In Defense of Peeing in the Pool

Photo Courtesy: Taylor Brien

By Zach Breeding, Swimming World College Intern.

In an impromptu survey taken of my team and the recruits we had that weekend as to whether or not they peed in the pool, 21 of them said that they did. The sample size was 21. Albeit this is a rather small sample size to be considered an actual survey and perhaps  anecdotal but I think the point stands that everyone does it.

However, being a philosophy major, I should know that everyone doing something does not make it the right thing to do. So, let’s take an in-depth look into the science, morals, and perhaps even the benefits of peeing in the pool.

Science!

Chlorine is the boogeyman of swimming. Swimmers tend to blame every problem they can’t place on their coach on the chlorine. This is perfectly understandable– chlorine is an abrasive chemical that is often used for cleaning purposes, so when people are in it for extended periods of time being worried about its effects is perfectly reasonable.

What has been demonstrated by many studies, most definitively by a Dutch study from 2007 titled “Exposure to Trichloramine and Respiratory Symptoms in Indoor Pool Workers“, is that trichloramines are in fact harmful. What has also been concluded is that the origin of trichloramines are sweat, spit, and urine. As any swimmer can attest, all three of these things become pretty prominent in every pool as a practice goes on.

So, The suggestion that is often made in an effort to decrease the amount of trichloramines that get released into the pool atmosphere is to simply not pee in the pool. However, this completely discounts the amount released through sweat and spit.

The human body is capable of producing about three liters of sweat per hour of strenuous activity. That is a lot of sweat, and thus a lot of trichloramines released into the environment. In contrast, the average amount that someone pees per pee is about 500 milliliters. So, unless one pees six times per two-hour practice the possibility of producing more trichloramines through peeing is very unlikely. This also doesn’t take into account the amount released by saliva.

In other words, the amount of trichloramines released into the air by pee is merely a drop in the pool compared to other bodily fluids. Thus, removing oneself from the pool is about as irrational as telling swimmers to not sweat during practice.

Morals and Their Physical Repercussions

Some would take the stance that peeing in the pool while in close proximity to one’s teammates is immoral. I, however, am of the belief that not peeing in the pool is more immoral than doing so. But why is this?

Beyond making silly jokes about warming up one’s teammates, there do in fact exist many moral benefits for staying in the pool to relieve oneself.

If one was to actually get out of the pool and go to the bathroom every single time they needed to, they may end up getting out two to three times a practice. Each instance of getting out of the pool could take anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes. So, for the average swimmer, they would miss (at best) a minute and a half of pool time. The worst possible realistic scenario has them out of the water for six minutes in a single practice. I think it’s safe to assume that this would not fly for any swim coach, except the most lenient.

Now that we’ve established that this would likely not fly with any swim coach, the effect this behavior has on the team should be discussed as it is more drastic and places one in a more morally precarious situation.

By getting out of the water for three to four minutes every single practice, one accomplishes many things in the eyes of their teammates. The first of these is making it appear that you are getting out of the pool in order to skip, since it is very unlikely that one’s teammates will assume they are trying to avoid adding more trichloramines to the pool environment. By skipping either yards or explanations from coach (which often leads to more missed yards) one can also lose the respect of their teammates. But it’s not only the others in the water that are being cheated; swimmers who skip reps for whatever reason lose the most important thing to many athletes. Gains.

australian-practice-fins-kick-board-listening

Photo Courtesy: Delly Carr / Swimming Australia Ltd.

There are countless studies all across the internet (as well other more reliable sources, like academic journals) that describe the negative effects of skipping workouts, but these all look into long-term muscle loss from skipping entire workouts. What about skipping parts of workouts?

Hopping out of the pool in the middle of a workout can make one become reliant on this break. Now obviously no one condones getting out of the water mid-main set as this would be seen as an obvious attempt to recover from the set. But even getting out prior to and missing the beginning of a hard set gives one an advantage in the workout.

Other things that could come from this is that maybe a swimmer will become dependent on this bathroom break to give them an assist in the set, and they would, in effect, have made themselves weaker physically but mainly mentally.

Effects of this weakening could be even more hatred for practicing as well as slower race times.

The increased dislike for practice comes from the fact that as one skips more and more they enjoy this time out of the water and this weakens their resolve towards finishing sets all around. The slower times would obviously come from skipping yards and thus being less prepared for races.

But what if any benefits come from actually peeing in the pool?

Benefits?

Now obviously in this section more bad jokes about warming up your teammates could be made, but we won’t go for the low hanging fruit in this particular article.

Also obvious is the fact that peeing in the pool will not make you a better swimmer, if that were the case every coach would make their swimmers drink even more water than they already do. Instead, I would propose that there are no inherent benefits of peeing in the pool. However, the cost of getting out of the pool far outweighs any negatives that can be found to be caused by peeing in the pool.

