Importance of Short Term Goals for Swimmers


By Olivier Poirier-Leroy (Courtesy of SwimSwam)

When a swimmer is asked about their goals the answer is invariably something long term and epic –

  • Win the olympics.
  • Win 9 gold medals at World Champs
  • Beat every single one of my brother’s club records
  • And so on…

Yet ask the same swimmer what their goals are for today, or tomorrow, and you’ll typically be on the receiving end of a blank stare or a mumbled, “you know, whatever.”


Long term goals, while amazing, shiny and necessary, are always on the cusp of the horizon. Close enough to see, but not nearly close enough to touch.

Because they are placed squarely in “someday” land, are easy to avoid. They are fodder for procrastination as they are so far off in the distance, that it’s easy to brush off today’s workout and explain it away with a — “I still got, like, 7 months till that competition. No worries.”

While long term goals are a necessary tool – you need to know which general direction you are going after all – it is reaching the landmarks and road-posts on the way that will ultimately get you there.


Ultimately, creating smaller bite-size goals are what will help you get from where you are today, to where you want to go with your swimming. Here are 5 reasons they will help you along your journey, whatever it is–

1. They give you a powerful jolt of confidence and elevated self-worth. Achieving stuff feels good! I’m a huge user of to-do lists. I have one taped to the wall next to my head, one in a Notepad file on my computer, another couple on my iPad. There is a great deal of satisfaction in crossing something off those lists. To the extent that I will even add things to the list that I didn’t think of prior simply to gain the satisfaction of crossing them off.

2. Provides points to re-evaluate your overall goal. The goal you create in September for the following summer may change. Sometimes drastically. While this could be due to a bad thing – injury or other major setback – it could also require you to dream bigger.

3. Creates momentum to charge towards head-on towards the next goal. Just like a set of dominoes, once you knock over a the first couple goals, you pick up steam (i.e. confidence in your goal setting abilities) and charge forwards. Setting up goals and knocking them down gives you the foundation to chase after the really big ones, because you will have the experience and comfort of knowing that when you set a goal, it might as well already be accomplished.

4. Instills a sense of accountability. Short term goals require your attention. You cannot brush them with the false comfort of knowing that they are somewhere in the distance.

5. They require action. My favorite part of short term goal setting – action! These goals don’t exist far off into next year’s calendar – they are looking at you from today’s date in the calendar. Having goals every day insure that you are making progress every single day.


Place small, short term goals that you can see and feel today and tomorrow. Knock enough of those out of the park and those big, greasy goals – like the last domino in a long line – will fall easily.

What are your goals for your swimming today? What parts of your technique or conditioning will you challenge yourself in?

Click here for more training articles from SwimSwam.

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