A Dive into the World of Swimming


Photo by Jack Dalmolin

The UGA aquatic center waits in peace, minutes before the college swim meet begins.

What comes to your mind when somebody says “I am a swimmer?” If an image of them in mid-stroke, giving their all in an eight lane pool at five o’clock in the morning does not pop into your head faster than Michael Phelps swims, something, somewhere, has gone terribly wrong.

“What is swimming like? Describe it in one word!” People demand. If a swimmer who claimed they could describe the sport of swimming in one word, one measly word, I would laugh. I can honestly say that no one word answer can describe swimming. How could I accurately describe a sport I love, but hate, attend brutal practices both before and after school, and train for literally thousands of hours to swim a race less than a minute long?

“Why do you swim?” They pester. I swim because the rewards it reaps for the insane dedication and motivation prove infinitely promising, mentally and physically. Although swimming is not as popular in America as basketball, football, and baseball are, the amount of sacrifice and intense physical training it demands makes it one of the hardest sports to train for. With more than 20 hours of practice during the week, you can bet swimming produces the most physically fit athletes.

For those who are basketball players: Aren’t conditioning practices just the worst? Well swimming is conditioning. And those twenty hours of practice a week? That is twenty hours of conditioning. Because swimming is not as television-friendly as team sports (due to the lack of timeouts, quarters, breaks, etc.) or a contact sport, it is rarely covered on national television. Keeping that in mind, swimming is always one of the premier sports in the Summer Olympics, and is entertaining for even non-swimmers as the legendary American victory in the 400 freestyle relay proved.

Yes, swimming is overlooked, and considered one of the more unpopular sports. But I would not rather play any other sport.

“Why?” Many ask. “After all the complaining about the intense training and early practices, why do you love it so much?” Let me take you through a day in the life of a swimmer, and hopefully your outlook on the sport will change.

5:00 AM: My alarm goes off. I violently swat at my bed, blindly scavenging through the darkness for my phone. At last, I locate the nagging alarm and disarm the bomb. My bed pulls my head back towards the pillows, but I plant my feet on the floor and prepare for morning practice.

5:30 AM: The bone chilling water engulfs me as I dive into the water. Fatigue from yesterday’s practice takes a toll on my muscles, and I realize that at the end of this practice, I could possibly be floating head down in the middle of the pool.

7:00 AM: As it turns out, I push through practice and survive to see the sunrise. I leave the aquatic center in a good mood, knowing that I have already accomplished something before most people wake up.

7:35 AM: I wolf down my breakfast and brush my teeth. I run out to the bus stop with both of my shoes untied. After morning practice, it is always a struggle to get ready in time for school. “At least I finished my breakfast this morning,” I thought.

8:25 AM: School starts.

9:15 AM: I wake from my nap and fall from desk when the bell rings. Embarrassed, I wipe the drool of my cheek with the back of my hand and hurry out of the classroom.

9:45 AM: It is that time of day again. Near the end of second period, my stomach lets loose a growl. The wild animal in my stomach demands food; I haven’t eaten in 2 hours!

12:00 PM: Lunch time finally rolls around. I cradle my pizza and Cheez-Its in my arm like a new born baby as I rush back to my table.

12:02 PM: I walk back to the lunch line and buy more food.

1:00 PM: Swimmer Q&A time. It happens at least three times a week. This time, it is in math class. A few kids I am sitting near notice I am wearing a swimming shirt. One of them decides to ask “Do you swim?”

“Yes.” I reply, awaiting the unavoidable question.

“So… do you guys wear, like, Speedos?” They ask, grinning. A small part of me dies.

2:00 PM: I start to dread afternoon practice as the school day nears an end.

3:40 PM: The bell rings, releasing 2,400 North Forsyth students from school. I sigh. It has been such a long, tiring day. I wonder how good it would feel to go home, kick back on the couch and pig out on chocolate ice cream and goldfish.

4:25 PM: In the car, heading to practice for the second time today, I close my eyes for just a little while…

4:40 PM: My mom wakes me up, and I look around, dazed. The car is parked in the parking lot of the aquatic center. I grab my bag and hustle to the pool area.

4:45 PM: We begin our 30 minute dry-land in the grass behind the building. Our dry-land is a workout that includes pushups, sit-ups, burpees, squat jumps, and many other difficult exercises.

5:15 PM: I dive into the water. My second plunge of the day is more refreshing than it was in the morning; a hard dry-land workout can make any swimmer anxious to get in the water.

7:20 PM: Sore, tired and hungry, I touch the wall, completing my last lap of the 9,000 yard practice. It was a long day of practice and school, but I always leave swim in a better mood than I arrived with. I glance at my phone’s clock and a wave of mixed feelings washes over me. “Only 10 hours until I am here again,” I think.