How to make progress in every swim session

Making every session count is the aim for all triathletes. But how do you actually do that in practice? Well, says swim coach Andrew Sheaff, all you need are two questions…

The joy of victory. A long way to achieve the goal, success in professional sports. Victory in swimming competitions. Bright emotions, laughter, joy. Balance in life and sports. The long-awaited victory and the first place of an adult female athlete.

The majority of triathletes tend to set big long-term goals that they want to accomplish. These are goals that get you up and moving in the morning, eager to train hard. But it’s actually the short-term goals that will help you achieve these goals.


It’s the progress that you make, or don’t make, from repetition to repetition on a daily basis that adds up to long-term improvement. As a result, it’s critical to have a process for making sure you stay focused on what matters. My favourite process is simple, and it only requires two questions.

How to make progress on every swim rep

To help you focus on making progress every repetition, ask yourself two questions. These questions help to steer your focus, they help you solve the problems that arise, and they ultimately move you closer to your goals.

What did I do well?

After each repetition, acknowledge what you did well. There’s always something that was positive and it’s important to recognise it.

Each time you accomplish something, you’re one step closer to your long-term goals. Getting each emotional win will keep you engaged over the long-haul. Just as importantly, recognising the good reinforces that behaviour!

What can I do better?

After every repetition, there will be some aspect that you can improve on. It’s not a mistake, it’s an opportunity. You can’t fix mistakes, but you can take advantage of opportunities.

This question allows you to be honest with yourself about your performance yet frames it in a way that allows to you to take action rather than get frustrated. When you’re in it for the long haul, that subtle distinction begins to make a difference.

How to always achieve a positive result in your swim

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, it’s simply a matter of taking action. On the subsequent repetition, you can choose to continue to do what you did well, or you can shift towards addressing an opportunity.

What’s great about these questions is that the answer will lead to positive action, regardless of which one you choose! It allows you to choose what to work on based upon what you’re motivated to accomplish.

Rather than focusing on just one piece, this process helps you continuously shift your focus to what needs to improve right now.

How to focus on making progress in your swim 

This strategy is so effective because it keeps you constantly focused on making progress. After every repetition, you’re deciding what you can do to improve. Further, it forces you to focus on the positive. Considering all the challenges that come with participating in sport, you need all the positive reinforcement you can get.

Lastly, you’re immediately rewarded for your effort. Those little rewards keep you working hard, even when it’s difficult.

So as a final example, let’s say you’re struggling with the elevator freestyle exercise. You can use the above two questions to continuously problem solve, feel great about the process, and be motivated to continue to improve.

Sooner rather than later, you’re going to figure out how to optimise your body position and you’re going to have a much more enjoyable experience along the way!


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