Swimming isn’t easy.
Maybe practice has been challenging. You are tired, stiff, and sore. The water is cold. You’re coming off a bad swim meet. You’ve plateaued in the water, and you’re wondering if you’ll ever be able to improve again.
You have a thousand different excuses that you can fall back on. And rightly so.
But will you let your excuses allow you to get the best of you? To get the best of your goals?
Feeling this way is normal, and every swimmer experiences this from time to time. However, try to keep an open mind. Think about your long-term goals. To get there, you will have to push through now, despite how you’re feeling.
Sometimes all we need is a bit of motivation or inspiration to get us going. So before you skip swim practice, read this article first. It might just be the boost you need.
Or maybe things aren’t all so doom and gloom, and you’re just looking for fun swimming quotes to write in your training log.
Whatever the case, here are some of my favorite swimming quotes from Olympic swimmers.
My goal here isn’t just to give you the quotes but to see what practical advice we can derive from them and apply to swimming and our lives.
Motivational Swimming Quotes from Olympic Swimmers
”It’s not about being the best. It’s about being better than you were yesterday.”– Florent Manaudou (Olympic Gold Medalist)
If you want to feel miserable about yourself and your achievements, constantly compare yourself to others.
Don’t get me wrong. Comparison is good. It’s what drives us to work harder and be better. And occasionally, comparing yourself to others can be a healthy motivator.
The problems start to arise when we constantly compare ourselves to other swimmers.
More often than not, these comparisons aren’t an accurate reflection of our progress. Everyone is different. Everyone’s circumstances are different. And this will be reflected in our progress as well.
The only genuinely accurate comparison you can make is against yourself. This is why I’m a big advocate for daily self-reflection and keeping a training journal.
Pro Tip: Keep a training log. Every day after training, I like to write down my workout. I then follow it up by rating myself out of 10 for a few technical aspects that I am focusing on at that time. I also ask myself questions like “What went well, and how can I reinforce that?” and “What didn’t go well, and how can I improve on that?”.
You can also apply this concept to review your swim meets and races.
By being aware of your shortcomings and where you’re going wrong, you can skyrocket your progress and results.
If you’re up for it, I recommend doing this for your personal life and goals as well.
Related swimming quotes from other Olympic swimmers:
- “I come to practice every day with the mindset that I am there to get better.” – Caeleb Dressel
- “I’m trying to do the best I can. I’m not concerned with tomorrow, but with what goes on today.” – Mark Spitz
- “I still believe there’s huge room for improvement, whether it’s dietary, stroke, mechanics, mental- I’m still learning.” – Roland Schoeman
“The biggest thing that I’ve always said is never give up. I never have, and nobody ever should. If they want something bad enough, they’ll get it.”– Michael Phelps (23x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Quick question here for all of the competitive swimmers– how many times have you felt like giving up?
I know that thought has easily crossed my mind more than a dozen times throughout my swimming career. And that’s probably an understatement.
Here’s the thing. I’m a firm believer in the saying: “you only lose once you quit,” and it’s served me well over the years.
As of writing this, I’m currently in a plateau myself. I haven’t swam a PB in my main event in over two years. And yes, I’ll be the first to admit some of it’s my fault. Could I have trained harder? Could I have trained more? Absolutely.
Will I give up? No.
Why not? Because I know from past experience that I always come back stronger and better if I keep working and don’t quit. Whatever the endeavor may be.
The important thing here is to recognize and correct your mistakes (think: training log) and not dwell on them. Keep showing up every day and keep training hard, no matter your current situation. Things will get better if you work on them.
Related swimming quotes:
- “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” – Matt Biondi
- “Dreams do come true… never stop believing.” – Josh Davis
“You’ve just got to try to keep improving a little bit each day and keep on training to move that needle as close as you can to perfect.”– Ryan Murphy (4x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Long-term consistency beats short bursts of effort any day.
Focus on getting 1% better every single day. That’s it. That’s the secret to success.
Mastering this is harder said than done, but it’s a competitive advantage that few people will ever be able to beat.
A practical example (and a story that I love) is the British cycling team. They went nearly a hundred years, winning only a single gold medal at the Olympic games. And they fared even worse at the Tour de France.
This was until a new coach by the name of Dave Brailsford showed up. His entire training philosophy was based on incremental gains. And he applied this philosophy to both the obvious and unobvious areas of the team’s training.
