As a competitive swimmer, you spend most of your days at school or work and then of course, swim practice. Your demanding schedule doesn’t leave you with a lot of time for an array of fun and adventurous extra-curricular activities. A competitive swimmer typically sticks with four core extra-curriculars. They are not the most exciting activities, but with a schedule like yours, you treasure every moment and wouldn’t trade them for the world.
Let’s face it, what is considered an inherent part of survival for normal people, is actually an extra-curricular activity for competitive swimmers. As an athlete working out 20+ hours a week, burning calories is your part-time job. It only makes sense that you spend several hours of your free time each day dedicated to replenishing those burned calories. You eat pre-morning practice, post-morning practice, pre-lunch, lunch, post-lunch, pre-afternoon workout, post-afternoon workout, dinner, post-dinner, and a nice little snack before bedtime. You are constantly eating throughout the day, and when you are not eating, you are thinking about eating. It’s possibly every swimmer’s favorite extra-curricular activity, in a close run with…napping!
You wake up before 6 am 6 days a week, and if you’re lucky, you’re even up early on Sundays. After waking up at this crazy hour, you are then expected to carry on a full, productive day…wait what? With the amount of training you put in each day, on top of the expectation to maintain an actual life, every day feels exhausting. Since sleeping-in is definitely not an option and you can only go to bed early so many nights, it is crucial to take up napping as an extra-curricular activity. Whether it’s a 20-minute power nap or five hours of deep sleep, you better believe that any amount of free-time is going to be used for a nap…that is if you aren’t eating.
3. TV/Movie Marathons
This is a popular extra-curricular for the social swimmer. What better way to hang out with your friends and not sap all of your energy than a TV/Movie Marathon? I’ll answer that, there isn’t one! TV/Movie Marathons allow swimmers to spend time with their friends and not exert the small, precious amount of energy they have. Syndicated TV Marathons like How I Met Your Mother or Law & Order SVU are some of the greatest things to ever happen to a group of swimmers too tired to leave the house. A day to watch all 8 of the Harry Potter movies or every single Marvel Avengers movie is a fun way to get the team together and simply hang out. Let’s be honest, often times these TV/Movie Marathons are the attempts many swimmers make at having a thriving social life, when they almost always result in our other favorite extra-curriculars, napping or eating. But hey, there is nothing wrong with that!
Most swim coaches are going to pound this in to your head (as they should), but even if they didn’t, you better believe you are spending most of your post-practice time on recovery. You will do anything to make your body feel better and to make the next practice not completely horrible, so you spend a solid 30-60 minutes in the training room after every practice. The training room becomes somewhat of a second home to most athletes, especially swimmers. You need to be stretched out, you need to be rubbed down, you need to sit in the hot tub and/or cold tub, and you need multiple bags of ice wrapped to several bizarre parts of your body…it’s going to take some serious time. Even after you leave the training room, there is still more time spent on recovery. Your foam roller at home is your best friend. You two spend so much time together that your human friends are somewhat concerned. Your life is also filled with involuntary stretching, and in the most inappropriate places, like class, work, church, the bus stop, a restaurant…it doesn’t matter where you are, you need to stretch out those sore muscles…you need to recover! Recovery is crucial to excellence in the sport of swimming. It’s also crucial in turning the major soreness into only minor soreness, a seemingly trivial difference that means the world to swimmers. How could it not be one of our top extra-curricular activities?!
Contributor Elle Meinholz fell in love with swimming at an early age. Born and raised a Wisconsin girl, she pursued her lifelong dream of swimming as a Wisconsin Badger from 2009-2013. She graduated from Wisconsin with degrees in English and Communications. A year out of college and out of swimming, she is now a full-time Admission Counselor at the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, WI. She continues to fulfill her passion for swimming through high school coaching, writing, living vicariously through her younger sister, and getting in a couple thousand yards when time allows. (Twitter: @ElleMeinholz)