Swimming fast in itself isn’t all that complicated. Intention plus consistent effort results in superior performance. Here’s why keeping a swim log can help swimmers crush both.
Like all athletes, swimmers crave consistency. They want to be able to show up to practice every day and throw down stand-out performances that will help them achieve the results they want.
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Yet many struggle to achieve consistency over the course of a season. The misses and dips often end up having other effects as well—loss of motivation, uneven confidence, and that awful feeling that you are starting over again and again.
Although different factors can affect swimmers’ consistency in attendance and effort, there is a remarkably simple tool they can employ to be better more often.
Here are six reasons why using a swim log will help you become a more consistent and better athlete in the pool:
1. It will make you accountable
Young athletes have multiple layers of accountability when it comes to swimming. They have a coach who makes sure they practice. And they have parents who drive them to and from practice.
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As a result, sometimes performance comes from obedience instead of discipline. Writing out their workouts, how they did, what they could do better, and how they felt in the water, instills a sense of accountability in young swimmers.
A swimmer’s log book gives her a space for a judgement-free opinion about her workouts, where she can reflect and hold herself to account for how she is doing.
2. Shows patterns and habits in your training
If there’s one thing athletes are consistent about, it’s their hang-ups. Over the course of a season, generally the same two or three things cause them to miss stretches of swim workouts.
Whether you are repeatedly overwhelmed at exam time, get sick during heavy bouts of training or simply lose confidence after meets, having a bird’s eye view of your swimming can help you better understand and predict the speed bumps ahead.
As the saying goes, knowing is half the battle.
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3. You will be better able to stay on top of progression
Just like in the gym, getting better means progressing. It means doing things a bit more efficiently, for a little longer or at a slightly faster speed over and over again.
Keeping a detailed training history gives you an opportunity to plot where you are now and where you want to be. With the precise knowledge of what you are doing now, you can chart a path forward to becoming the swimmer you want to be.
It’s as simple as being a little better with each passing day and week. Writing out your workouts will insure that you are staying on top of progressing.
4. Helps you set better expectations and realistic goals
One of the biggest challenges of working with young, ambitious athletes is tempering their expectations. As a coach you want athletes who are ambitious, but you want them to set realistic goals that are rooted in what they have accomplished in practice.
All too often a swimmer will roll his shoulders after a bad swim and simply accept it for what it was—a poor performance that defies explanation. With the workouts in the pages of his swim log, he can see, clear as day, that expectations didn’t match the training that was done prior to the meet.
5. Shows you how important out-of-pool things are
Have you ever heard a coach talk about a great swimmer as a “24-hour athlete”? What the coach was talking about was how a particular swimmer was great in practice, but equally great at insuring recovery and rest outside the pool.
With the sometimes absurd demands that coaches place on age group swimmers (10-plus sessions in the water per week, 70,000-meter weeks), sleep and nutrition are even more critical to development and improvement.
Telling a swimmer something isn’t as effective as having her experience it and see it for herself. When used to track and measure out-of-pool things like diet, stress and nutrition, a log can help her quickly see how much effect these things have on her performance.
Tracking things like mood and stress levels after a bad couple nights of sleep can be just the thing to reinforce better habits out of the water.
6. It will encourage you to better complete workouts
One of the oddest (and most awesome) effects of using a training log is that it encourages you to give a better effort day-in and day-out. Why is this? From personal experience, I loathed the idea of having to write out a bad workout.
Having a session in the water where things weren’t clicking was bad enough, but knowing that I would have to write out a dud of a workout later almost always helped me refocus so I could have something positive to record in my logbook.