The results? Five years later, the British cycling team won 60% of all the cycling gold medals at the Beijing Olympic Games. Fast forward another four years to the London Games, and they had broken nine Olympic and seven world records.
That’s the power of consistent incremental improvements.
Something else that I want to point out here is that you have to be willing to be patient. Becoming great at something takes a lot of time. There is no secret. There is no shortcut. You have to put in the time and effort.
“Pain is temporary– pride is forever.”– Alexander Popov (4x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Have you ever slacked off the last 10 meters of your race? How about in training?
Now think back to the last time you won a medal, made a final, qualified for that big meet, achieved that goal time, or even just went really fast in practice. How did it feel?
We often get caught up in our minds focusing and getting distracted by the temporary pain, discomfort, and fatigue our bodies face. It happens to the best of us.
The key is to recognize when it’s happening and not allow it to get the best of us.
Don’t allow temporary pain in the last 10 meters of your race to ruin the entire thing and all the hours and effort you’ve put into training.
Related Swimming Quotes:
- “I told myself there was no way I was going to let this training go to waste. It was my time, and I was ready to go.” – Katie Hoff
- “Practice like you’re not good enough to win. Race like you’re too good to lose.” – Katie Ledecky
- “If you want to be the best, you have to be willing to do things that other people aren’t willing to do.” – Michael Phelps
“So many people along the way, whatever it is you aspire to do, will tell you it can’t be done. But all it takes is imagination. You dream. You plan. You reach.”– Michael Phelps (39x World Record Holder)
How many times have people unrightfully doubted you?
I’m not saying to take people’s doubts and throw all of it out of the window, either. Often it comes from a well-intentioned place, and they simply want the best for you.
But it’s important to remember that most people are incredibly risk-averse, especially in the modern day.
Sometimes you just have to take that leap. Make sure it’s a calculated leap. You need to have a plan. You need actions you will take to get to your goals.
And maybe you fail.
That’s okay, too, because you would’ve learned something from it. Most likely, you’ll realize that you are capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for. But if you don’t at least give yourself a chance, you’ll never know what you can achieve.
“Everyone can train hard when they’re feeling good. But it’s the days when you’re feeling bad that you have to step up. That’s when champions step up. They pull through.”– Chad Le Clos (Olympic Gold Medalist)
Training won’t always be easy. You’ll get tired, sore, and stiff. Maybe you have to endure cold water or some other obstacle.
But it’s often during these hard sessions where we make the most progress if we’re willing to push our bodies a bit harder. Not just physical progress but mental progress as well.
There is actually a concept for this in sports science called super-compensation. The basic idea is that after a period of training and applying stress on the body, there is a drop-off in performance due to fatigue. After recovering (a lighter workout, for example), the body rebounds to above its previous performance baseline.
While the super-compensation effect doesn’t last, it will inevitably raise your performance baseline to higher levels over time.
“I think goals should never be easy. They should force you to work, even if they are uncomfortable at the time.”– Michael Phelps (28x Olympic Medalist)
Having goals for the things you want to achieve is extremely important. Goals give you direction.
But there is a caveat.
Your goals have to be challenging. They have to push you to your limits. They have to make you question whether they are even possible to achieve.
Former Navy SEAL and ultramarathon runner David Goggins explains this very well. Here’s what he has to say:
“I asked him a question. Do you have fear of not reaching those goals? He said no… Well, that’s the problem. You’re setting goals you know you can reach, and when you do that, that fear, that insecurity, that’s where you grow; he’s not getting that. You must always set goals that you think you cannot achieve, and then there you get better.”
When it comes to setting goals, I recommend breaking them down. I’m not saying make them easy. But don’t start by making the Olympic games your goal when you have yet to achieve a national title. Don’t make a national title your goal when you have yet to reach a national final.
Break it down. Make sure your goals are challenging and push your limits. But sequence them in steps that lead to your ultimate goal and solely focus on the next step.
Personally, I find this process much more enjoyable and less overwhelming. It also yields better results since you always know what the next step is that you have to take to get where you want to go.
Related swimming quotes:
- “I wanted to do something that nobody had ever done before. And that started with a dream and a goal.” – Michael Phelps
- “Without goals, training has no direction.” – Natalie Coughlin
“We’ve seen, time and again when people focus on the outcome rather than what needs to be done to achieve a desirable result, then the wheels fall off.”– Cate Campbell (4x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Identify the actions you need to take to achieve your goal.
