17 Ways You Know You Are a Distance Swimmer

  42 Olivier Poirier-Leroy | August 11th, 2016 | Featured, International, Lifestyle, Masters, Olivier Leroy, Training

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.

Swimmers are a unique breed on their own, but for those in the sport, we know that there are various other subsets. The breaststrokers with their weird knee flexibility. The masochistic butterfliers. The sprinters. And of course, the distance swimmers. The kids who put in the most hours and yardage on a daily basis without complaint (well…mostly).

They are the first ones in the water, last ones out, and are able to do it with grace and humility while also doing it for longer than the rest.

They love long course swimming (less turns!), have a much shorter swim taper than the sprint group, and are rarely seen without indentations on their faces from wearing goggles for hours and hours on end.

Here are 17 ways that you know that you are a distance swimmer:

1. Zeroes don’t intimidate you much. Any time coach is writing up a workout, you don’t shiver and withdraw when you see repeats with ‘000’s going up on the white-board.

2. Flat-out sprinting feels, well, awkward. Although you highly value the opportunity to just hammer the throttle, you cannot help but feel slightly off. Like a car that has trouble getting out of second gear, you can never quite master the hyper-charged speed that some of your teammates possess. Oh well. Back to the distance lane!

3. You’re completely comfortable training on your own. Distance athletes have to be one with their thoughts, and be okay with spending countless hours with no one but the pace clock and whatever song it is they have stuck in their head that day. As a result, you’re a little easier to coax in the water than some of the more social-minded sprinters, and can handle long bouts of solo training.

4. Your log book has more mileage in it than your car. With great distance workouts comes, well, great distance. The daily output makes up for some dizzying totals, so much so that it outpaces the mileage your trusty vehicle is putting down.

5. You come up with a myriad of different ways to count reps. When doing those sets of 30 x 200 you will experiment with different methods to keep track of how many you have left. Sometimes you count up, sometimes you count down, other days when you aren’t feeling that great you are counting to half or a third or simply to the next one.

6. 5000 meters is a taper workout. While the sprinters have been out of the water and dried off for the better part of an hour, you’re dutifully completing your 5k taper workout, which honestly still feels like a taper workout given the distance discrepancy compared to what you are usually doing.

7. You’ve done some hilariously long workouts. There have been times where you have been in the pool, by yourself, while the nightly public swim rages around you, completing a set that was longer than the director’s cut of Saving Private Ryan.

8. You know what auto-pilot feels like. There have been those sessions where your arms and shoulders just took over. You don’t really remember how you finished the workout, but when you try to get out of the pool and you need to beach yourself on the pool deck you remember losing feeling in your upper body around the 6.7k mark.

9. While your fellow swimmers are impressed with the yardage you regularly dole out, your non-swimmer friends find it completely unfathomable. Telling a non-swimmer that you casually swam 70,000 meters that week is a great way to buy their silence for a few stupefied moments as they try to piece together just how far that is.

10. You experience pangs of jealousy when you see the sprinters out after 45 minutes. You cannot help but feel a little envious of their short twitch muscles, and ever shorter workouts that last a sliver longer than your warm-up. (Of course, those pangs could also be hunger. Maybe only partly hunger. No one knows for sure, really.)

11. You’ve mastered the clear-your-goggles-of-fog-tears-and-water-mid-stroke move. Those long repeats are tough enough, only makes it worse when sweat and fog have rolled into your goggles, making for a half-fogged up, half-water logged goggle. Learning the art of emptying while also wiping the inside of your goggle with your finger while mid-stroke is a skill essential in the distance swimmer toolbox.

12. Your calorie consumption has veered off into legendary status. Swimmers eat a lot. Distance swimmers eat even more. There have been times where you briefly considered eating your pull-buoy. Mmm, soft.

13. You know your lane-mates by their equipment. While you know your lane-mates suit color, energy drink of choice, and can identify them by cap color and precisely how close they swim to the black line, you still have no idea what the kid’s name is that sits behind you in class.

