The Most Annoying Things To Deal With In Swim Practice

Courtesy: Corey He

We all know the feeling of showing up to a swim practice knowing that it’s all about surviving the next two hours. We pray for the sprint set or social kick that never ends up happening, and instead, we see our coach walking us through the most haunting of aerobic or IM sets.

In essence, we’re looking to steer clear of anything that will make our practices even more insufferable. Here are some of those things that we try to avoid, and yet are often unavoidable over the course of a single practice.

Warmup Warriors.

For most, warmup is for stretching out, getting a “feel” for the water, and easing into the workout. For a select few, warmup is their time to shine and sprint all-out — to the disdain and frustration of their teammates who are trying to peacefully warm up in the same lane.

I won’t lie: when I was younger, I used to be a warmup warrior — and trust me, this is not something that I am proud of. Thankfully, that phase came to an end as I got older and had to deal with my own share of warmup warriors.

Poor Air Quality.

Obviously, you likely don’t have to deal with this as often if you train in an outdoor pool, but having to endure poor air quality — as both a swimmer and spectator — is a tough ask. Sometimes, the air quality is so bad that just sitting on the pool deck will make your eyes sting.

Some people once told me that poor air quality was the result of too many swimmers peeing in the pool — though I was never sure if this was actually a thing. Either way, as a swimmer who also had really bad seasonal allergies, training through bad air quality in the spring would always leave me in a coughing fit later in the day.

And while everyone is coughing their lungs out during practice, there will always be those two teammates who are completely unbothered by the air quality. Are we even breathing the same air? I’m not sure how they do it, but I’m open to suggestions.

Clocks That Are Out of Sync.

I once trained in a pool that had two clocks — one running at each end of the pool. The problem was, they were rarely ever in sync, and the clock at the opposite end of the pool would be blocked by the lifeguard stand. This meant that one clock was always running a couple of seconds behind the other, making it difficult to stay on the interval.

And especially if the set involved tight intervals (for example, a set of 75s freestyle with minimal rest), having to mentally remind myself — “OK, so this clock is 3 seconds ahead, but that clock is 3 seconds behind” — was just too much to wrap my mind around when I was barely even making the interval.

Can someone just sync up the clocks already??

Teammates Pushing Off Early.


See how easy it is to wait five seconds before pushing off? And yet, there would always be those select few who were incapable of waiting the full five seconds. In fact, I’ve seen people push off two seconds after each other — what an absolute joke.

This often results in the swimmer in front getting mad at the swimmer behind, only for the swimmer behind to completely deny leaving early even when everyone in the lane had seen them leave early. Entertaining for everyone else, I suppose — but annoying for the swimmer in front.

Moral of the story: just wait your five seconds. Please.

Outdoor Morning Practice.

An hour ago, you were warm and at peace under your blankets. And now, you’re standing at the edge of a pool that is likely going to feel like Arctic ice the moment you jump in. The sun isn’t out yet either, so not only is the water cold, but the air is also quite chilly — making this a lose-lose situation especially if there’s a morning breeze.

(And if it happened to be raining the night before, yikes…)

I was never a morning person, and so swimming at such an early point in the day — whether it be for morning practice or for prelims at meets — was never my strong point. I was also morbidly terrified of the cold, so you can say that morning practices were my archnemesis.

And, of course, there will always be those teammates whose favorite thing in the world is an outdoor swim practice. Maybe they’re truly just one with the water…

“High-Fives” During Fly Sets.

I’m not talking about a regular high-five with a friend of yours. I’m talking about the wrist-to-wrist, knuckle-to-knuckle, or sometimes even elbow-to-elbow collision with someone else in your lane during a butterfly set.

The same goes for IM sets, where those swimming butterfly often “high-five” those swimming backstroke. I’d argue that these “high-fives” are perhaps one of the most painful things that can happen to you in a given practice — right up there with calf cramps.

And it’s not like you can even get mad at the other person — are you going to blame them for swimming the way they’re supposed to? Tough luck.

Teammates Sitting Out.

This last situation isn’t too annoying on its own, but it becomes annoying if your teammate sits out for a couple of laps and then proceeds to push off right behind you a couple of laps later. And obviously, they’re rested — and you’re not — so they catch up to you rather quickly while you’re struggling to stay in front of them.

What can be even more annoying is when a teammate sits out for a majority of the main set, only to absolutely destroy everyone in an all-out-off-the-blocks timed swim at the end of the main set, leaving you questioning why you suffered through that whole set just to get embarrassed.

But at the end of the day, they’re your teammates — and after a few words of frustration and name-calling, you all head off to the locker rooms and forget that any of this nonsense even happened in the first place.

Final Thoughts

In essence, making it through practice is already a daunting task — and all the things that I’ve mentioned are just a small part of the reason why.

But that’s why swimmers are the toughest: it’s not like you can open your mouth and complain while you’re swimming in the water, so we often just tough it out. And unlike other sports, we can’t just call “time-out” when things start to go wrong — again, we tough it out.

Let me know if I forgot to mention anything particularly annoying about swim practices. And drop any funny stories about practice-related mischief that you may have seen, heard, or experienced before in the comments.


Corey is a current junior at the University of Pennsylvania, studying biology and healthcare management on a pre-medicine track. Originally from New Jersey, he first jumped into the water when he was 4 years old and swam competitively all the way through high school. Prior to college, he swam for Fanwood-Scotch Plains YMCA. He hopes to pursue a career in sports medicine.

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A "seasoned" pool warrior
12 days ago

Like you, I started swimming at 4 years old. I loved the sport and survived it all the way through high school, college ,and professional school. I don’t regret one minute of it. I believe that being a “pool warrior” helped me develop discipline and the toughness I realize now that I needed to survive a male dominated profession in 1978. I recently retired and attribute my outstanding good health to a foundation of excellent exercise. I love your articles- it brings back many fond memories! Best of luck pursuing your dreams- and keep swimming!

Young swimmer
26 days ago

Trying to figure out which lane to go in when they are already all full. No one wants you in their lane even if it’s your bestie.

Grumpy old Master
26 days ago

In masters, the early morning swimmers who have to leave early. They become warm-up warriors and sprint the pace sets, doing lane 1 intervals in lane 5. Then they peter out half way through the main set as they have spent all their energy, then leave you to grind out the rest of the main set alone.

Not that I am bitter. 😉

Beginner Swimmer at 25
27 days ago

when age groupers and master swimmers are twice as fast as me and has 4 times the endurance

Last edited 27 days ago by Beginner Swimmer at 25
27 days ago

Sprinters who don’t work hard but go fast at meets anyway

Matt Reason
27 days ago

Ah the 5 seconds. So simple yet so hard.

27 days ago

Jamming your fingertips in the lane rope!

27 days ago

When the coach starts to write a bracket around the main set..