By Arthur Hoang
When people think of difficult sports, their minds tend to think of football, basketball, baseball or soccer. However, there is one sport that is often overlooked: swimming.
Most people think that swimming is more of a luxury or a recreational activity, but if you meet someone that has swam or coached competitive swimming, they would tell you otherwise. Swimming, whether casual, competitive or even synchronized, is a difficult sport.
Swimmers tend to have more practices than days in the week.
“We practice six days a week for two and a half hours in the evening and sometimes in the morning from five to seven,” confessed East Bay Aquatics Swimmer Kayen Chua.
With the exception of Sundays, competitive swimmers will sometimes have two practices a day, one before seven o’clock and one after four o’clock. They are followed by a series of weightlifting and other exercises to help build up muscle. Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps trains six days a week for six hours a day even if training falls on Christmas Day.
Next, a swimmer’s season is nearly yearlong. Swimmers constantly train to improve strength, endurance, technique and feel of the water. Swimmers have very diverse training from long endurance sets and short and fast sprint sets to technique and drill work. Any swimmer will tell you that after a couple days out of the water, it’s hard to remember their grip on the water.
“I was out of the water for four days and when I got back into the water I felt awful for the first part of practice,” stated Piedmont Hills freshman swimmer Andrew Hoang.
Being a competitive swimmer requires much personal sacrifice as well. Practices in the morning start at 5 am and swimmers are often forced to go to bed early to cope with their intense schedule. In addition, swimmers constantly have to make sure that they are eating a nutritious, balanced diet.
Britain’s most successful Olympic Swimmer Rebecca Adlington admits that she often missed school due to the amount of traveling that swimmers do, and she was often busier than her school friends. In 2005, she had a case of a glandular fever but she neglected it as fatigue and kept pushing until it developed into post viral fatigue.
Competitive swimming forces swimmers to go to meets, where warm ups usually start around 7:30 am and last for two hours. There are many things that can affect a swimmer’s performance at a meet depending on what they ate that morning, are they standing without shoes before their race, or whether they shave their legs to reduce drag. Even what they wear can affect their times. Are they wearing a regular practice suit? Are they in speedos? Or did they drop the $100 to $500 on fastskin to help reduce drag and are generally useable for very few times. Many factors can affect a swimmer’s race and time; and they can mean a world of difference. Shaving could make the 0.001 second difference for a 50 meter Freestyle Olympic.
With all the factors and skills that go into the sport, it’s clear that swimming is not just a recreational activity.