12 Quirks of Competitive Swimming

pre-race-jams-dance-3
Photo Courtesy: Kelly Lennon

By Rachel Helm, College Swimming Intern. 

To most people, swimming is seen as just a sport or having a little splash in the pool. However, to a competitive swimmer, it becomes a lifestyle. Here are 12 quirks of competitive swimming that we all can relate to.

1) Chlorine becomes your natural scent.

skin-care-soap-body-wash-cleanser

Photo Courtesy: ISHOF Shop

Wherever you go, a strong scent of chlorine follows. Whenever a friend says they can smell chlorine, you instantly feel like you need to apologize. No matter how much body wash you use to mask your natural scent of the pool, one simple lick or beam of sweat brings the smell right back.

To combat this odor, check out our online store for soap, moisturizers, and shampoo and conditioner.

2) Females permanently adapt to the messy bun hair style.

IMG_4690

Photo Courtesy: Wyn Wiley

You can forget all about straighteners and curlers: It’s all about your damp hair being shoved on top of your head being held together by the same hair tie that has lived on your wrist for the past year. You know you rock the swimmer bun when you go to afternoon practice and your hair is still damp from morning training. It is usually an uncontrollable mess.

3) Having an awful song stuck on repeat in your head for the entire practice.

Jul 18, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Sierra Schmidt of the United States dances on the pool deck before competing in the women's swimming 800m freestyle final during the 2015 Pan Am Games at Pan Am Aquatics UTS Centre and Field House. Mandatory Credit: Erich Schlegel-USA TODAY Sports

Photo Courtesy: Erich Schlegel/USA Today Sports Images

Swimming up and down for two hours with the same song stuck in your head is a one way ticket to insanity. You don’t even know the whole song; its’ usually just the chorus stuck on repeat, and you can’t seem to get past that no matter how hard you try.

4) “Are we leaving this top?”

pace clock

Photo Courtesy: Swimming World

The most confusing part of beginning the main set it knowing when to go. Hesitantly waiting at the wall to see if anyone else is about to leave on the top approaching, but then hoping it’s actually the next top.

5) The dreaded fear of leading the lane during a threshold set.

“You go first!” “No you go first!” is the most common argument just before starting a threshold set. Sometimes you have to take one for the team and just go. Now you have to swim out of your comfort zone to avoid another swimmer riding your wave, and try your hardest not to die in the process.

6) Can’t forget about losing count when you’re leading the lane.

swim-outlet-new-year-swim-challenge-2019

Photo Courtesy: SwimOutlet & MIKE LEWIS

As you’re focusing on keeping a distance between you and the swimmer behind you, there’s a sudden realization that you’ve been distracted and now have no idea what length you’re on. Whenever you’re swimming 500s, lengths 10 to 15 all blend together. Now you’re awkwardly watching the swimmer next to you to work out if they’re going to turn or stop at the wall.

7) The bottomless pit we call our stomach.

bagel-snack-food

Photo Courtesy: Rabi Krishnappa

You can eat an insane amount of food. Carbs, meat, candy: you name it and it’s gone. The suggested serving size feeds four, but after a hard practice, it serves you and you only.

8) Napping, anywhere, anytime.

grove city napping- natalie wolfe

Photo Courtesy: Natalie (Keibler) Wolfe

Thanks to multi-day swim meets, you have the new-found ability to nap almost anywhere at anytime. Falling asleep on a bus becomes as easy as falling asleep in your bed. Twenty-minute power naps after morning practice before your 8 a.m. become a game changer as you master that new skill of the power naps.

9) Sitting at a swim meet for hours to swim a race that lasts less than a minute.

Photo Courtesy: Hayley Good

You sit around a hot pool for hours on end to swim a race that – if you’re a sprinter – will last less than a minute. Sometimes you even have to do a second warm up, since you’ve sat around for so long since your original warm up.

10) Explaining to a non-swimmer that you didn’t win every meet.

Explaining to a non-swimmer that you didn’t win the meet but you did win your heat is always a fascinating situation. You then have to reply, “No I’m not faster than Michael Phelps,” or “I’m not sure if I will go to the Olympics,” because that’s the most common thing non-swimmers ask you.

11) Fogged up goggle rage is real.

meet-warmup-goggles-adjust-bungee-johns-hopkins-ncaa-2019

Photo Courtesy: Emily Cheng

The day you get new goggles and can finally throw your old pair in the trash is like Christmas. Although difficult to part with your old fogged up pair, they did cause you some rage. Swimming less than half a length before your vision becomes blurry due to the fog is never a fun time. Nothing is more frustrating than having to stop every chance you get to wipe them clear with your fingers before pushing off, despite knowing they will only fog again.

12) “What did you say? I have water stuck in my ear.”

September 28, 2018: during the NCAA swimming and diving meet between Saint Louis University and The WashU Bears at the Millstone Pool on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo: Danny Reise/Washington University)

Photo Courtesy: Danny Reise

This is one of the most commonly used phrases of a swimmer, spoken when someone tries to talk to you yet all you have is water sloshing about in your ear. Violently shaking your head or wriggling your finger in your ear provides the only solution. Little is more satisfying than the water finally dripping out of your ear, and your hearing is restored to normal.

The list can go on and on. What would you add to the list?

-All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.

23 comments

  1. Lorna Ryan Ross

    Everything here describes my daughter so well.

  2. Emily Reed

    Stephanie Parent #7

  3. Jemma Cleere

    Annie Cleere this hits too hard

  4. avatar
    John Ian Bobbitt

    Oh my god, I started laughing at 1 and almost peed myself by 10. Great article! I dated a teammate from age 6 through college….and couldn’t help but laugh that the “messy bun” and “chlorine scent” register In My brain as “that’s so hot”.

  5. Holly Karis

    Keira Whitford number 3, 4 and 5

  6. Jenn Lloyd

    Bree McCormack

    • Jenn Lloyd

      Bree McCormack I do too

  7. Frank Elenio

    Kate Kaduboski Anne Warren

  8. Jane Faulkner

    Ellie Faulkner This is so true xxx

  9. Jane Faulkner

    Ellie Faulkner This is so true xxx

  10. avatar
    Megan Bilko

    #9, that is actually a photo of me!! Too bad I was a distance swimmer and swam for many many…many minutes.

  11. avatar
    Sandy Thatcher

    In the days before we all wore goggles it was common to see halos around lights after practice. At least that is one problem we no longer have to deal with.

  12. avatar

    The messy swimmer bun is forever my go-to hairstyle! Love this.

  13. avatar
    Dawn stevens

    All are true swam for 10 years in competition. Loved every single comment above cuz I’ve always heard them.