12 Things Non-Swimmers Say to Swimmers

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.

For those in our lives that don’t share our commitment to the chlorinated life it can be difficult to understand exactly what it is that we do. After all, for most people outside of the sport all they see is a week or so of shaved bodies swim back and forth along a black line at the Olympics every four years.

As swimmers we generally speak our own language that is born from a shared struggle and journey in the water. In order to improve the communication with our land-based friends and family, here are 12 things that non-swimmers should never say to a swimmer:

1. “It’s just a race.”

No, it isn’t. It’s life or death, bruh. Okay, fine, every race isn’t going to be the anchor leg of the 4×100 at the Olympics, but you better believe that is what we dream about when we are lying in bed at night and what we pretend it to be when we get up on the blocks.

2. “You’re getting up at 5am to workout!?”

It’s still dark out, even for most of the summer, and here we are, schlepping our bag out the door and back to the pool.

In later years we will be grateful that we learned how to get up before the rest of the world to work out, but for now we feel a little annoyed that our friends have the option of sleeping for another few hours while we shake off the yawns with a casual 5k.

3. “Isn’t swimming boring?

Isn’t walking boring? How about watching TV? Sure, swimming looks like we are just putting our heads down and plodding mindlessly back and forth for hours on end, but there is a whole lot more to the sport than just getting your laps in. Getting to train and race with your best friends is many things, but boring is not one of them.

4. “Are you going to win your meet?”

While this question might make sense in some circumstances, it typically doesn’t. One swimmer doesn’t win a whole meet (even though it would be pretty cool if that were the case).

While your high point award might mean that you scored highest amongst the swimmers in your age group, you didn’t win the whole meet per se.

5. “Don’t you hate not having a social life?”

I have a social life—it just happens to revolve around going to swim meets with my friends and kicking butt. All. The. Time.

6. “Isn’t it unhealthy to swim so much?”

Swimming promotes healthy lungs, heart and muscles. It provides a hilarious cardio workout while also building strength. It’s even been shown to make you smarter, earlier. I think we’ll just keep “rolling the dice” on this one.

7. “Can’t you just miss this one workout?”

Wanna know how I know we are friends? That you actually have my best interests at heart. This question tells me that this is not the case.

8. “I could do what you do if I had the time.”

That’s adorable.

9. “So you can eat whatever you want then, right?”

The impression might be that our hilarious appetites gives us free reign on what we put in our mouths, but that is (sadly) not the case. We recognize—most of the time, at least—that what we load up on provides the fuel for our swimming engines. This doesn’t mean that we can just eat McD’s and pizza all day long, as much as we would love that were the case.

10. “Are you fast?”

Faster than you? Yes. Faster than Michael Phelps? No. Regardless of where we fall on the scale of swimming high-speededness between the complete noob and the Greatest of All Time it’s safe to assume that a simple “yes” will be enough for this non-swimmer. If they have to ask then a detailed answer will make little to no sense to them.

11. “Do you actually have fun?”

On the surface anything that requires dedication and a nearly absurd amount of hard work does not look like fun. The sport isn’t for the feint of heart. But, as most swimmers know, working hard to get better at something is fun. Doing it with a bunch of people you love is fun. And getting up on the blocks and swimming faster than ever before is really fun.

12. “Is swimming even a real sport?”

Our sport has us competing in distances of 50m to 25k. We compete in a variety of disciplines in a season that is perpetual. And despite how easy the best of us make it look with their relaxed and effortless looking technique, the short answer is yes, it is a sport. It’s our favorite sport.

About YourSwimBook

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.

Join the YourSwimBook weekly newsletter group and get motivational tips and more straight to your inbox. Sign up for free here.


Leave a Reply

Notify of

oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
2 years ago

“I bet I could beat you in a race!”

Yeah, you could. If you were on a jet ski. In a Fastskin. And I forgot to show up.

3 years ago

Everytime someone says these to me I keep getting madder……….and madder…..until finally I just lose my cool. 500 freestyler here btw. Anyone with me?

Reply to  Unkown
3 years ago

Me bro

6 years ago

Also, the only swimmers they know of are Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, and Missy Franklin, and not Michael about them.

Francisco Serrano
6 years ago

You are 65 and still swimming??? I respond.. ‘and I started at 8’!!

M Duncan Scott
6 years ago

All these are good, but the most common is, “Did you make the Olympics?”

6 years ago

“It’s our favorite sport!” How ’bout, “It’s our ONLY sport!”

6 years ago

Non-swimmer: You know, I’ve been thinking of joining your team. I can swim 5 meters of breastroke underwater, isn’t that good?

Me: (Pause) Honestly, you’d get DQ’d from the moment you went off the blocks. Do you have time to swim 2 hours at least 4 times a week when you’re ten? Get your homework on time starting from 8:00?

Non-swimmer: Yeah, but it’s not that hard, you’re just exaggerating. I bet I’m as fast as you in four laps of front crawl. The Junior Olympics time is so easy!

Me: Awww, that’s completely adorable. You’ll never know what will hit you.

7 years ago

The pic is after prelims when NC State crushed the field, set a pool record and landed the #1 seed.

About Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy

Olivier Poirier-Leroy has been involved in competitive swimming for most of his life. Starting off at the age of 6 he was thrown in the water at the local pool for swim lessons and since then has never wanted to get out. A nationally top ranked age grouper as both a …

Read More »