14. More than most, you understand the struggle of being thirsty and not being able to drink the million gallons of water you are swimming in. Bless the teammate that sees your empty water bottle for you and refills it for you while you are mid-workout.

15. False starting a race simply isn’t an option. Swimming a 1500m freestyle, to the point that your arms nearly fall off, and then being told that you are disqualified for a false start just isn’t on the table. Nope. Not happening. It doesn’t matter if you leave the blocks half a second behind everybody else, you are not false starting.

16. You have a cramp prevention strategy. A banana after warm-up. Another after the pre-main set. 18 liters of water. Six Gatorades. And some toe stretching.

17. You’ve written the Great American Novel in your head. Twice. Those long sessions leave you lots of time to get lost in that neurotic mind of yours. From thinking endlessly, to thinking up the plot for an Academy Award-winning screenplay…until you promptly forgot it.

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42 Comments on "17 Ways You Know You Are a Distance Swimmer"

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2 years 28 days ago

They don’t call us the “Animal Lane” for nothing. Throw some raw meat at us and we’ll see you in a couple of hours.

Wane dilliams
2 years 28 days ago

This might be the greatest thing I have ever read! Not sure if anyone has ever attempted number eleven though

2 years 28 days ago

Yeah, 11 is more of a “roll over and kick on your back until it’s fixed” maneuver — at least for me.

1 year 1 month ago

I have!

Kari K
2 years 28 days ago

Ha! Every bit of this is true! My tri peeps on my Team just look at me dumbfounded sometimes – even the Ironmen – when I talk about the long sets I have to do on the weekends to train for a long race. Love this. I feel some distance bonding. 🙂

2 years 28 days ago

Everything you’ve said is true for the distance swimmer in the pool and in the open water!
Writing my sixth book now. Still working on mastering the clear my goggles while I’m swimming. In the open water we don’t ever have 0’s we swim from one point of land to another. 🙂 Nice that you find truth and humor in what we do! Swim On!

2 years 28 days ago

Hi Lynne,

Looking forward to your next book. Recently finished Grayson, Swimming to Antarctica and the Open Water Swimming Manual. Each great writing in their own way.

Been practicing in the open water. Have the Lake Erie 2 mile and the Big Shoulders 5K later this summer (mere warm-ups for you, but an old guy’s gotta start somewhere).

Lance R.
2 years 28 days ago

Need to finish 11 for you:
13. You know your lane-mates by their equipment. While you know your lane-mates suit color, energy drink of choice, and can identify them by cap color and precisely how close they swim to the black line, you still have no idea what the kid’s name is that sits behind you in class. Even worse, he’s one of your lane-mates and you haven’t a clue.

Lance R.
2 years 28 days ago

I should say ‘she’. The guys are easier to identify out of the water.

2 years 28 days ago

#18: You didn’t read this great article because you are busy training, sleeping, or eating.

#10 was the hardest to accept when I swam, I could only dream about having the fast twitch bod of a sprinter as I watched them joking around between sets, fooling around with the divers and exiting the pool early. I’m hoping that Michael Andrew and the USRPT program catches on and will at least limit the joking around–nobody should have that much fun training! 😉

2 years 28 days ago

Great article!

Of course only the distance swimmers made it all the way to #17 and even considered adding #18-#20 of their own just to round up the set.

All the sprinters got tired and gave up after #2 (or maybe #4 if they consider themselves ‘middle distance’ swimmers)

2 years 27 days ago

Having that moment of embarrassment when your team mates all make A finals.
Then remembering you don’t get a trial run at prelims….

2 years 27 days ago

*Your 200 free and the first 200 of your mile are the same speed (even though you tried a lot harder in the 200)

*You are intimately familiar with cracks, paint chips, and other oddities on the bottom of the pool in every lane

*It takes at least 3k or so before you feel warmed up

*Doing a full practice before a meet isn’t a big deal

*You are a master at keeping or changing a song in your head

*Adjusting to long course is a piece of cake

1 year 1 month ago

* You close eyes when swimming long sets.

