Confessions of a Stubborn Swimmer

By Rachel Riedel


The sport that University of Mary added the year they had to tear down the on-campus pool to make way for the new student center.

The sport that people only care about every four years when someone like Michael Phelps or Katie Ledecky wins a bunch of medals or breaks a bunch of records.

The sport where people swim back and forth, half naked, in an oversized puddle of water.

Yes, swimming is the sport to which I have dedicated the past ten years of my life.

Despite the fact that over a quarter of the medals the United States won in Rio 2016 were earned in swimming, many people don’t know much about the sport.  I went around campus asking people what they would ask swimmers and now, to enlighten you dear reader, I will be providing extremely insightful and 100% accurate answers to a few of their questions.


How much time a week do you spend practicing?

It varies for each team and depending on whether one is talking about club, high school, or collegiate swimming. For UMary, on-season training runs from September to February and consists of about 20 hours a week. Off-season training runs from February to the end of the year and involves just 8 hours a week.

When do swimmers learn to swim?

Hopefully soon after they jump in the pool so that they don’t drown.

What positions are there on swim teams?

Technically, none, but each swimmer tends to specialize in a certain stroke. Stereotypically, people with big shoulders swim butterfly, people with frog legs do breaststroke, the tall and graceful people swim backstroke, and the basic people do freestyle. Swimmers also separate into groups of sprinters, long-distance swimmers, and mid-distance swimmers. If they can’t count, they swim sprint events (50’s and 100’s); if they can’t count but can have someone count for them, they swim long distance events (500’s, 1000’s, and 1650’s); and if they can kind of count, they swim 200’s.

What does a typical practice consist of?

Approximately 1.17 hours of torture, not including warm up and cold down,  but it’s ok, because practice prepares us for our races (aka shorter amounts of torture) by inflicting a certain type of pain depending on what stroke and distance we usually swim.

What do you eat?

Anything. Everything. All the time.

What’s with the cap, goggles, and fancy suits?

We wear caps to keep our hair out of the way and tech suits to suck in our guts to help create the least amount of resistance in the water.  Tech suits are especially helpful compared to normal suits because they wick the water and allow us to cut through the pool more efficiently, even though they also make it nigh impossible to breath. As for goggles, well, it’s nice to be able to see where we’re going and not have to worry about chlorine and other chemicals in the pool burning up our corneas.

What’s the hardest part of the sport?

The hardest part would be the swimming part…..that…. or trying to put on a tech suit in an over-crowded locker room.

What does the chlorine do to swimmers’ skin and hair?

First of all, the chlorine does not (usually) turn our hair green. In order for that to happen, there has to be a very specific set of chemicals and conditions. It does, however, dry out our skin. At least it cleanses the skin from acne and gets rid of greasy hair.  As Kate Murphy, a fellow Marauder swimmer, once said, “A practice a day keeps the acne away.”

How much of a social sport is swimming?

Between being submerged underwater most of the time and having tough intervals to complete, swimmers don’t usually have much time to socialize amongst themselves during practice.  And, because we practice a lot, we don’t have much time to socialize with others either. Or at least, that’s my excuse.

How are swim meets scored?

For significant meets, i.e. invitational or conference meets, the top 16 finishers earn points.  First place earns 20 points, second earns 17, third earns 16, and from there it goes down by one point each place until eighth place.  Ninth place earns 9 points, and then the points earned continue decreasing by one until sixteenth place.  Make any sense?  It doesn’t matter, since the real point of swimming is to get personal best times in each race.

How can you stand swimming back and forth starring at the same black line for miles each day?

We don’t. To be honest, we usually take any opportunity we have to complain about the sport. However, at the end of the day, when we drag ourselves out of the pool and every muscle in our body throbs in agony, we decide to keep going.  Don’t ask me why. I’m just a stubborn swimmer.




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