Slow Sucky Swim Days

“This trip to the pool was a waste… I’m swimming slow and still have so much left to do. I should give up now… I feel like I am exerting a ton of energy and almost getting nowhere… Why is life so hard? This swim is hell. I hate swimming. I am terrible at it and it never gets any easier.”

Have you ever had this conversation with yourself during a workout?

I bet you have.

We ALL have.

Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD) happen. They even happen to the very best athletes in the world. They also happen to me and I’m sure they happen to you too.

Your swim success on race day isn’t dependent on avoiding Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD).

Your swim success on race day is dependent on how you deal with Sucky-Slow-Swim Days (SSSD).

Age Group Triathletes are more likely to have SSSD than swimmers or Pro Triathletes, and here’s why;

The more you swim, the less prone you are to SSSD’s.

When I was training for the 2012 Olympics I was in the pool 11 times a week. We’d get through 25+ hours of water time in those 11 sessions.

My training these days looks A LOT different to what it looked like back then. I don’t have the time nor the motivation to swim for 25+ hours a week. Like many other Age Group triathletes, I swim 3 times a week for roughly an hour.

I’ve noticed something interesting with my own training and see it with my clients too. With the lower total swim time each week, my times are far less consistent than they used to be.

There are a lot more SSSD’s and when they happen, I’m much slower than my goal times!

When training 25 hours a week on a SSSD, I would be 1 second off my 100m goal pace… and I remember feeling so frustrated even with 1 second!

Nowadays, on 3 hours a week, if I’m having a SSSD, I can be between 4-6 seconds off my 100m goal pace!! WTF?!

Last week I had a SSSD. Sunday’s session was bang on. Tuesday’s swim was a nightmare, but Thursday, I was right back on pace!

Why Do SSSD’s Happen?

  • You’ve briefly lost your feel for the water
    • “Feel” is a swimming term that describes how quickly and how much water you can grab. How much water you can hold and push back with each stroke. The more the better! The more you swim (less time between your swim sessions), the more your body will remember the “feel” for the water
  • You’re more fatigued
    • Balancing the training of three sports is tough. Very seldom will you be completely recovered from the training you did the day before. This plays a role on your speed and ability to hit your goal times.
  • Other factors
    • There are countless other reasons why SSSD’s happen to AG Triathletes. Changes in technique. Bad stroke habits that creep back in. Stress from work or life. Lack of sleep. Not eating right. Dehydration. Some of them you can control, others you can’t, but they all play a role.

You Have A Choice To Make On SSSD’s

Regardless of the reason, SSSD’s happen and when they do, you have a choice to make.

Going through my SSSD workout on Tuesday, I could have had that conversation with myself. The “…this trip to the pool was a waste… I’m swimming slow and still have so much left to do. I should give up now…” conversation.

But I didn’t. I pushed through, and I want you to push through too.

SSSD’s can be constructive workouts that make you a better swimmer. Missing your goal times doesn’t always mean that you are wasting you time with a workout.

How To Deal With SSSD’s

Think of your fitness like a savings account at a bank.

Each time you work out you are making a deposit into your account. Over time you’ll build up enough of a reserve to be able to write a nice big cheque on race day.

Let’s say your goal is to deposit $100 into your account every time you workout. When you hit all your goal times, $100 gets deposited and saved.

On some days, you’ll have a SSSD and for whatever reason you miss your goal times. Perhaps you’re stressed at work and didn’t sleep well. Today you only have $50 (or less) to deposit.

You Make The Decision

On SSSD’s, you have two choices:

1. Choose not to make a deposit today.

Because it’s not $100 (which is the goal) you could say, “…this is a waste of time, I won’t make a deposit today”. You then quit your workout and leave without adding any amount at all to your bank account savings.

2. Decide that $50 is better than $0 and make the best of what you’ve got to deposit today.

If you deposit $50 on two days this week, you’ll have $100 saved. Not quite as much as the $200 you might have planned, but 100% more than the $0 you would have had if you quit and left the pool! Whether its money or fitness, it all adds up no matter how small.

Switch Your Focus

Training is not a continuous upward trajectory in a straight line. If you only swim 3 hours a week, you’re not going to have $100 to deposit every time you hit the water.

That is ok! Take the SSSD’s in your stride.

Switch your focus to effort and maintain your intensity. Put forward the best effort you can, today. Deposit whatever you have to offer. Over the long run, with time and consistency, you will be richer and fitter because of it!


Having a few too many slow sucky swim days? Leave me a comment on what’s happening each time you swim.
~ Rory

About The Author

Hey, I’m Rory!
I write and record everything on It’s my way of giving back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years. Thanks for reading and hanging out on my site, I hope you’ve found it valuable!

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