My experience being a competitive swimmer
By Carlos Bilan, Staff Writer
Do you know how a swimmer trains? Well it’s not easy, I’ll tell you that. I’m going to tell you briefly about my experience as a former competitive swimmer.
High school in the Philippines was actually pretty tough. I don’t know how I survived going to school and training every day of the week. Most traditional schools are private catholic schools, and classes run from seven a.m. until four p.m. Training started at 5:30 p.m., so you really just had about an hour after school to prep yourself for swimming. When it is swim-meet season, training happens twice a day—once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.
Before training, I always ate a heavy snack because I required the energy from it to swim. It’s absolutely necessary to eat something before training, because if you don’t, you’ll end up not only feeling hungry but also fatigued. This is due to the fact that when you swim, your body burns a lot of calories. Even though food is required, you’ll still have to eat an hour before getting in the water or you might end up throwing up.
A session of swimming training starts with stretching, which cannot be skipped. If you do, there is an almost 100 per cent chance you will strain your muscles, which is not fun. Stretching should take about seven minutes. Many swimmers wear their trunks under their regular clothes to save time, so they can then strip off easily and dive into the water. The pool is divided into lanes, which are divided by best swim times. Usually there are about four or five swimmers in one lane, and they all compose a median speed.
Warm-ups usually consist of 32 freestyle laps. Afterwards, we have individual medley (IM) for 10 laps each where we do freestyle, backstroke, breast stroke, and butterfly. Warm-up would last about 30 minutes, and then the training really began. The program varies from this point on because there are many possibilities.
Swim paraphernalia is usually used from this point on. Items such as swimming fins help develop muscles. Although, you end up swimming faster wearing fins, it’s also heavier to kick underwater. Some days we would use pool buoys to train our arms, , or kickboards to improve our kicks. This part of the training would last around an hour to an hour and a half.
Interval training was my coach’s favourite time of the day. Interval training is when you have a specific time to start and a time frame you must abide to. For example, you’re the first to swim. You’ll have to swim across and then back in a minute, so the faster you go, the more time you have to blow bubbles and rest. Of course, you’d end up being tired, and there are times you end up only getting 5 seconds of rest even when you try to swim as fast as you can. We were required to be trained for all the swim strokes, and to be honest, it was absolutely brutal.
The first few weeks when I started training after school, it felt like military training. I just did not know how I could make it a routine to swim for two hours after a long day at school, eat dinner, and then finish homework. There was really no time for play because you’re in a time crunch. There were also times when you feel like there’s invisible water flowing around you. After a month, though, it now started becoming a routine. You just have to stick with it, because if you miss one day of training, you’ll need two days to recover. I was once sick for a week, and it took me two weeks to begin making progress again.
Swimming training was definitely a killer, but the experience was invigorating. You actually feel yourself sweat in the water—you will literally feel your body begin to heat up even in the cool water. Honestly, I miss swimming training, and I wish I never stopped. But I’m glad I got to experience the rush.