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3 Things Every Swimmer Simultaneously Craves & Dreads

06/24/2016, 5:00am PDT
By Kelvin Cech

Confusing, right? Read on to be sufficiently de-confused.


There aren’t a lot of things in life that come with an equal sense of anticipation and worry. Christmas. Mother’s Day. Valentine’s Day. 

Wait, I see a trend forming. 

Anyways, things like family holidays cause us grief because we stress over the results, while at the same time we look forward to them because it’s a chance to enjoy something positive, like family time or hoarding presents. 

Swimming a complicated sport that borrows several of these same emotions. Like buying a sentimental gift for a loved one on Valentine’s Day, swimming toys with us by offering fantastic results at a costly price. 

Here are 3 things every swimmer looks forward to while quivering in fear. 

1. The 1500 Metre Freestyle

When I sat down with Victoria Munro a few weeks back, the 1500 metre freestyle was immediately the first fear she thought of. Not only is the race just long and gruelling, if you have any hope of finishing strong, you need to completely understand the limits of your body. 

It’s 15 and a half minutes of straight swimming if you’re fast, so if you push too hard at the start you’ll burn out. If you don’t push hard enough then you’ll lose (and lose badly).

Why do swimmers look forward to the 1500 then? 

The payoff. Winning this torturous event is a beautiful high for any swimmer fortunate enough to experience the feeling. 

2. Underwater Dolphin Kick Sets

It was tough to convince Victoria of the benefits of underwater dolphin kick sets when she was a competitor, but now that she’s a coach the payoff for her athletes is obvious. 

These difficult exercises place swimmers underwater for entire pool lengths. They get 5 seconds to breathe and rest and then they go back under the water for another set. 

The dread? This just isn’t fun. The payoff? Underwater dolphin kick sets are necessary to train the body and the mind for intense competitions. 

3. Putting On Weight In Retirement

Swimmers require a lot of calories to fuel the amount of energy they’re expending in the water.  Michael Phelps eats 10,000 calories on a low day just to maintain his body mass. This doesn’t even account for the amount of food he needs to take in to pack on weight for training in the offseason. 

Eating that much while training can be difficult, so every swimmer looks forward to resuming a natural diet once their competitive days are over. 

The dread? You guessed it - if you stop that physical exertion but stick with prior eating habits, the freshman 15 will invade faster than you can say underwater dolphin kick. The typical swimmer’s body is easy to maintain when you’re swimming, in fact, elite swimmers can basically eat whatever they want. So you’ve got a choice to make - get so good at swimming at the national level that you can eat anything you want, or stop swimming and watch the waistline bulge. you decide. 

Swimming can be a cruel sport. It seems that with every benefit there’s an equally negative reaction. That’s the part of the sport that demands mental discipline though - the higher the payoff the greater the investment. 

It’s all about sacrifice - time, energy, food - but for most swimmers it’s all worth it in the end. 

photo credit: 2012 Polar Bear Plunge via photopin (license)

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