Life In The Fast Lane: Sprinter Appreciation

Swimming Australia 400 Free Relay 2015 Worlds
Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / MIA Rossiya Segodnya

By Seren Jones, Swimming World College Intern

Historically, sprinters have always been referred to as the “lazy” swimmers. We get out early. We get extra rest. We hardly do any yardage. We’ve heard all of the accusations and complaints from our middle distance and distance counterparts. My personal favorite? “When the going gets tough, the sprinters get out.”

Today, I aim to inform the middle distance and distance swimming world that this is NOT the case.

Here are five reasons why sprinters should earn more appreciation from their fellow swimmers and teammates:

1. We are typically the fastest people in the pool. 

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Photo Courtesy: Joao Marc Bosch

Although our middle distance friends over in the middle section of the pool can undoubtedly give us a run for our money in the 100, we tend to be the fastest swimmers. If you want to argue the point that we’re “only the fastest over 50 and 100” then ask yourself, who is the fastest man on earth? Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is the fastest man to ever run the 100 and 200m track event. Nobody refers to him as the “fastest man in the 100 and 200,” he is the fastest man in history, period.

2. We go harder in the gym.


Photo Courtesy: R-Sport / Mia Rossiya Segodnaya

As sprinters, we tend to lift heavier than the other swimmers because it’s an aspect of our training that benefits our performance. Distance swimmers don’t need to do as much weight bearing exercises as sprinters, and sprinters don’t need to do as much cardio work as a distance swimmers.

Because the sports components of strength and power are necessary in sprinting, heavy weight training is mandatory and beneficial as it’s an ideal way to transition power and speed into the water. Also, if you think it’s easy to lift heavy (which usually makes you sore), then do a sprint set where you can only be half a second off your best 50 time and a second off your best 100 time, you’re SO wrong.

3. We do lactate sets regularly.


Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

As sprinters, we can only imagine how nauseating it must be when you swim your sets of broken 200s, broken 400s, broken 500s, broken 1000s, and even broken miles. We can tell by the way you hold onto the wall that you’re hurting everywhere, big time. But just because we don’t do those sets doesn’t mean that we don’t physically hurt.

A sprinter’s worst enemy is lactic acid, and in season we usually have a weekly battle to see who’s strong enough to come out on top. And believe me when I say that lactic acid always brings its A game. We find this excruciatingly painful, considering that we are far less tolerant of lactic acid than you guys are. So when you do feel the lactate build up some days, know that this is what we face all the time.

4. We do “behind the scenes” work.


Photo Courtesy: Sue Borst

Although it may seem like all we do is sprint and lift and sprint some more, what goes on behind the scenes is far more technical. We have to perfect our technique, our streamlines, our breath control, our underwater kicks, the catch, the pull through, the recovery, our stroke tempo, our body position, our head position, our starts, our turns, our finishes, just to shave tenths of a second off our times.

I’m not saying that middle distance and distance swimmers don’t work on these components, but they are far more crucial to a sprinter’s performance than to a distance swimmer’s. Working on all of these, while still trying to swim our fastest in the pool is physically and mentally tiring.

5. We appreciate your hard work.


Photo Courtesy: Sue Borst

As sprinters, we wouldn’t even dream of swimming anything over 100 yards, and the thought of doing so is considered comical for the entire team. We never say that you didn’t do enough, or work hard enough, or have it easier than everybody else. We respect the mental battles you have with yourselves when you’re having a tough time psyching yourself up for yet another 200, or a 400, or a 500, or a 1000, or a 1650 at a dual meet.

We admire that you remain loyal to your races, even though sometimes it seems like they nearly take your lives. We praise the fact that you call the races your races, because we know you’re not going to let the distance beat you.

We applaud your hard work, courage, and dedication, so could you appreciate ours?

While we appreciate and understand the hard work, and at times, excessive yardage our fellow middle distance and distance swimmers endure, all I’m asking for is the same amount of support and respect that we sprinters give to you.

A little more appreciation toward the sprinters and their life in the fast lane would go a long way– maybe even an entire 100 yards!

And for those of you who still don’t think we work as hard as the rest: Don’t hate the player, hate the game.

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Enoch Min
8 years ago

Albert Gwo

Roman Horoszewski
8 years ago

Annnnddd sprinters still have it easy

Hilary Harless Greener

Sprinters are great! There’s a lot more to it than anyone believes. Keep up the good work!!!

8 years ago

Sprinters are “Nut Jobs”. I know! Because I am one… ??

Jim Griffin
8 years ago

Swam college in the Dark Ages, BEFORE goggles, if you believe it. Distance lane, me included doing some (then,to us) God awful set. Next lane, sprinters doing 50’s on the half hour, so it seemed. Both groups on the wall at same time when laziest sprinter in the group announced in a loud voice “COACH, I’M FREEZING UP”
We distance guys did not know wether to laugh or cry or both, but henceforth and evermore , the guy who made that remark was stuck with the nickname of NANOOK, which was a reference unfamiliar to many( swam in North Carolina, many of my Tarheel team mates not up to speed anthropologically.
A great memory of one of the most vapor headed sprinters it was my ever my pleasure to know. I am informed nothing has changed by the middle and distance guys in 2015.

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