Don’t confuse actions and outcomes. Actions are in your control. Outcomes are not.
An outcome is the symptom of a series of actions.
Focus only on the actions you need to take to achieve an outcome. Make the quality of your actions the goal. Don’t make the outcome itself your goal.
“It’s what you do with the rough patches that will define the athlete that you’ll become.”– Dana Vollmer (5x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Progress isn’t linear. Often it moves through phases of little to no progress followed by an exponential leap.
But if you use these phases of little to no progress to focus on building your foundation, the leap is so much higher when it does happen. The wider and stronger your foundation, the higher you can build.
Most people will quit when they don’t see the results they want. This is where the weak get weeded out. There is a saying that the point where you want to quit is often the point at which you’re about to succeed.
This is also intertwined with our concept of incremental gains that we discussed earlier. Progress is slow at first, but over time, those 1% improvements compound and lead to extraordinary results.
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“Things won’t go perfectly. It’s all about how you adapt from those things and learn from mistakes.”– Michael Phelps (23x Olympic Gold Medalist)
How many times have you undertaken something where everything went perfectly and exactly as planned?
I don’t think that’s ever been the case for me.
However, by being open-minded and applying a growth mindset, you can use these things to become better than you’ve ever been.
Growth Mindset (Examples)
- Accepts challenges.
- Embraces making mistakes.
- Positive reaction to failure. Thinks about why it happened and what to do better next time.
- Sees failure as a journey rather than a single outcome.
- Tendency to get bored when doing the same challenge over and over.
- Honest about mistakes and failures.
- Asks for feedback.
- Process focused.
Fixed Mindset (Examples)
- Avoids challenges.
- Afraid of making mistakes and avoids them as much as possible.
- Obsessed about a single outcome. Doesn’t sit down and productively think about why something happened.
- Repeats challenges they know they can succeed at.
- Likely to lie to protect their self-image as the person that doesn’t make mistakes or experience failure.
- Outcome focused.
Most people shy away from mistakes. We’ve been conditioned to think that mistakes are a bad thing. But the thing is, mistakes are a fantastic learning opportunity.
Often we learn more from failure than success.
Remember our little discussion about using a training log for self-reflection about your swimming? If you don’t self-reflect, it’s hard to recognize your mistakes, it’s challenging to learn from them, it’s impossible to fix them, and you are bound to repeat them.
Related swimming quotes:
- “Failing at something is the best way to learn what it takes to succeed at it. Failing to make the Seoul Olympic team was the beginning of my success, ironically enough” – Summer Sanders
- “There are going to be obstacles that come in your way. Stay positive.” – Michael Phelps.
- “Generally speaking, I’ve always found setbacks extremely motivating. You never appreciate those setbacks at the time, but if you change your attitude, you can turn them into a highly motivational tool.” – Natalie Coughlin.
“I try to make the good days great and take something positive from the days I’m not feeling good – work on technique or something like that.”– Katie Ledecky (7x Olympic Gold Medalist)
The fact of the matter is there are some days when you just aren’t going to be able to train as hard as you want to.
Maybe your body is too fatigued. Maybe circumstances outside of swimming aren’t ideal– school is tough, you haven’t been getting enough sleep, you’re stressed out, etc.
However, you can still make your training session worthwhile. If you’re going to be in the pool for the next 2 hours, why not try to make the most of it? Work on underwaters, hand entry, turns, breathing, etc.
Can you improve your underwaters by 1%?
Pick one thing and focus on that for the workout. Most of us can do with some more technique work anyway.
“Great things never come from comfort zones.”– Penny Oleksiak (Olympic Gold Medalist)
How easy is it to get locked up in the routine of going to training, doing the workout, pushing ourselves a bit here and there, skipping a 50 here, or slacking off a bit there? How many of us do this?
While this routine will, in all likelihood, still allow you to make progress for some time, there will come a point where it locks you into a permanent plateau that you can’t escape.
If your goal is making progress as fast as possible, this also isn’t a particularly effective strategy.
To become the best swimmer that you can be, you can’t get stuck in this routine of comfort. You have to be constantly progressing outside of your comfort zone and pushing your boundaries in training.
