SparkNotes Blog

A Day in the Life of a Competitive Swimmer

You go to three practices a day, raeofgeorgiasunshine?! This is madness! Is it even LEGAL to work out that much? —Sparkitors

Swimming gets a lot of flack for being a wimpy, no-contact sport, but I’m here to correct any misconceptions: Swimming is beast. Like, uber-beast. We could probably beat the lacrosse team to Mars, or at least to the moon—but we’re not going to take on the football players. Those guys are really big.

I’ve been a competitive swimmer since the tender age of five; after my first practice, I was hooked (and/or ruined) for life. And so, eleven years later, here I am. Still swimming on the same team I’ve been on since age five. With the same people. And the same coach. Really, the only thing that’s different is my summer schedule. And the fact that I smell like chlorine all the time, instead of just occasionally.

4:50 AM: I press the snooze button on my alarm and try to fall back asleep, only to be rudely awaken by my mother. At 4:53, I finally finish my internal debate about whether I should get out of bed or not. Fear of my coach gets me up.

4:59 AM: I grab my swim bag, throw random things in it (hoping and praying that I somehow manage to get a towel and a change of clothes in there), grab my equipment bag and a water bottle, and run out to my car. I then proceed to go at least 10 miles over the speed limit in order to get to practice on time.

5:08 AM: I arrive with two minutes to spare. I put my stuff on the bench and throw my water bottle and equipment bag at the end of my lane.

5:10 AM: Stretching starts. We do V-sits and various other leg and arm stretches whose names are much too complicated for me to remember.

5:20 AM: We stop stretching and move to our lanes, taking our sweet time putting our caps, goggles, and drag suits on. No, really: we take at least ten minutes every practice. We can actually do the entire process in about thirty seconds if need be, but it’s not even 5:30 in the morning, and right now, 90% of us probably couldn’t even tell you our names.

5:30 AM: We’re finally done getting ready, and we jump into the ungodly cold water for warmups. The water is -20° C. (Actually, it’s about 70° F, but it’s still really, really, really cold.) Let it be known that we do not like cold water. But we do our 1000 warmup anyway.

5:50 AM: We’ve finished procrastinating, actually gotten the entire warmup done, and are now sitting at the end of the lane, awaiting our doom… I mean, waiting for Coach to give us our next set. Generally, it’s a long-butt kick set that makes you want to bite your own legs off because they hurt so much. Coach doesn’t like kickboards, so we get to do streamline kicking.

6:10 AM: We now get to do IMs (that’s individual medleys, a set where you swim butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle, in that order, for you non-swimmers). Usually, we do eight 100 IMs, but if Coach is feeling extra-mean and evil-like, it’s eight 200 IMs. Or worse. It makes me shudder to even consider the “worse” option.

6:35 AM: Hard set time! If we weren’t dead already, we’re sure to be dead by the end of this. There’s no telling what our hard set will be like. If Coach is in a good mood, it’s only twenty 100s on the 1.15. If she’s angry…well, we’re still mourning the death of several swimmers.

7:00 AM: Since 6:35, we’ve done our hard set, thrown up the Nutrigrain bars we had for breakfast, and done an easy set. We’re all now very thankful for the ridiculously cold water that we were previously complaining about.

7:10 AM: We’ve done another easy set, and dragged it out as long as we possibly could. Now we get to do more IMs. Yay!

7:40 AM: We’ve done our extra IMs, done the easy set after that, and stolen the ice from the ice machine in the physical therapy room. Now we’re doing sprints.

8:00 AM: We’ve finished our sprints, done a couple races, exercised our bragging rights from winning, and now we’ve got one final hard set before we cool down. We then get a long massage train going, and massage each other’s man-shoulders (it happens. You get big shoulder muscles from swimming for two hours every day).

8:40 AM: After practice, we make our way to the locker rooms. We rinse off in the showers and successfully change under our towels (we’re so practiced it takes us about five seconds). We then go to our respective homes and collapse into bed.

10:00 AM: I wake up from my nap and get a real breakfast. Eggs, bacon, toast, and orange juice. Yummy. I then walk down to the diner and work my shift.

12:00 PM: I make my way, yet again, to the pool. This time, we’re not getting in the water: instead, we’re doing dry land training. It’s sort of like conditioning for football or lacrosse, and it involves lots of long, painful sets of jumping jacks (one jumping jack = a regular jumping jack, where your arms go out to the side, and then another one where your arms move out front), crunches, planks (one minute each), wall-sits, push-ups, and running. Fortunately, we only have dry land practices once a week.

2:00 PM: I go home, rinse off yet again, and start my next shift at the diner. By now, I’m very cranky and all I want to do is go to sleep. But no. I have to wait on annoying people who want food. I want food. Why can’t I have food? (I’m very bitter and whiny when I’m tired.)

5:45 PM: I finally get my dinner: a bacon cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and a cherry on top. Oh yes, life is good.

7:00 PM: Life isn’t so good anymore. I’m now at the other practice pool. The longcourse one. So, instead of being 25 yards, it’s now 50. That’s double the pain and agony of morning practice.

9:00 PM: We struggle silently out the doors of the locker room, barely able to keep our eyes open. We look like a bunch of drowned dogs. It’s very sad.

9:45 PM: I take a full-on shower, and then literally crawl into bed. I’m so tired I can’t even remember how to walk.

That’s just a regular day over the summer for me. It’s long. And painful. But when we go to the meets (which are three or four days long, so don’t let me hear you complaining about three-hour soccer/football/lacrosse games) and get our times and qualify for other meets, it’s all worth it. The team becomes your second family; all the pain, and all the triumphs, are shared by people who’ve seen you at your best and worst. It’s pretty awesome.

This post is so full of exercise that it makes us want to DIE. Any other hardcore athletes out there? If so: we salute you!

Related post: A Day in the Life