17 Things Every Swimmer Does (But Would Never Admit)

by Olivier Poirier-Leroy. Join his weekly motivational newsletter for swimmers by clicking here.

We’re a funny bunch. We dunk our heads into water for hours at a time and have staring matches with a black tiled line (usually losing). We don’t shave our bodies for months at a time, and spend thousands of hours training in order to drop tenths or hundredths of a second.

There are the things that we fully cope to (peeing in the pool, is one glaring example), and a host of others that we even won’t fully admit to.

Here are 16 things that swimmers do, but would never admit to:

1. Having an equipment “breakdown.” Strange how those goggles always seem to leak, break or straight-up snap off our heads right as the main set is starting. That drawstring that disappears back into our suit, or those leaky earplugs, or the cap that suddenly rips out of nowhere.

2. Miscounting the reps. Leading the lane has its share of responsibilities—everyone just assumes that you are keeping track. If you happen to miss the last rep and stop early, and coach doesn’t notice, than who are you to say otherwise?

3. Equate practice with showering. We do spend hours at a time swimming back and forth in buckets of chlorinated water, and we know that it will take at least 2-3 showers to get rid of the smell, so really, is there a point to showering between practices?

4. Leaving early to post a better time. It doesn’t matter that coach rolls his eyes when we post a near-PB on the last rep of the set. Or deep down we know that it doesn’t count. We still leave a few seconds earlier than we should.

5. We milk that cold into something possibly serious. Having a random case of the sniffles is almost unavoidable over the course of the winter. For some of us, however, that set of sniffles is exaggerated into something possibly flu-like in order to get out of going to early morning practice.

6. “Accidentally” didn’t set their alarm. There are fewer things more terrifying than seeing a half dozen missed calls from coach on your cell phone when you wake up an hour late. Cue the “my phone died” excuse!

7. Be a mucus face. Most experienced swimmers have hesitantly accepted that peeing in the pool is going to happen. But blowing your nose? Coughing up that itch and spitting it into the water? Come on, we gotta draw the line somewhere.

8. Taking extra long bathroom breaks. Sure, any other time you have no problem peeing in the pool, but when that main set gets scrawled on the white board that is where the line is drawn. Might as well have a hot, 10-minute shower while you are in there as well.

9. Pulling into the wall on kick sets. When you consider that between the push off and pulling into the wall from the flags you are only actually kicking for 60% of the length it’s no wonder some swimmer’s kicks never really improve.

10. Pulling on the lane line. Backstrokers have a little performance aid for when they are feeling a little lazy or need a boost—the lane line! It doesn’t matter that when you pull on it the whole lane line disappears under the water for a couple seconds (making it not very subtle), you still do it every chance you get anyways, and will deny it until the end of time.

11. Beating teammates to the wall on drill sets. The answer is yes, if you are in the next lane we are racing. On the main set. Warm-up. Warm-down. Drill sets. Heck, even sculling sets. It’s on.

12. We spend half the time at meets checking out our swim crushes.Yeah, we should probably be spending more time warming down. Or going over our previous races. But we only get to creep on our crushes from other teams at swim meets, so can’t let the opportunity go to waste!

13. Sneaking breaths on hypoxic sets. Coach in his infinite wisdom has decided that you are not allowed to breath your typical 1-3-2-1 breathing pattern for the main set, and that instead you will have to adhere to breathing every 5 or 7 strokes. You discover that if you just turn your head super, super fast for a quick breath coach usually won’t notice.

14. Single arming it. Fly sets are hard enough as it is, but if the lane is crowded you can use that as an excuse to throw in a whole bunch of single armed fly instead of swimming with two T-Rex arms.

15. We hide during the main sets. The good thing about the local pool is that there are plenty of places to hide from coach. On the other side of the bulkhead, in the morning fog lingering over the pool during morning workouts, and of course, in the locker rooms.

16. We sing the same song over and over again during practice. Some songs are perfectly designed for swimmers to play on repeat in their heads. They just aren’t always songs we would admit to singing over and over in our brains while we swim around the black line. “Call Me Maybe”, for instance.

17. Conveniently-timed injuries. We have all done this at point. Don’t even lie. The main set is coming up, you aren’t feeling very confident, so that tiny ache in your shoulder feels like it could totally inflame (even though it doesn’t). The solution? Putting on fins. Doing a kick set. Or better yet, going to the hot tub with an ice pack.


Olivier Poirier-Leroy is a former national level swimmer. He’s the publisher of YourSwimBook, a ten-month log book for competitive swimmers.

Conquer the Pool Mental Training Book for SwimmersHe’s also the author of the recently published mental training workbook for competitive swimmers, Conquer the Pool: The Swimmer’s Ultimate Guide to a High Performance Mindset.

It combines sport psychology research, worksheets, and anecdotes and examples of Olympians past and present to give swimmers everything they need to conquer the mental side of the sport.

Ready to take your mindset to the next level?

Click here to learn more about Conquer the Pool.

COACHES & CLUBS: Yuppers–we do team orders of “Conquer the Pool” which includes a team discount as well as complimentary branding (your club logo on the cover of the book) at no additional charge.

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4 years ago

The only things me and my teammates did in swimming practice ever did were 9 and 10 (and then only very occasionally). Our coaches were all terrifying and very strict and had absolutely no problem with having us stand up at the side of the pool to be screamed at in front of everyone. Made an example of a few of us and the rest just fell in line. We also never had time to do things like mess with our goggles, take bathroom breaks or hide during sets. Once in the pool we stayed in the pool, and once in the pool, we swam constantly. There was no time for any messing around like breathing. Our club was very… Read more »

4 years ago

Jess: I thought the same thing! Did you swim at my club? LOL. No one on our team did most of these things. But I’ll never forget one Sunday morning practice (yes, Phelps, we swam EVERY day of the week – long before you were even born) we were all swimming. In between sets you’d hear various swimmers singing the same, someone terrible song. It was apparently the ONLY song we could find on the car radio directly upon arriving at the pool!

4 years ago

I definitely cheat a lot during kick sets, as my kick is abysmal. Any time I pass a friend going the other way, we pull each other forward. I assume my coaches know, but they never say anything.

2 Cents
Reply to  FSBS
1 year ago

Hmm…. wonder why your kick isnt great then….

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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