Another quote by Nicole Haislett (a 3-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer) perfectly fits with this: “Identify your personal limits and then push past them. Then set new barriers, and repeat the process again and again, and again.”
Once again, how can you ensure that you don’t get stuck in this routine of comfort and that you’re constantly making progress? Self-reflect. Have a training journal.
“Perfect preparation prevents poor performance, the five P’s.”– Sue Rolph (3x Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist)
Did you show up to all of your swim practices over the last season? Did you do all of your dryland workouts? How about your nutrition? Did you stretch? Sleep enough? Did you make sure to complete your training journal?
What about the actual quality of each workout? How was that?
And that’s not even everything. There are more things that I can name- race strategy, visualization, etc.
If you want to perform at a high level, you have to hit all of the markers every single day. And you can’t just hit them; you have to ensure they are high quality.
I’m not saying you have to get everything 110% perfect every single day for five years straight. That’s impossible. Life doesn’t allow for it. Not even the best of the best can do that.
But if you can get the quality of everything you do to 80% and hit that marker every day, you’re going to make a lot of progress throughout a season. It’s much better to get the 80% every day than it’s to get the 110% now and then.
And if you can’t do that yet, go for the 70%, the 60%, and so on. Start somewhere and build it up until you can constantly repeat it. Then move to a higher level.
Related swimming quotes:
- “The reason swimming is one of the hardest sports is that you have to be in the pool by yourself every day, making that sacrifice. There’s no time to do anything else.” – Chad le Clos
- “Just do the damn work” – Burce Gemmell (Katie Ledecky’s coach)
- “I want to be able to look back and say, ‘I’ve done everything I can, and I was successful.’ I don’t want to look back and say I should have done this or that.” – Michael Phelps
- “Confidence comes from what you do in practice every single day” – Jordan Wilimovsky.
- “There are a lot of people that are very talented. But just don’t work at it. It’s a waste of talent if you don’t work at it and improve.” – Tracy Calkins
- “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” – Mark Spitz
- “You don’t want to line up on the blocks and know you have not done everything you possibly can.” – Stephanie Rice
- “I swam the race like I trained to swim it. It is not mathematical. I just let my body do it. It is a lot easier if you let your body do what it is trained for.” – Ian Thorpe.
Inspirational Swimming Quotes from Olympic Swimmers
“The things you learn from sports – setting goals, being part of a team, confidence – that’s invaluable. It’s not about trophies and ribbons. It’s about being on time for practice, accepting challenges, and being fearful of the elements.”– Summer Sanders (2x Olympic Gold Medalist)
I’m not the best swimmer out there and will never be. Sure, I’ve had my moments of victory, and chances are you’ve had them too.
But for me, swimming is about a lot more than winning. It’s about the lessons I learn, the friends I make, the experiences I gather, and the ability to master not only my body but also my mind.
I’m not saying that winning doesn’t matter. There is no other feeling like the thrill you get from touching the wall first and taking gold.
But don’t make it your sole focus.
If you make winning your sole focus, you’re going to have a tough time in the sport and won’t enjoy it nearly as much as you deserve to.
Look at everything else that swimming has to offer. Recognize. Learn. Apply it to other areas of your life.
Related swimming quotes:
- “The most important lesson I’ve learned from sports is how to be not only a gracious winner but a good loser as well. Not everyone wins all the time; as a matter of fact, no one wins all the time. Winning is the easy part; losing is really tough. But you learn more from one loss than you do from a million wins. You learn a lot about sportsmanship.” – Amy Van Dyken
- “It’s not about winning at the Olympic games; it’s about trying to win. The motto is faster, higher, and stronger. Not fastest, highest, strongest. Sometimes it’s the trying that matters.” – Bronte Barratt
- “It’s not really about counting medals for me. It’s just about getting better every day.” – Caeleb Dressel.
“Being your best is not so much about overcoming the barriers other people place in front of you as it is about overcoming the barriers we place in front of ourselves. It has nothing to do with how many times you win or lose. It has no relation to where you finish in a race or whether you break world records. But it does have everything to do with having the vision to dream, the courage to recover from adversity, and the determination never to be shifted from your goals.”– Kieren Perkins (2x Olympic Gold Medalist)
You’ve probably heard the age-old advice of believing in yourself before.
It’s often easy to look past it and shrug it off as being “wishy-washy.”
