5 Struggles that all Outdoor Swimmers Face

Photo Courtesy: John McGillen/USC Athletics

By J.P. Mortenson, Swimming World College Intern.

For the most part, swimming outdoors is pretty great. These swimmers get to train in the sunshine and breathe fresh air every day, all while their counterparts are stuck inside their humid indoor dungeons.

However, not everything about swimming outdoors is great. Here are five struggles that all outdoor swimmer face.

1. Morning Practice.


Photo Courtesy: Annie Grevers

For outdoor swimmers, morning practice almost always starts when it is still cold and dark. This obviously makes it even harder than it already is to jump into the pool at 5 a.m. to start warm up. Most swimmers combat this by staying in their parkas till the last possible second before taking them off and running into the pool. However, watching the sunrise in the middle of practice usually makes it all worth it.

2. The Tan Lines.


Photo Courtesy: Cathleen Pruden

One truth about training outdoors is that you will be very tan, whether you like it or not. Your skin will be golden and bronze, and some of your friends may even ask you for the name of your tanning salon. However, not everything about your tan will be perfect. For instance, outdoor swimmers can easily be differentiated from their indoor counterparts by their intense google tans, cap tans, and for most girls, one-piece tans. With these unfortunate tan lines, there is little you can do other than wear them as badges of honor you earned from putting in hours of hard work.

3. The Sprint to the Locker Room.

cerave invitational

Photo Courtesy: Heidi Torregroza

Getting out of the pool in those winter months when it is dark, cold and windy might just be the hardest part of practice. You know it is going to be freezing, so all you can do is grab your mesh bag and sprint to the locker room. However, the freezing temperatures only make the end-of-practice shower that much more satisfying.

4. Variable Weather Conditions.


Photo Courtesy: flickr

Outdoor swimmers are completely at the mercy of mother nature, as lightning is just about the only thing that will force swimmers to get out of the pool (often to the dismay of their coaches). You can be sure that every outdoor swimmer has more stories than they can remember about swimming in the middle of rainstorms, hailstorms, heat waves and just about any other crazy weather you can think of. However, bad weather can be especially devastating for competitions as the field will often go slower at meets with cold and wet conditions. Because of this, most swimmers will check the weather patterns in the days leading up to their outdoor races with the hopes that they will not have to spend the whole meet bundled in the parka huddled under the team tent waiting to dive into their races with numb feet and cold hands.

5. Backstroke Navigation.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Whenever you swim backstroke, you are almost completely blind. Indoor backstrokers are almost always able to find some sort of structural clues on the roof to help guide them. However, outdoor backstrokers do not have this luxury, making it much more difficult to navigate the pool and swim in a straight line. This is especially true when it is dark outside or in the middle of the day when you are forced to stare at the sun. Usually, you can use your peripheral vision to stay close to a lane line, but sometimes you misjudge things and hit your hand, or even worse, have a painful head-on collision with a teammate.

What do you like or dislike about swimming outdoors? Leave your answer in the comments below.

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

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3 years ago

I remember the cold air or water temp in the 50’s which made the air feel warm in late may/early June in CT. In Florida, I remember mega sun and using terry bath robes for protection. But, getting wicked sun burn on exposed feet. How about the challenge of peak sun in the eyes when using diving boards. Scary! Bleached hair was always interesting with varying degrees tan lines were conversational pieces. I was always afraid of skin cancer and it’s effect on later life.

3 years ago


3 years ago

I enjoy training outdoors any chance I get. There’s something special about watching the sunrise!

3 years ago

Christopher Stafford ?‍♂️