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

43 Comments

43 comments

  1. Michael Pollock

    I probably could have gone without knowing more about peeing, spitting sweating in the pool.

  2. avatar
    Momofaswimmerwithasthma

    I am so completely offended by your stance. Eliminating urine would at least reduce the amount of trichloramines produced. You are effectively advocating for bad air quality here. My daughter was diagnosed with asthma as a toddler, well before she started swimming. She is impacted by poor indoor pool air quality on a daily basis. Have some respect for your fellow swimmers who struggle with breathing.

    • avatar
      Peeinginthepool101

      If she has asthma then she is in the wrong sport… everyone pees in the pool and I bet your daughter does too because coaches basically teach it. Just cause one girl has asthma doesn’t mean you have to limit other people going pee in the pool. Go swim outside if your that worried about it…

    • avatar
      Blackmen1984

      Maybe you should’ve smoked while being pregnant

  3. Jayne Artwick

    It’s gross, get your lazy butt out of the pool and go

    • avatar
      Nolazyswimmers

      You sound so dumb… you probably couldn’t even get out of the pool to go.

  4. Ema Rajic

    Elizabeth Atkinson

  5. Ross Knowles

    Please don’t pee in the pool. Sweat and spit is bad enough.

  6. Don Cheney

    Reason for chlorine treatment

  7. avatar
    Anonymous

    I hate it when people get out of the pool to “go to the bathroom” when they’re really just trying to avoid hard work.

  8. Brett Davies

    Even Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps admitted to peeing in the pool. I reckon that most competitive swimmers do it even through they won’t admit to it.

    • avatar
      MMA

      And look how fast peeing in the pool made Lochte & Phelps! Maybe peeing while racing gives them an edge… A bit of extra propulsion….

    • Cristhian Zamora

      I told you… i moraly refuse to pee where in a puddle of water where many other ppl submerge their entire bodies and take fluid in through nose, mouth, ears, eyes and pores lmao even if other ppl do it too

  9. Shea Huntington

    Miguel Sole Canales Maaike Van Willegen Danny Moon Sasha Duncan

  10. Sarah McCafferty

    Will, in defense of mine and Kelsey’s stance on this…

  11. avatar
    Neil

    If I pee before I begin my swim, I never seem to need to get out during the session to pee. Even if I take on lots of fluids, I am losing them again through sweat. I suppose it is only a problem for some swimmers.

  12. avatar
    Peeonmeeyouknee

    I think peeing in the water is great. Once I was just like you all anti pee and stuff but now I’ve been passing in the pool even when I don’t have practice. I’m gonna be honest passing in the pool has definitely changed my life for better. You probably ask “why?”. Well to answer that let me just tell you that you should try it for yourself.

  13. avatar
    Michael

    I believe this article was simply an obvious attempt to create some controversy and is intended as click bait, but I question the integrity of Swimming World to publish it. As a former division 1 swimmer and current master swimmer, I never urinated in the pool. The 30 seconds it takes to get out and go to the bathroom will not harm your training. However, now that I am involved in the management of a swimming pool, I can tell you that dumping up to a quart of urine all at once in a pool, by several swimmers, will have a significant effect on the formation of chloramines and will degrade the air quality. Don’t do it.

  14. avatar
    Rick Waldock

    I’m skeptical of this. First of all, the “impromptu survey” among the college swimmers isn’t clear whether they currently, regularly pee in the pool during practice, or if they have ever, in their entire lives, peed in a pool. In my own experience, you can’t physically pee while you’re actively pushing through a set. It takes a minute to relax, be still, and “let it flow”. That kind of time only comes between sets. It was always understood that you don’t get out of the water or take a break during sets. After a set, especially after the main set, there’s usually at least a few minutes break before beginning the next set. That’s always the time that several people would jump out of the pool and run to the bathroom. Coaches were happy that no one jumped out during the set, so they gladly allowed a few minutes until everyone was back in the pool the begin the next set. If you have enough time to stand around in the pool during practice to pee, you’re not working hard enough; furthermore, you’re lazy, rude and inconsiderate of others by not running to the bathroom. Anyone over the age of, say, 9 or 10 caught peeing in a pool should be strongly reprimanded. College or adult swimmers should be ashamed … and perhaps banned from the pool.

  15. Wanda Buu

    how disgusting & disrespectful & unsportsmanlike, gross

  16. avatar
    Liza Cummings

    Anyone who is posting negative comments on this is clearly not a college swimmer–I can go ahead and double your sample size by saying that every single member of my college team pees in the pool. Pee does not create significant air problems, poor ventilation does that wayyyy more.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that I love this article! It’s funny and well written. From one college swimmer to another–keep up the good work.

Author: Zach Breeding

avatar
Zach Breeding is a freshman at Mckendree University where he is majoring in philosophy with a pre-law designation. He is also a Breaststroker and member of the inaugural swim team at Mckendree University coached by Jimmy Tierney.

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