But it holds a lot of truth. If you don’t believe in yourself and your goals and that it is the realm of possibility to achieve them, then you won’t.
Because you’ll stop before you even get close. I mean– what are the chances you’ll keep chasing after something you don’t even believe you can achieve?
I’m not telling you to be unrealistic.
But who defines what unrealistic is? That’s something you define for yourself. I’ve said it before, but most people don’t have any sense of what’s possible for them to achieve.
Why? Because they haven’t even tried. Before you deem something unrealistic or implausible, you better give it a good run for its money.
Related swimming quotes:
- “The more you believe in yourself, the faster you’re going to get.” – Adam Peaty
- “The harder I worked, the better I got. The better I got, the more I believed in myself and the goals I wanted to achieve in swimming.” – Erik Vendt
- “A true champion knows how to overcome doubts and manage those doubts and turn them into motivation.” – Misty Hyman
- “The body does what the mind prefers.” – Lenny Krayzelburg
- “You can’t put a limit on anything. The more you dream, the farther you get”. – Michael Phelps
“Enjoy the journey, enjoy every moment, and stop worrying about winning and losing.”– Matt Biondi (8x Olympic Gold Medalist)
As competitive swimmers, we often get so locked up chasing after our goals that we forget to enjoy the journey along the way.
Most often, the fulfillment that comes from doing something isn’t in reaching the goal but in the process of working towards that goal. The secret is in your daily actions. This is also where you will be spending most of your time.
Once you reach the goal, it’s only a brief moment of satisfaction, and then you move on to your next goal.
So try not to take everything so seriously all the time. Have fun. Enjoy the process. And as Jeff Rouse (see quote below) says: “Enjoy swimming for swimming’s sake.”
Related Swimming Quotes:
- “Sometimes we complain, but there is something beautiful about waking up before everyone to get better at what we love.” – Natalie Coughlin
- “Enjoy swimming for swimming’s sake. We have to spend far too much time in the water to not enjoy the process of challenging yourself of moving through the water.” – Jeff Rouse
- “If you really love something, that never dies, and it never goes away, and that’s what it’s like with swimming… I genuinely love the sport, whether I’m competing or not. Whatever I’m doing, I’ll still love the sport; it’s such a great thing to be a part of.” – Rebecca Adlington
- “My favorite quote is from my dad, ‘Do your best and have fun.’ That’s pretty much what I’ve lived by.” – Amanda Beard
- “A huge part of swimming for me is I love it, and it is so much fun.” – Missy Franklin
- “It’s unbelievable; I’m swimming so fast. I went in with no expectations. I just went out hoping to get a personal best. I went out there with a smile, just to have fun and see what would happen.” – Jade Edmistone
- “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” – Missy Franklin
“For myself, losing is not coming second. It’s getting out of the water knowing you could have done better. For myself, I have won every race I’ve been in.”– Ian Thorpe (5x Olympic Gold Medalist)
Whether you take gold, podium, or even make the final is out of your control.
Yes, you can argue that it’s in your control in the sense that if you trained more, harder, or better, then it could be in the realm of possibilities.
But what if you did all of those things? What if you made the most of the resources available to you?
You can’t control whether or not another swimmer goes faster than you. You can’t control if they are more talented than you, have more access to resources, etc.
But you can control what you do. Only you will know if you gave it your all.
Related Inspirational Swimming Quotes:
- “I cannot control what goes on in another lane, and this is how I focus on the games. There is no point in being nervous about other swimmers. It’s just about focusing on yourself and what you need to do in order to perform at your best.” – Cameron van der Burgh
- “You’re always racing against the other swimmers, but I always try to focus on what I’m doing and how I want to swim my races.” – Katie Ledecky
- “Never worry about what anyone else is doing…Just swim your own race.” – Dara Torres
- “Tonight was not about winning; it was about focusing on myself and what I was aiming to do. It’s the reason why I was able to swim so well.” – Libby Lenton (Trickett)
Swimming Quotes Can Give You a Motivational Boost
Whether you needed a motivational boost or were looking for a few interesting swimming quotes, I hope you found what you were looking for.
At the end of the day, there is nothing wrong with looking for an external source of motivation now and then when you need it (such as these swimming quotes), but your true source of success will be found in being disciplined to perform the same challenging tasks day in and day out, regardless of how you feel.