10 Things That Should Not Be Said to a Swimmer


10 Things That Should Not Be Said to a Swimmer

By Brooke Irving, Swimming World College Intern

Swimmers lead a lifestyle that doesn’t make sense to non-swimmers. But can we really blame them for not understanding? Like no other, we voluntarily jump into a cold pool in the dead of winter (most often more than six times per week) and spend hours at swim meets only to actually swim for a couple minutes. As a swimmer, we are far too familiar with Aunt Susan’s questions at Thanksgiving, or footballer-Michael-from-English-class’s assumptions about the sport we are so passionate about. On a daily basis non-swimmers say things to us, which quite frankly grind our gears. As much as we may smile and respond, on the inside we are gritting our teeth as our faces heat up with irritation. So, here are some things you should never say to a swimmer in order to avoid our wrath:

“Swimming isn’t a sport”

This one sentence alone has the power to make any swimmer’s blood boil. For the non-swimmer, swimming may be a leisurely way to spend your summer holiday, but if you think that swimmers spend hours per week in practice floating up and down on an inflatable, you’re wrong. Swimming requires skill, strength, endurance and a determined mindset. To any non-swimmer who thinks this, I hereby invite you to a swim practice, oh and the main set is 4 x 200 fly… 3 times through.

“You’re going to eat all that?”


Photo Courtesy: ponce_photography

This bowl of spaghetti, a chicken sandwich and a side salad? Yes, of course, and I will probably have this carton of chocolate milk too… And that’s just lunch. As competitive swimmers we can burn up to 2,500 calories in a 2-hour practice, so food and nutrition is vital for recovery and performance in the pool.

“Did you win your meet?”

For us, it may not always be about winning. First and foremost, we as individual swimmers cannot win an entire meet. However, we take pride in the successes we make at competitions. A win for us may be the fact that we swam a new personal best, or that we won our heat, or our team may win the championship. This is a loaded question, so brace yourself as we explain how it all went down.

“Are you fast?”

Faster than you? Yes. Faster than an Olympian? No.

“We should have a race”

At this pool party, right now? That’s cute. I just don’t know if I would want to put you through the embarrassment when I get to the other end of this eight-metre pool in two seconds, while you’re still at the start line doing some weird form of breaststroke.

“A second is nothing”

A single millisecond holds indescribable value to a swimmer. A tenth of a second (.1) can be the difference between qualifying for a championship, winning gold, or beating your rival. Sometimes we may swim just one second faster than we have ever swam before, but that can be make or break.

“Can you just skip practice?”

Unfortunately, I haven’t injured myself, which is the only redeemable token to miss practice. But, if you’d like you can call my coach and hear their wrath of fury when they find out I’m missing practice to go to the cinemas, go ahead!

“Will you make it to the Olympics?”


Photo Courtesy: Wikipedia

Every swimmer wishes that they would be at the Olympic Games one day. But the reality is, we just aren’t sure if we will be! There are billions of competitive swimmers worldwide, and we all can’t be the next Michael Phelps.

“How many laps did you do at practice?”

One second and let me get out my calculator and add up every set and divide by the length of the pool. We don’t really count the laps, but rather the distance we do in our sets.

“Aren’t you tired?

After getting up at 5:30am for the fourth morning in a row, we are certainly tired. But it’s all worth it. Swimmers have big goals to achieve, and we will put in the hard yards to get there.


      • avatar
        Catherine hey

        Well said! As an ex swimmers
        Mother I know exactly how hard they have to work along with schoolwork too!

    • Ryley Eckert

      Julie Taylor aghhh I hate when people say those things to me! They just don’t get it

    • Stella Matthews

      “You’re going to eat all that” ????. Oh man and Millie thinks she’s always hungry

    • Milena Babic

      Stella Matthews you should have seen me in my swimming days!!

      • avatar
        M Cross

        This is so true. Well said. Just keep swimming#

    • Ryley Eckert

      Milena Babic the amount of avo on toast (with feta and spinach from ink, duh!) I would eat was just ridiculous

  1. Heather Thomas

    This one and ‘swimming isn’t exercise’ are really annoying!

    “Swimming isn’t a sport”

  2. avatar

    530? That’s a sleep in – we rise at 420 to be stretching at 450 !

  3. David Moreno

    How many football idiots have said that before that swimming is not a sport? Too many!

    • Heather Dages Benesh

      I had that happen to me in gym class where the football players were making fun of swimmers. We had to warm up with a 500 and they ALL died. Of course, we swimmers finished rather quickly. They asked us if we cheated. We replied that we did more than double than that for warm up every day! I think they changed their tune after that!

    • Hallie Stoffal

      David Moreno so, my high school had a really nice tour bus donated to the sports program. It typically went to the football team, for their away games. We swimmers got tired of never getting the “good” bus so our coach challenged the football coach. “Send your 5 best players to my practice and I’ll send 5 of my swimmers that you choose to your practice. Whoever makes it through the whole practice gets the bus the rest of the year” the football coach picked me, two other girls and two guys. He sent 5 first string varsity seniors to do swim practice. All 5 of us swimmers made it through the entire 2 hour football practice. Not a single one of the football players made it halfway through our 4 hour swim practice!

    • David Moreno

      Hallie Stoffal that what happens when you ask the body to move constantly for hours w/out stopping. Where football you get big breaks to rest and wait. I doubt they could do a full soccer practice! ?

  4. avatar
    Colleen Kloiber

    Swimmers are remarkably, talented athletes, dedicated to their sport. Proud grandmother of two high school swimmers

  5. avatar

    This is gold

  6. avatar
    Pete Hyset

    It always amazed me that people would ask the same thing over and over year after year..
    Yes, I get up at 4:15 am to make the 5:00 practice and after school I hit another 1:30 hour practice.. and the next week.. and the next week for the next year.

    I never did get those questions.

  7. avatar

    I am 53 years old .. and was a swimmer (once a swimmer, always a swimmer, right?!). I was a distance swimmer. I am not overweight, but just a typical 53-year-old guy. When friends find out I was a swimmer, I get the “you wanna race?”, I just smile … I have only lost once — to a swimmer (he was a sprinter). Side note … I beat, or rather ABSOLUTED CRUSHED, him in the “50 yards underwater” race 🙂 …

  8. avatar
    Barbara Gould

    How about the dumb questions the coaches get asked about swimming?

  9. Yep – at 63 I still get pissed at some of these questions

    • Robert Kannegieser my favorite:

      “Is the Butterfly really that hard to do?”

  10. avatar
    Mike zabel

    I’m sorry but our milkshake machine is broken

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