Why Do You Swim?

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By Kelley Baylis, Swimming World College Intern

As the month of January winds down, so does the most difficult time of training in the season. NEWMAC championships are approaching, which means taper is on its way.

During the hardest month of the swim season, there were many tough practices where I asked myself, why do I swim? Out of all the sports available, I have been swimming since I was six years old. I have dedicated 14 years of my life to this sport, as many of my fellow swimmers have as well. So why do we do it?

Just looking at the month of January alone, we spent around four hours a day in the pool with at least one hour of dryland most days. That’s 24 hours a week. We lost an entire day every week to simply being in the pool.

So why? I wanted to put this question to the test and asked men and women from each class on Wheaton College’s swim team.

Freshman Emily Reynolds loves the heroic power swimming gives her.

Wheaton College Women's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“Swimming is the closest thing to a superpower that I have. Whenever I swim it’s almost as if I’m flying on top of the water. As to why I go to the pool every day, here’s the thing- yes, we spend hours on end practicing but, it’s all worth it because the second I touch the wall and see my newly dropped time I know those hours of training had a purpose. I am victorious. It’s probably one of the best feelings in the world,” Reynolds said.

 

Sophomore Amalia Quesada Nylen’s motives have changed throughout her career.

Wheaton College Women's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“Having done this sport for almost a decade, my love for swimming has definitely evolved over the years. When I started swimming, it was my deepest passion. I ate, lived, and breathed swimming…and I loved every second of it. But I got older, naturally, other parts of life required more dedication, such as receiving my college degree and finding my career path. As a college swimmer, when I am exhausted and sore from training for countless of hours, as well as working hard to maintain a good GPA, often times the last place I want to be is at a pool. It gets harder and harder to remind myself why I still do it, because like any swimmer I complain about it so much I forget that small part of me that loves it is still there,” she said.

“I do it for the people. The friendships I’ve made with people while we all suffer from a coach’s wrath are some of the best I’ve made in my life. Without them I wouldn’t laugh as much as I do in a day. I do it because there is no better feeling than getting out of a hard practice and realizing few people can do what I do every single day. Swimming has pushed both my body and mind beyond their limits. It has made me stronger and more resilient to tackle any obstacle life has in store for me, and for that I will always be grateful that I decided to become a swimmer.”

 

Junior Christian Tinory thrives off the push he gets from his teammates.

Wheaton College Men's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“I started swimming when a friend of mine in my neighborhood told me to join the local YMCA team after seeing how well I could swim in the pool in my backyard. My friend swam with me on the team for about a year, and ironically enough, the friend didn’t end up staying on the team. I ended up being a part of the team for the next eight years,” he said.

“Personally, I believe what gets us into the pool everyday is beyond the fast times at meets and breaking records. We surround ourselves with our teammates three to four hours everyday of the season, and these teammates become our closest friends. If it weren’t for my friends, swimming would be increasingly more difficult and close to impossible. It says a lot to why swimming laps at the Y by yourself is so hard to do. You don’t have your friends (teammates) to push you.”

 

Senior Kelsey White is ready to wrap up her swimming career, but not ready to leave the friends she has made.

Wheaton College Women's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“Within the last few years, I haven’t swum for the love of the sport. At times, I find it hard to believe that anyone likes staring at a black line at the bottom of the pool for two hours a day, or being too tired to lift their arms at the end of practice. I swim because I have been lucky enough to be around teammates, competitors, and coaches that make swimming fun.”

“When I graduate from Wheaton, I won’t remember the meet results or my individual times. I will remember the teammates that encouraged me when I didn’t think I would make it through practice. I will remember the team jokes, skit nights, our dance parties before meets in the locker room, and the friendships that started because of the nature of this sport. I have made some of my best friends through the sport of swimming. I swim for my teammates and the camaraderie that swimming fosters.”

 

Junior Merrill McCluskey swims for exercise, but also has a familial attachment to the sport.

Wheaton College Women's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“I swim because my dad swam. It was always something we did together, so the sport holds fond memories in that sense. Swimming has a way of being oddly comforting to me… there’s something relaxing about the repetitive, monotonous activity.”

 

Sophomore Frederick Garneau’s reasons for staying in the sport are plain and simple.

Wheaton College Men's Swim team 2014-15 - Photo By: KEITH NORDSTROM

“The reason I go to practice is the people. The atmosphere is intoxicating. It doesn’t matter who is faster or slower, simply that everyone is trying as hard as they can. Everyone there sees finishing the practice as an accomplishment. And that is why it is so easy to get hooked on the sport. I have been hooked for almost 14 years,” Garneau said.

Some people do it for the exercise, but most do it for the people they get to surround themselves with during each practice. There is clearly something about the sport of swimming that causes people to latch on. Especially in college, when the end of most swimming careers draws near, people tend to remember why they started when they were six years old and haven’t been able to stop.

Swimming back and forth, staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool may seem like torture to many. But to swimmers, it’s something we can’t give up.

Why do you swim?