55 Things Only Competitive Swimmers Understand

Swimming is the kind of sport everyone thinks they can do. It's just like running, but in the water, right? Ha — wrong. Swimming on the beach or in your backyard pool is a whooole different ballgame from swimming laps in an Olympic-sized pool. From an insane workout schedule to even crazier diet restrictions, swimming takes over your whole life. It’s a sport that requires the same kind of discipline and dedication of a high school athlete as it does a professional one.

It's also one of the few sports where you're competing as an individual and as part of a bigger team — making it almost as zen and meditative as it is heart-pumpingly cutthroat. But we competitive swimmers (former and present) are a universal tribe; whether you’re an expert at the 100-meter fly or kill it in the 500-yard freestyle, you know you can count on your fellow swimmers (even your rivals) to commiserate with you when it comes to 6 a.m. practice times.

So, while your friends only pay attention to swimming once every four years when the Olympics roll around, and think they’re experts just because they know who Michael Phelps is, you know there are some things only we real swimmers understand. Here's how you know you were a true competitive swimmer:

First off, going to the pool is very different from swimming

This is not swimming

This is swimming

You know there's more to the sport than Michael Phelps and Missy Franklin

That kind of performance takes seriously commitment

Like shaving every inch of your body for faster times

And, unfortunately, reading the nutrition labels on everything you eat

What is salad dressing? You don't eat that

No dairy, soda, caffeine, carbonation, red meat, either

...Even though you worked out so hard, you wanted to eat everything, all the time

But, there were perks, too

Like having a valid excuse for being 15 minutes late to class in high school

(You needed breakfast after practice, duh)

and you didn't even have to do that mile run during P.E.

By the time everyone got to class you'd already swam three miles

You were exempt from most after school detentions

All disciplinary actions was fulfilled by your coach, during lunch — which was definitely worse

Swimming made for some interesting fashion and beauty statements

like blonde hair turned green from chlorine

and a very defined Speedo tan line

Speaking of swimsuits, this is your nightmare:

And God knows you loved your Speedo catalog

You had to order your dresses and shirts a size up to accommodate your shoulders

And tailor the waist in because you are basically an inverted triangle.

That North Pole-worthy parka you rocked between races was pretty fashion-forward

Permanent goggle marks = awkward!

Oh, and your goggle collection looked something like this

Swim caps: a special kind of torture to get on and off

This is your go-to hair look (out of necessity, not style)

Oh, and your skin was always, always dry

Also, you always smelled like chlorine

But none of that mattered, because you felt more at home in the pool than anywhere else

(Partly because you spent more time there than anywhere else)

Sometimes, you could just about convince yourself you were a mermaid

Let's be real, that was a big part of the appeal.

so, is swimming a sport?

Let's review, shall we?

6 AM was a late practice time

Kick sets: so rough

but when you shaved seconds off your time, it was a major celebration

You swore the water in some pools was "faster" than water in other pools

Any practice when your coach let you swim with fins for a break = best day ever

By the way, you can sweat in the water

Ten practices a week gives you a day off!

You logged more hours in the weight room than the entire football team

(though Your legs can't support you on dry land)

At some point, you had iced every joint in your body, sometimes at the same time

Medical massages became a monthly occurrence

You totally held onto a holey, chlorine-ridden bathing suit to wear as a drag suit

You lived for competitions

(Even if you secretly hoped your friends wouldn't show up and see you in a swim cap)

And that moment when you heard the race start beep?

And you prayed this would never happen

Because as solitary as swimming can be, it was always about the team

And your team always went hard

So, even if no one understood your sport, you knew...

and most of all, you always knew: once a swimmer, always a swimmer.

And you still are.

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