16 Swimmers You See in Practice

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join 17,000 other swimmers and coaches who receive his weekly motivational newsletter (for free) by clicking here.

Everybody has the swimmers on their team that are delightfully amazing. That show up on time, that help with the equipment, and do the workout according to code and regulation.

And then there are the other swimmers. You know, those people.

Here are 16 swimmers you see in your local lane:

1. The Yard Sale. This swimmer’s mesh bag is XXXL custom-made, and whenever they get behind the blocks and start emptying out their bag—three water bottles, a couple different swimmer’s snorkels, two pairs of swim fins, and so on—you end up having to leave your bag about five feet behind the blocks. On the plus side, this swimmer encourages you to get to swim practice early so that you can lay claim to some of that precious lane-end real estate.

2. Mr. Glass. A stern look or brisk breeze is enough to re-aggravate this poor swimmer’s shoulder. And breaststroker’s knee. And left tibia. Whether the injuries are real or imagined, this athlete spends most of the time outside of the group—doing their customized rehab, vertical kicking while everyone else swims, hot tubbing with garbage bags of ice scattered across their body.

3. The “I Got This.” The bravado that this athlete displays—no matter the circumstance—is admirable. Coach will be scrawling up a main set that leaves the rest of the group scraping their jaws off the floor while our over-confident teammate unleashes a steady and organic stream of “pssh” and “whatever, piece of cake.” While the group steadily works their way through the set, “I Got This” hammers out the first quarter of the set and then valiantly sputters and bombs out.

4. The Runway Model. Training hard and fast is very important to this athlete, but even more so, is to do it looking utterly fantastic. You’ll never see a faded drag suit on this athlete, a towel that isn’t mega high thread count, or twisted goggle strap on their head. Often this athlete is late for the early morning car-pool pick up because they are preening themselves. Make up or hair wax to morning practice? Be rude not to!

5. The Rage Machine. Easy to spot with the dark cloud following them up and down the pool, this athlete can speak two languages fluently: English, and Grumbles. Went a little slower than expected on the main set? Grumble, grumble grumble. Left a paddle at home? Grumble, grumble, grumble. Having to do anything besides their favorite stroke? Grumble, grumble, grumble.

6. The Overly Competitive Guy. This swimmer loves themselves a good competition. (“Competitive” swimmer, after all.) This means that anything and everything is a race. Wanna see who can do more arm swings in ten seconds? Deck change race? How about who can crush warm-up the fastest? No matter what type of set you are doing, if you are leaving at the same time as them you will feel the omni-present death glare coming from their lane, eyeing you and where you are at during the entire rep, set and workout, if only to make sure they can sprint the last 3 yards or meters in order to out-touch you.

7. The Cheerleader. Excessively positive, overly optimistic and altogether too cheery. No matter how many reps are left you can always count on this person to remind you in a cheerily offensive way. “Way to go guys, one down! Only 39 more to go!”

8. The Poor Hygiene Guy. The break between sets and reps becomes a game to see how far you can get away from this swimmer’s breath. Or watching keenly anytime they pass you to not scrap you with their longer-than-regulation toe and finger nails. Or producing bubbles from their suit at the walls and letting you find out about it with your face.

9. The Yappity Yap. Some good conversation and banter between teammates is perfectly natural, but there are times when you would rather just hang off of the lane rope and speed gasp for air during the rapidly shrinking window of time until the next repetition.

A typical conversation goes a little something-something like this:

Them: “Can you believe how much homework Mr. Fletcher gave us for the weekend?”

You: “Blargargh-wheeze.”

10. The Stevie Wonder. This swimmer, for reasons I will never comprehend, swims with their eyes closed. Not the whole time, but when they are trying really hard, their eyes clenching as they push and pull with all of their little heart’s ability. This is an interesting way to train even on your own, but when there are lane-mates involved it can make for the occasional surprise game of chicken mid-set.

11. The Remora. You know those little fishies that catch a free ride on the sides of sharks? That is, in fact, what we are talking about here. This swimmer, in a bid to make it seem like they are going much faster than they are, leave way too early, burning up onto the feet of the swimmer in front of them. Every. Single. Rep. Not cool.

12. Dora the Explorer. This swimmer is a bit of a pool adventurer. They are so enthralled with all the sights and sounds of the pool that they must experience them all! Lane rope? Better pull on it! Showers? Main set! Bathroom? Better inspect it as much as possible!

13. The Perma Taper. This swimmer rarely bangs out more than a couple workouts in a row. Excuses range from alien abduction, homework overload, to a need to “self-taper.” As a result, they are perpetually rested and ready to rock and roll, much to everybody else’s chagrin.

14. The Space Cadet. Utterly unreliable to remember intervals, reps, much less their own name, this swimmer will forever be relegated to the back of the lane. There is great responsibility to be found in leading the lane (with all that counting!) and this swimmer hasn’t earned the group’s trust yet.

15. The “I Don’t Do Even Numbered Repeats.” Swimming fast and hard is difficult. So is doing it, like, twice in a row. This swimmer will throw down an impressive swim on the first rep, and then set themselves aside to compose themselves and catch a breath. They’ll hop back in on the third rep, and the cycle continues. 1, 3, 5= Go time! 2, 4, 6= Rest time!

16. The “I Thought They Quit.” The rare and hard to find sub-specie of The Perma Taper is this swimmer, who attends practice so infrequently that it is assumed that they left the sport. They will grace the pool decks once a week, or every couple weeks, surprising everyone (coach included). They’ll promptly swim a best time in workout, and then disappear for another couple weeks.

What are some of the stereotypical swimmers you guys have in your lanes? Let’s hear ‘em in the comments below!

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A couple of more:

Mr Committed. No matter what shows up. No matter what gives their best and never dogs it. A rare find and usually the Most Likely To Succeed.

Die Hard. This is the swimmer who trains like a bandit and there are great expectations but…when it comes to racing…dies.


Miles Mcallister is the definition of Mr. Committed


The real problem with the “Remora” is that often they truly are faster than you, but they will not lead the lane. They will ride your feet, crowd you, make you spaz out and burn out early in a set, bump you constantly on an off stroke, but every time you ask – “want to lead?” they say “nah, I’m good”. You can even threaten them – “you lead, I’m not going” and they’ll just outlast you until a kickboard comes flying at your heads from a coach (I’m guessing the latter is frowned upon nowadays?).


Ah, the good old days of flying kick boards and pull buoys. I think it improved our reflexes.


and fins! ….those were harder to dodge 🙂

T.H. Resholdset


This person looks at the the set then times the most intense part with an arm out to reach for the Salbutamol Inhaler. The one they should have taken once, as prescribed, 20 minutes before the start of the session. Half the set through, will do one repetition, the bail for another puff. Then a few minutes later, another one. The coach, beside himself that the swimmer will OD on the stuff!
Not healthy, and, a crutch for sure.

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 …

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