* You sing songs in your head (and can’t get them out of your head all day) during long sets.

* You have crashed the wall, or other swimmers, when in “the distance zone”.

12 days 7 hours ago

Or if you sing entire musicals in your head or learned a foreign language

2 years 27 days ago

so true! so true! especially telling your non-swimming friends the mileage completed in one day! well done.

Clive Rushton
2 years 26 days ago

Terrific article, Olivier. One of the best.

2 years 26 days ago

Thank you, Clive!

2 years 25 days ago

Thanks to science and Swim Swam for knowledge sharing. Before we are concern for sprinter, middle distance or long distance athlete. But now it depends on the type of workout/ training that is being given whether in the pool or weight training. These changes the twitch from one type to another. It depends on the coach if what is he/she grooming for specialization – sprinter or distance athlete. This depends also in athlete’s physique.

MIke Higgs
2 years 22 days ago

Love your article Olivier …spot on.. however you may have forgotten.. keeping up with coach walking on the side when swimming alone!

karin immerman
2 years 21 days ago

Hi Lynn, can’t wait til next book is out .Recently had to search”manual” for Sea lice advice blech!!!

Kari K
2 years 17 days ago

How about this one? You’ve caught yourself in a micronap after a turn in about the 12,000m mark.

1 year 4 months ago

All I did was started training for a sprint tri. I’m 54 – bucket list. One thing lead the the next, and Im thinking hey I seem to be swimming long. I loved the 17 reasons. I’m all of them. LOL! 7100 m yesterday and I could have done 10 000 m, but I had to P. I’m using a Garmon XT920 to count. I fell asleep a couple times at my 5 am swims, looked at watch 350 m, looked again 2150 m. LOL.

Cynthia mae Curran
11 days 23 hours ago

I couldn’t do that yardage at 45 years old when I didn’t to try the masters thing in my mid 40’s. More like workouts at 1.000 to 3,500. I did the 7.000 to 10.000 as a kid sometimes and was tired.

Cynthia mae Curran
11 days 23 hours ago

Hitting it to hard.

Cynthia mae Curran
11 days 23 hours ago

Too many comments the same-double, sorry.

Cynthia mae Curran
11 days 23 hours ago

Too many comments the same-double, sorry.

Cynthia mae Curran
11 days 23 hours ago

I couldn’t do that yardage at 45 years old when I didn’t to try the masters thing in my mid 40’s. More like workouts at 1.000 to 3,500. I did the 7.000 to 10.000 as a kid sometimes and was tired.

1 year 2 months ago

18: When you hear a bell ringing above your lane.

1 year 2 months ago

*when you realize you are really just an IM swimmer but train ridiculous yardage and free anyway* – your coach sits down and laughs at how slow your 1500 is going. “Never anything more than a 400 ever again”

*doing Saturday morning practice during Christmas training for three hours…all streamline kick challenge interval set descending…8,000 streamline kick*

1 year 2 months ago

There seems to be only one gear, and getting bumped out of that gear by swimming a shorter, faster event throws the whole works off.

I recently swam at Masters Nationals. The last 100 of my mile was faster than the last 100 of my 500. Two years ago, in a LC meet, I had a faster first 100 of my 400 than my flat 100 free. My 200 split was faster than my flat 200. I should have done a hard warm-up immediately before my 500 and 200 heats went off. My USMS 10,000m time trial has two 5000 splits that are barely slower than my stand-alone 5000 time trial.

I had much better range as a college swimmer, meaning I did have some speed in shorter races. But still… I have the memory of coming off a previous season scoring in the 1650 at NCAAs, and having the slowest 50 split on the team. I was even out-split by a diver in the 200FR, which led to a vulgar 10 minute chewing out by the coaching staff. I scored in both the 500 and mile at NCAAs that season, but 32nd in the 200. While I was THE slowest sprinter on the team, I somehow had the fastest 100 split at mid-season.

The term “Diesel” comes to mind when I think of my swimming. These days with marathons and ironman races in my past, I am even more slow-twitch.


About 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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