Courtesy of Claire Forrest
The great thing about being a swimmer is that you feel an instant camaraderie with swimmers all over the world. Some parts of the swimming experience are universal no matter what type of swimmer you are. There are some things that all swimmers admit to doing: stressing about when to fit in their schoolwork and social life, bugging their coach for more feedback, or perfectly packing your swim bag before every meet.
And then there are the things all swimmers do before, during, or after practice that seem so necessary in the moment but we would never own up to doing them, not even to each other.
10) Lying to your swim coach about what number repetition you’re on. It happens rarely, but when it does, it’s a glorious moment. You’re in the middle of a long, continuous set…20x50s or 10x100s or something like that. Towards the end of the set, your coach’s eyes glaze over for just a second, and then he or she asks, “How many have you guys done?” No one from the team has to look at each other, because you all know that anyone who doesn’t capitalize on this opportunity will be ex-communicated from the team by default. You were really on number six, but telling your coach you’re on number eight isn’t going to hurt anyone. It’s 200 less yards, at most.
9) Pulling on the lane line. This is perhaps the most classic swimmer cheat that everybody claims they’ve never tried. But we’ve all been in the middle of a backstroke set and reached a few rungs down on the lane line and pulled, feeling the momentum effortlessly pull you a few yards closer to the wall. You know what I’m talking about. You won’t admit it, but you’ve done it.
8) Timing the rip of your swim cap at the exactly right moment. Swimmers know when their swim cap is on its last legs. You can feel the silicone or latex loosen and even see a few minor tears at its edges. You’ll miss your trusty cap, but its last gift to you will be its ability to rip right in the middle of an insufferable workout. Oops, looks like you’ll need to get out and spend quite a while digging through your bag looking for a new cap. This will take ten minutes minimum. A lost cap is a loss you’ll have to properly mourn, after all.
7) Obsessing over the perfect practice or meet playlist. Yes, you’ve got a meet approaching and practice in the morning, but neither will go well without the perfect playlist. It’s essential. Somehow you convince yourself that without the perfect mix of pump-up songs, none of your training will actually work. An extra hour spent on iTunes will pay off somehow.
6) Feeling that momentary burst of joy when it’s your teammate’s birthday…because maybe they brought food to practice. Happy birthday! I’m really glad you’re my friend and teammate. I’d love to celebrate your existence with some post-practice cupcakes! You didn’t bring treats for the team? Oh, that’s totally fine. No, I’m not upset. I’m just going to go stand in the corner alone for a moment.
5) Wasting time in the showers after practice. Whether you’re extremely dedicated to your post-practice shower, rush through it, or normally skip it entirely, every swimmer has wasted time standing under a hot shower after practice. No, Mom, I’m late because I had to talk to my coach after practice, I swear!
4) Failing to recognize a swimming acquaintance outside of the pool because you don’t know what they look like in street clothes. You’re out shopping and someone calls out to you. You’re chatting and they’re really friendly but you can’t place where you know them from for the life of you. And then they say, “Well, I’ll see you around the pool deck!” In a cap and goggles, bundled up in a parka, everyone looks the same. I’m still not sure what color hair some of my distant swimming acquaintances had.
3) Daydreaming about tormenting that person who always taps your feet but never passes you. Sure, maybe the person constantly tapping your feet is faster than you. But that doesn’t mean you don’t dream about suddenly being able to gain super speed and leave them in the dust. Just pass me, already!
2) Stealing someone equipment because they stole yours. My pull buoy, by all conventional standards, is pretty much a goner. It’s missing giant chunks and doesn’t quite provide all the floatation it used to. But I’ve had it for my entire career, and if you steal it, you better keep a good eye on your equipment bag.
1) Planning what you’re going to eat for dinner during afternoon practice. We might not even deny this one. If a swimmer finds something or someone they love more than they love food, it’s a big deal.
Claire Forrest is a recent graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in English. She is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a freelance writer. The only competitive swimmer in her family, Claire went to her first swim meet at the age of eleven on a whim without even knowing what a swim cap was. She fell in love with the sport and never looked back. A S6 classified disabled swimmer for US Paralympics, Claire specialized in mid-distance freestyle and backstroke and made national and world rankings throughout her career. She was a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Trials participant. Claire is passionate about integrating disability swimming into the larger swim community, having swam for able-bodied club teams and her college’s DIII team. She enjoyed both Paralympic and prominent integrated able-bodied meets equally for the many commonalities they share. Over 13 years after her first meet, she’s happy to report she now owns more swim caps than she can count.