Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer based out of Victoria, BC. In feeding his passion for swimming, he has developed YourSwimBook, a powerful log book and goal setting guide made specifically for swimmers. Sign up for the YourSwimBook newsletter (free) and get weekly motivational tips by clicking here. Originally published 5/17.
Although we spend most of our waking time either in the pool, going to or from the pool, or thinking about the pool, we also interact frequently with people who aren’t swimming up and down that black line with us, or yelling at us to swim faster up and down that black line.
People that will never know the shared misery of Hell Week. Or of doing 10×1000 for time. Or of spending long hours, soggy from a weekend of racing, in the back of a coach bus with some of your best friends.
Here are ten things that our civilian friends will never understand about swimming:
1. How we can train more times than there are days in a week.
For those of your friends who have a hard time with arithmetic, this one will particularly jar their noggin. Ten workouts (plus dryland sessions), in only seven days? Mind. Blown.
2. How we go to a 3-4 day competition to swim a combined 7 minutes of races.
It must be nice to go a game, play for most of it, and be in and out of the facility in the course of 2-3 hours. If a session at a swim meet lasts 3 hours something feels off. Those poor distance swimmers and their families know this better than most, with the end of prelim sessions usually being stacked with timed finals 800 and 1500 heats.
3. What the gibberish on the whiteboards mean.
Swimming has its own language, and the workouts that coach scribbles up on the board exemplifies this superbly. Each coach takes this a step further, with an individualized dialect of shorthand and codes that only makes sense to him or her, and some of the more attention-paying swimmers. When a non-swimmer asks what you did for practice, all you can do is sigh, and knowing that it would take far longer than it is worthwhile to explain, simply say, “Laps and stuff.”
4. How our season is never ending.
How many times have you told your friends that you would hang out with them more once the season was over? That once those two-a-days and long afternoons in the pool were over that you could summon the energy to spend some QT hanging outside of the pool? But then you spent the entire two weeks off sleeping and eating ice cream with a ladle? How quickly does the excuse turn from “I’m tapering, I need all my energy” to “I’m in aerobic building mode, I need all my energy.”
5. We would rather swim in cold water than hot water.
My ears and head would always perk up every time a non-swimmer would complain to the nearest lifeguard about the water temperature at the pool: “It’s soooo cold!” I would stare at the lifeguard, and with all of the telepathic energy available to me, would zap him with a – “Don’t you even think about turning the pool temperature up.” Have you ever tried doing wind sprints in a sauna? Yeah, that’s what we are dealing with here.
The easiest way to explain to your jock friends that you do in fact do things outside of the pool, that you sometimes lift weights, sometimes throw a medicine ball around, or do crunches bare-back on the pool deck, or stretch, is to throw all of these activities under one tent and rather drolly name it “dryland.”
To be fair, tapering mystifies many swimmers still. It is baffling how we can go from feeling six feet deep in the dumps to swimming at supersonic speed in a matter of days. The sudden explosion of energy renders us equally neurotic, joyous and psychotic, and while coaches refer to the application of a taper as an art and a science, for swimmers it is the best of times, and the worst of times.
8. Your idea of sleeping in is a wee bit different.
Those early mornings come, well, early. We’ve all known that one poor son-of-a-gun on the team whose family lived way out in the sticks and had to get up 3:45am to make it to 6am workout. While we don’t all have it that bad, when our non-swimmers tell us about how they slept in until the PM part of the day last weekend a wave of envy invariably washes across our faces.
9. The qualifying process for the Olympics.
The moment a non-swimmer realizes that you are mildly serious about the sport the next question is, “Do you swim in the Olympics?” It doesn’t matter that you are 12 years old, the question is still gonna come in hot. Explaining the pyramid of meets that you have to qualify, and that you have to place top two in the country and also under the FINA A standard, but that you can sometimes also place on the team if you swim under that time prior to Trials, can leave your non-swimmer friend wishing they had never asked. But guess what, ya did!
10. We can complain about the sport. But somebody gonna get hurt real bad if a non-swimmer talks smack about the sport.
That while we can complain about the long sets, the lost weekends, or the sheer fatigue we endure to improve even a fraction of a second, the non-swimmers among us better not whisper a bad word about our favorite sport.
YourSwimBook is a log book and goal setting guide designed specifically for competitive swimmers. It includes a ten month log book, comprehensive goal setting section, monthly evaluations to be filled out with your coach, and more. Learn 8 more reasons why this tool kicks butt.
NEW: We now have motivational swimming posters. Five of ’em, actually.