Why It Is Worth It

The Time-Suck Called Swimming: Why It Is Worth It

By SuSu Almousa (From the Archive)

Swimmers become “swammers” and swammers typically stay swammers but the sport doesn’t leave us as easily as changing a vowel in our titles. In retirement, we watch meets and there is typically a yearning for a chance to race again. Yet, while we were in the pool, some of us know all too well the struggle of having to trade in our social lives for the sport.

Swimmers do not know the luxury of free time. Since we were little youngsters swimming 25s in the 8-and-under heats, we made a commitment to show up to practice every day and show up to every meet with vigor. This commitment only got stronger as our age division increased.

One-hour practice became three-hour practice. Playing wall-ball before practice became dryland workouts. One practice a day became two during the summer. It seemed like every hour of free time we were granted was traded in for more pool activities.

As a swimmer, we always had somewhere to be. Driving to practice took forever, and then practice itself was never short, so our weekdays were consumed with homework and swimming, as there was always very little time for anything else. Sometimes we had to eat our dinners in the car, or read on the way to practice and we quickly learned how every second was valuable in that respect, but we rarely had time for much else.

Frankly, most of the time, we looked forward to practice because our friends were on our teams and it seemed like less of a workout and more of a happy place where we were allowed time to think, process, and let out any stresses that had held us down that day. But, if practice revolved around lactate levels, somehow we left practice a little more bitter than we entered.

As we grew older, the impact on our social life grew larger and there was always a question floating in the back of our minds when we were obstructed from hanging out with friends because of a prior swimming commitment:

Is it worth it? We would miss out on all the “fun” stuff with friends because we had an out-of-state meet that took the entire weekend? Or is it worth the exhaustion that barred us from wanting to do much other than sleep on our free time? Is it worth the broad shoulders and damaged hair? Is it worth missing every high school party? Is it worth the time commitment in college?

Overall, it would be wrong to say the answer would be the same for all swimmers, but swimmers have a general tenacity about them, that leads me to believe the answer is: yes, it is completely worth it.

The sport teaches us more than how to swim across the length of a pool— it acts as a haven, a safe place, somewhere we feel completely comfortable. No mater where we are in the world, a pool will always be our second home. Swimming is a refuge from all of the anxieties and problems that bog us down, because in the water the only thing that matters is you. As little kids, we went to practice ready to have fun and as we grew up, on bad days we started yearning for the pool time as a way to deal with any frustrations that held us back.

Our best friends were swimmers because no one really gets swimmers quite like other swimmers, so going to practice was just another excuse to see our friends and have someone to gossip with in-between sets. Although we all had school-friends that hosted parties we wish we could have been a part of, deep down we all know that our closest friends are the ones we share a lane with and smack hands with during a butterfly set.

Finally, swimming teaches us things that really are only fully appreciated once we become swammers. Things like character building, and time management, confidence, humility, gratitude, and hard work. Nothing comes easy in life, and nothing comes easy in the water either. No matter how many complaints we have spewed about practice or meets and our lack of any social life, the answer will always be yes. Swimming is worth every social sacrifice, and I’d bet that the majority of swammers feel the same way.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.