What Makes Swimming One of the Most Challenging Sports

Belinda Hocking showing the strain of another hard set of training. University of Auburn Aquatic Centre, Alabama USA. Australian Olympic Swimming Team are in their final training staging Camp before heading over to the Rio2016 Olympic Games. July 29 2016. Photo by Delly Carr. Pic credit mandatory for complimentary exclusive editorial usage. Thank You.

By Shweta Krishnan, Swimming World Magazine Intern

Swimming is widely regarded as the most-watched sport every four years at the Summer Olympics. While swimmers recognize the demands of the sport, those who simply take a dip are unaware of the rigors swimming places on its competitive participants. Like all athletes, swimmers have their fair share of highs and lows. Not only is it physically demanding, but it is also mentally demanding as well. The grit and determination the athletes show in every practice and meet demonstrates their love and willingness to do everything for the sport. Here are five reasons why swimming is one of the most difficult sports to succeed in.



Photo Courtesy: Peter H. Bick

Every stroke in a race matters. Swimmers must constantly run through drills during practice to perfect their strokes. Speed and strength can only carry the athlete to a certain extent. Beyond this, they must rely on strong technique in order to help them get through the race. And that is not something that can be mastered overnight. It takes years of practice in order to build solid technique and form in your stroke, and it should not be taken lightly.

Water Resistance and Temperature

The biggest and most obvious factor to consider in swimming is the water. Water is much denser than air, so there is much more resistance preventing people from being able to move through it quickly and freely. This makes it so much more difficult compared to other land sports. Additionally, the water temperature often affects how swimmers perform. Cold temperatures are often best for them to compete in. Trying to swim in warm water is like a sprinter trying to run a 5k in weather over 100 degrees.


Swimming World March 2021 - Dryside Training - Pulling Power - J.R. RosaniaWeight training for swimming is done differently than other sports. Swimmers look to be toned and have lean muscle. They don’t necessarily want to bulk up because it creates extra weight for them to drag, which can be detrimental in the water. Instead, swimmers have to mold their dryland workouts to fit their needs in the water.

Year-Round Training

Unlike most sports, there is no “offseason” for swimmers. The only break that any of the athletes get is approximately two weeks at the end of the summer. This period is when the season switches from long course back to short course. The never-ending feeling of swimming is what makes it so mentally difficult for everyone. Without an actual break, swimmers are always on the go and constantly trying to improve. Taking one day off of swimming can set people two days behind, so it is often difficult to simply take a rest day.

Dropping Time

Dropping time is every swimmer’s dream whenever they step up on the blocks. Unfortunately, it’s not possible every time out. The days of dropping five seconds every event are long gone by the time you reach your teen years. It can take months of grueling practices before athletes are able to even shave off tenths of a second from their times. Quite frankly, it can be extremely demotivating to spend so much time and effort only to drop a few hundredths of a second in a race.

You might hear swimmers complain about their dry skin and dead hair or their constant hunger and fatigue. But it is their love for the sport that helps them overlook these negative aspects. Swimming is a challenging sport to pursue, but with love, passion, and determination, all of these sacrifices are worth it.

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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Josh De Groot
Josh De Groot
2 months ago

I love swimming! I totally agree with this article, because swimming is not a walk in the park. It is 90% mental, your brain telling you: “it’s too hard! you can’t do it!”. But in reality, you can do a lot more than you know. If you show up to swim practice and you don’t show up mentally, you aren’t getting anywhere. you need to be there both physically and mentally.

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