down in the water.

I can go over my routine and workouts. Where things are going well. Where I’m struggling. And even give myself little pep talks when necessary.

And for the swimmer who wants to get even more enjoyment and results out of their swimming, there is a particular form of journaling that can help you perform better-er.

Pre-Journaling: Laser Focusing Your Swimming

While journaling after the fact is exceptionally powerful, there is another way to journal that can help you swim better.

It’s pre-journaling.

This is how it works:

Over the course of a few quick paragraphs you are going to write out what a great workout looks like for you.

From the time you prepare to go to the pool, to the moments you leave the locker room, describe what an awesome practice would look like for you.

No times. No placings. Don’t worry about going a specific time or beating someone else in the lane.

Just the things you do and experience.

Here is a sample outline:

What’s the mindset you are going to have before practice?

Much of what happens in the pool starts and ends with our expectations.

If we expect the practice to be easy, and it’s not…we get flustered and less resilient.

If we expect things to be hard, if we expect the workout and the sets to be challenging, than we are better prepared for what is to come.

Journal out the ideal mindset you have before your best workout.

What are you focused on while you are swimming?

Here’s a fun fact for your chlorinated butt-butt: enjoyment—no matter what the task is, whether it’s a 2,000m kick for time or a set of 50s all-out from the blocks or a 1,000m free cruise with a snorkel—is connected to how present you are.

When you are focused on what you are doing, you are present and engaged. This is hilariously more enjoyable than swimming through the workout with your mind adrift.

Neat-o side benefit: being engaged means you are swimming better. And swimming better leads to faster swimming.

How are you going to react when things go sideways on you?

A lot of athletes leave their reaction to adversity up to how they are feeling in that particular moment.

Here’s an example of what I mean…

Let’s say something sucky happens.

Are you going to react different when you are tired and cranky compared to when you are well rested and in a good mood?

(Big time.)

Pre-journal out your approach to the moments of adversity in practice.

If you plan ahead of time how you are going to react when, say, coach writes up a massive timed effort in the middle of a hard practice, you are far less likely to succumb to the frustration and negativity that tends to come with basing your reactions to how you are feeling in the moment.

Write out how—in your own unique little way—you are going to react when things get tough.

What do you wanna feel like walking off the pool deck?

It’s odd, when ya think about it...

We can barely lift our arms. Chewing a post-workout snack is a challenge. And when asked how the workout went, we incoherently grunt.

But underneath that fatigue, which will fade soon enough, is that warm churning sense of satisfaction and pride.

You worked super hard, achieved some flashes of mastery in the water, and left it all in the pool.

It feels good.

Real good.

Pre-journal that feeling.

That satisfaction and pleasure that comes from crushing it in practice.

Understanding that hard work and the satisfaction that arises from it is the reward is something we need to remind ourselves of often.

Especially when we are face to face with a series of 50s best average, or when we are standing on the edge of the pool before practice, delaying getting into the water as long as possible.

You don’t get that sense of satisfaction from getting out early or from giving up.

Ouchies are temporary, but feeling like a total boss after a big workout is totally worth it.


Wanna know what the best part about this little exercise is?

You now have a unique blueprint for an excellent workout.

A step-by-step mental plan that you can use to supercharge your swim practices.

You know what mindset you need to be in before jumping into the water.

You understand that focus during practice matters.

That you can set out how you are going to react in the face of challenges.

And that the thing you are chasing—in the face of the exhaustion and pain—is that feeling of satisfaction that comes properly from working your tail off.

Not a bad return on a few paragraphs of journaling.

See you in the water,


P.S. Want even more ways to level up your swim practices?

Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset includes tips and strategies on self-talk, visualization, and how to bounce back mentally when ya get injured.

And that’s just the practice section.

Click here to learn more about how Conquer the Pool will knock your socks off.